My Aunt Lillian passed away last week at her home in Kerman, California. Her obituary, as well as some family stories and memories, follows:
Lillian Louise Killen
(1934 – 2021)
Lillian Louise Killen, age 87, of Kerman, California passed away on Saturday, November 6, 2021. Lillian was born October 23, 1934.
Lillian is survived by her children: William Killen (Susan); John Killen; Genevia Frede (Tony); Charlotte Medigovich (Gary); Donna Hall (Gregory); her siblings, John Horne and Mary Brown. Lillian also leaves behind her 11 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
Lillian was preceded in death by her husband Morris, sister Georgia Lofton, and grandson Isaiah Killen.
Visitation will be held at Palm Memorial Kerman Chapel, 538 S. Madera Ave., Kerman, CA 93630, on Monday, November 15, 2021 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.
Funeral services will be held at First Baptist Church 14669, W. G Street, Kerman, CA 93630, on Tuesday, November 16, 2021 at 11:00 a.m.
Interment will follow at Fresno Memorial Gardens, 175 S. Cornelia Ave., Fresno, CA 93706.
The first-born child of Dewey Horne and Ethel McMurry Horne, my Aunt Lillian was born at home in Liddieville, Louisiana, in 1934. As the oldest — and probably since she was a girl — she became my granny’s #1 helper in running the household. She pumped water, helped prepare meals, and carried firewood. And because my grandparents had only girls until my father came along, Aunt Lillian and her sisters also hoed and picked cotton. Aunt Lillian regularly missed the first three weeks of school each year to help bring in the cotton crop.
Aunt Lillian was in high school when my granny was diagnosed with TB and admitted as an in-patient to Ruston Tuberculosis Hospital, seventy miles away from their farm. Running the household fell to Aunt Lillian, who also cared for her baby brother (my dad), just two or three years old at the time. What strength and fortitude she had to hold everything together until my granny returned home nine months later!
Aunt Lillian was also a hard worker outside the home from a young age. To earn money for her senior year expenses, she stayed out of school an extra three weeks and picked cotton at neighboring farms. She was a student worker in the school cafeteria, pouring milk and washing dishes to earn the ten cents needed daily for her lunch. Aunt Lillian demonstrated this strong work ethic throughout her life. She raised five children, delivered the Fresno Bee newspaper for many years, and retired as a rural route carrier for the US Post Office.
Aunt Lillian married my Uncle Morris on 24 May 1952 at my grandparents’ home. It was the day after her high school graduation. Although they both grew up in Liddieville, they didn’t notice one another until Uncle Morris returned home from the Navy after World War II. They lived one farming season with Uncle Morris’s parents until they brought in a successful cotton crop and got their own place — a small shotgun house near Boeuf River.
Aunt Lillian and Uncle Morris’s first three children were born in Franklin Parish. But providing for a growing family with small-scale farming was extremely difficult. Aunt Lillian and Uncle Morris moved to California in 1957, searching for better job opportunities and prospects for their family. When they left, Uncle Morris promised my granny he’d bring Aunt Lillian home each year for a visit. As far as I know, he kept that promise for over 40 years.
Aunt Lillian and Uncle Morris’s annual trips home were how I knew them. From a young age, I knew as soon as Granny and my dad moved the dining room table and let down the murphy bed — usually after Sunday dinner in September or October –that Aunt Lillian and Uncle Morris would soon arrive! They usually stayed several weeks, and I spent an hour or so afterschool with them each day during their visit. It was a fun time because their whole visit was peppered with other family members coming home, too. My aunts Mary and Georgia would stop in, as would other more distant family that I didn’t really know well but whose stories I enjoyed hearing.
My family also made trips out to California to see Aunt Lillian and her family. We always made it a road trip, usually once every three years or so. Because of the age difference between Aunt Lillian and my dad, I was closer in age to my cousins’ children. I enjoyed playing with all my “California cousins,” and Aunt Lillian and Uncle Morris always planned interesting outings for us. I remember trips to the California State Railroad Museum, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Fishermen’s Wharf, Yosemite, King’s Canyon, Muir Woods, Pebble Beach, and San Luis Obispo. But we also just hung out on their back porch enjoying family time.
Aunt Lillian was an active member of her church, First Baptist Church of Kerman. Our family always attended with her on our visits, and I recall being fascinated as a young girl with their bilingual services. I didn’t hear other languages in rural Franklin Parish, so seeing Spanish hymnals and hearing the children sing “Jesus Loves Me” in Spanish was an eye-opening experience. Aunt Lillian held many leadership roles in her congregation, and serving others was important to her.
Like so many of my family members, Aunt Lillian was creative and enjoyed making things. She crocheted and sewed and even did woodworking! She sent me a handmade baby quilt before Jonathan was born, and both my boys used it as babies. Even after coming home from the hospital two weeks ago, she continued crocheting an afghan for a loved one.
Since moving away, my visits home to Louisiana haven’t always coincided with Aunt Lillian’s. I was blessed by her care and concern in 2013 when she spent a week with my father and me after my mother’s funeral. That trip was the first time she met Jonathan, and they were fast friends. She even let him whip off her socks and tickle her toes! My dad and all my aunts gathered for Thanksgiving 2018 in Liddieville, and it was the best time! We spent several days together, and Aunt Lillian met both of my boys. I also recorded a 90-minute interview that weekend with my aunts. We talked about family history and their childhood memories. Most of the information I have about Aunt Lillian’s early life comes from that interview — now so precious after losing both her and Aunt Georgia.
Even though we were thousands of miles apart, Aunt Lillian made me feel like a treasured niece when she came to visit. She was special to so many people, including her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. I am praying for you, my California cousins, in your grief.