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  • James Townsend

Obituary for Wilma "Billie" J. Horwood

March 13, 1927 – April 23, 2020

Billie’s life story started in Grand Rapids, Michigan where she born to George and Bertha Holwerda. When she was one year, one week, and one day old her mother passed away. With 3 other children and a business to run, Billie’s dad had no choice but to send her to live with her Aunt Gertie and Uncle Barney Vander Veen. They became Ma and Pa to her and the Marion/McBain area became her home.

Most of Billie’s childhood stories involved not working. One of her first jobs was picking strawberries and she recalled that how before lunch time she had been fired for just laying on her back, eating strawberries. Then there is the story of when she was picking cucumbers and how she would pull plants out of the ground so there would be less to pick next time through the field. Well something changed as she grew older. It eventually got to the point where she always had to be doing something. Part of the credit for the change, may have been the schools she attended. She always valued her education at Highland Christian School and then Northern Michigan Christian in McBain where she graduated as the Salutatorian. After High School, she briefly attended Calvin College helping finance her schooling by working as a nanny for the Steketee family. Then World War II began, so she left Calvin and started working in a defense plant during the war. Looking back, we realize many of our mom’s played the part of Rosie the Riveter during the war. She then discovered her calling while enrolled in nurses training at Pine Rest. She enjoyed the learning and the work that went with it.

She never did finish that training instead the next stage of her life started when she married Anton Hoort and they took over the family dairy farm in the Portland area. When Billie was a child she hated milking cows by hand, so it was quite a step up that now the cows were milked with a machine. Still it was kind of tough when Bangs disease went through their herd in the 50’s and Anton had to take a factory job to pay the bills. That meant Billie had to take over the evening milking with 4 toddlers in tow.

In the 60’s Billie decided she wanted to fulfill her dream of being a nurse, so she went back to college for an LPN degree. She had finally finished what she started back at Pine Rest. She found the part of nursing she loved best was working in Labor and Delivery at St. Lawrence Hospital and for an OBY/GYN practice in Lansing. We still hear today, “Oh, Billie is your mom? She helped deliver my kids, we just love her.”

Mom’s first marriage ended in divorce, but then she found Ross. They were married in 1978, adding his daughters, Linda and Susie to her family. Ross and Bill were a good match for each other, they both loved to read and they both loved to garden. Now Billie had someone to cook for again. They enjoyed life together until Ross passed away in 2006.

If God requested a resume before entering heaven, Billie would need many pages to cover her life activities. She was active in the Michigan Farm Bureau at the local and state level. She entered and won prizes for her breads and pies at the Ionia Free Fair. She was even on a local TV show out of Lansing giving a demonstration on baking her prize-winning custard pie. Teaching Sunday School, Vacation Bible School and being a 4-H leader would also be on that list. Billie went to clown school and created Beppe, the clown who loved marching in parades. Later in life she took up quilting, so we all have handmade quilts to remember her by. Billie and Ross were in charge of the soup kitchen at First United Methodist for many years. Billie also loved to act and was in productions at the Ionia Community Theatre. One of the things she loved doing was making cookies for her family, friends, and neighbors. One of her regrets as her life wound down was that she could no longer make cookies for everyone.

We are all happy that Billie is now reunited in heaven with Ross; her stepdaughter, Susie; and her granddaughter, Betsy. Left behind with tons of good memories are her children: Linda Connell, Carole Murray, Doug (Peg) Hoort, Dave (Cathy) Hoort, Dan Hoort, and Bob Klytta.

The family would like to share that "due to the Governor’s lock down and the mass hysteria over the Chinese Corona Virus, there will be no funeral for mom". So in lieu of a funeral, why don’t you bake a batch of your favorite cookies and share them with someone you love, while maintaining proper social distancing.

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