"Good Morning Earlington:
The Final Gift of Mrs. Billie Stokes"

August 25, 2000, was a sad day for many Hopkins Countians. It was the last day Billie Barnard Stokes was with us. She was one of those rare and special people who bring light and love and hope and a smile. If she knew about someone being ill, she sent a card and said a prayer. She might even take them their favorite food. She brightened our lives as well as nourished our bodies and souls. She was practical, humble, genuine and inspirational. Billie was a veteran who served in the U.S. Navy WAVES. She was a deaconess (serving at the First Christian Church). She was, when possible, an anonymous volunteer (working tirelessly for patients in rest homes and for both church and civic activities). Many knew her when she worked in the office at the Earlington Elementary School. Others remember her smile from the CPA offices of Henninger, Alexander and Toney. She was ever out and around us spreading her own personal style of love. Her first obligation was always to her Savior and next to her family—her beloved "Poochie" and children Sonni and Sandy.

For many years Billie was one of the lay readers for the annual community Easter service. This past year her body was so weakened from the ravages of cancer she was not sure if she would be able to take part. Her pastor Roger Pedro said when she did decide to participate she explained, "God has been so good to me and has blessed me in so many ways, I have to say ‘Yes’ for Him."

From the second Billie arose from her seat in the beautiful Catholic sanctuary and ascended the steps to the podium, there was a silence so staggering that it seemed we had all ceased to breathe. As the heartbreakingly thin lady began to read in her so very clear voice, her presence glowed with the Spirit of the Lord. She was a picture of grace speaking ever so softly about the love she obviously had for her Lord. Surely there was not one dry eye in that most holy place that noonday. Readers who followed her obviously struggled reading their passages; voices cracked with emotion while some openly wept unashamedly.

I immediately went home and wrote of how moving the Service was to me and what an inspiration Billie had always been. I should have known she wouldn’t allow that to pass. A few days later I received a card, a sort of graceful reprimand, telling me how humbled she was to be asked to be a part of the service. Coming from others, that might have seemed a tad "holy" but from her it was sincere, from the heart, and "true Billie." When Rev. Pedro pointed out at her memorial service that she had ministered to the community that one final time, I had to smile and remember how she had in her own way "berated" me for bringing attention to her that day rather than her Savior. Oh, how we will miss you, Ms Billie. A little sunshine has been taken from our lives with your passing, but, oh, how God blessed us with your presence for a while. In your own quiet way, you touched an entire community

Ann Gipson 12-7-2001