Billye Jo McGowan, 88, of Gilmer, Texas, passed away peacefully in her home May 11, 2023 with her daughters by her side. Billye Jo was born at home on January 4, 1935 in Jacksonville, Texas. She was the oldest of six children born to Walter and Lela Murray. She often recalled stories from her youth and both the perks and challenges of being the oldest. Their home did not originally have running water and, as the oldest, it was Billye’s job to bring in the water and heat it for baths. However, she didn’t mind as it also meant she was the first to use it!
Billye attended school in Jacksonville. She would run home at lunchtime to grab a sweet potato - grown by her father and prepared by her mother - and then run back in time to play some baseball before classes resumed. In 1950 she was set up on a double date through mutual friends, Delbert and Anne. Wearing a red and white sundress with a jacket, that was the night when she first met Charles. Two years later she became Mrs. Charles G. McGowan.
Together they raised 3 daughters, Rhonda, Teresa, and Nancy, and Billye was fortunate enough to be able to stay home to raise them in the early years. When the girls were all old enough to attend school, Billye went with them. She worked in both Kenedy ISD and Spring Hill ISD donning many different hats and serving wherever she was needed: teacher’s aide, secretary, substitute, and more! Her last position was at Spring Hill High School as the principal’s secretary.
She spent her retirement years building, decorating, and enjoying a dream home with her husband. She loved square dancing, gardening, and walking. She took great pleasure in caring for the love of her life, Charles, but her greatest joy was spoiling her 7 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
Billye had many impressive talents; she created beautiful clothes for her three girls, from play clothes to prom dresses. She made a superb pot roast, kept an immaculate house, and created custom Christmas stockings for her grandkids. Her house rules included always washing your hands before leaving the kitchen and never wearing shoes inside. She loved popcorn and dipped cones and always kept wet wipes ready to go in the car. When it came to her grandkids, she would greet you with a, “what do you need Sugar?” And then happily comply even if it was a request for ice cream for breakfast.
Left to cherish her memory are her daughters Rhonda Baker of Kenedy and Nancy Johnson (husband Joe Mac) of Huntsville; grandchildren Cliff Baker of Austin, Jake Johnson (wife Michelle) of Lindale, Jo Gail (husband Brad) of White Oak, Jamie Pfeil of San Antonio, Luke Johnson (wife Hannah) of Tyler, Joshua Johnson (wife Katelyn) of Deighton, Kansas, Micah Johnson (wife Erika) of Tyler; great-grandchildren Evangeline, Noel, Gavin, Grant, Milli, Levi, Charlie, Addie, Gabe, Ty, Elijah, Andi, Mia, Jensen, and Jetta; sister Ann Green of Jacksonville, brothers Jimmy Murray (wife Gwen) of Tyler and David Murray (wife Lila Jean) of Rusk, and brother-in-law Jerry McGowan (wife June) of Live Oak and sisters-in-law Julie Dyess (husband Charles) of Hallsville and Diane Murray of Montgomery.
Billye was preceded in death by her adoring husband Charles, dear daughter Teresa Agee, loyal sons-in-law Aubrey Agee and Cliff Baker, and loving siblings Don and Patricia. Arrangements have been made by East Texas Funeral Home. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Billye’s memory.
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