Billie Kerr (Potts)
Billie Sue Kerr, beloved mother and grandmother, died on Tuesday, Mar 13, 2018 in Spokane WA.
Billie was born on Jan 18, 1927, in Wilson OK, the youngest of four children, to Maud Frances (Clark) and Willis Marshall Potts. Her early life was spent in Wilson where she was a Wilson High School band majorette and editor of the school paper. After graduation in 1945 she worked for the Health Department in Ardmore, having won the job by scoring highest on a test given to all high school seniors in a three-county area. She had guessed at all the answers and knew nothing. Fortunately her boss was very patient and gave up trying to dictate letters and let her do pretty much whatever she wanted. She did eventually learn shorthand which she used to write notes her children couldn’t decipher. Then she met J C Kerr, home on leave from the Navy, at Christmas in 1945 and after a whirlwind courtship, married him on May 22, 1946. The marriage lasted 66 years until J C’s death on May 23, 2012.
Since J C was in submarines they lived in New London CT, San Diego and Key West FL and Billie learned to handle a household alone during various hurricanes (the boats always went out to sea in storms). Weather problems were solved when J C was selected by Admiral Rickover to attend the Naval Atomic Energy School in Pennsylvania. Then it was back and forth twice from Idaho Falls ID to New London CT where J C was on the first crew of the USS Nautilus. Amidst the traveling they had twin daughters and then a son and then a third daughter and learned to survive on enlisted Navy pay. In 1959 J C retired from the Navy and accepted a job at NY Shipbuilding in Camden NJ. J C left to start his new job, build a new house and (horrors!) decorate it. Billie was left to sell the house, pack up and drive to NJ by herself with the kids in a huge Plymouth station wagon with enormous tail fins. (Crowds gathered to watch her park it.) She knew she could handle it. Hadn’t she dealt successfully with a basement full of sewage the day before the buyers closed on the house? Her biggest fear was acquiring a New Jersey accent.
New Jersey turned out to be a very nice and beautiful place to live. Billie was able to develop her thespian side through Little Theater—she was great in “Sorry, Wrong Number”—and
to attend Broadway plays and summer stock musicals.
In 1965 J C accepted a job with Westinghouse International to build nuclear reactors around the world and that’s where the family went—around the world. Switzerland, Japan (twice!), Yugoslavia, Brazil and Korea. This is when Billie showed what an amazing woman she was. None of their residences were in populated areas so she had to learn at least the rudiments of some very difficult languages and also the culture and customs of each place in order to create a real home-life for her family. She learned to drive their Gloria Super Prince the 3rd on the left side in Japan and to ignore its horn honking when turning right and how to buy toilet paper in Italy when they lived in Yugoslavia. She learned flower arranging, Japanese brush painting, china painting, clogging, and reading timetables in all languages. She wore a full-coverage swimsuit with pride in the midst of a sea of thongs on the Copacabana. And she became a power shopper in Hong Kong.
Finally J C retired in 1983 and in 1991 he and Billie returned to Wilson, the town of their births and early lives. Billie was a member of the First Baptist Church of Wilson and felt her role as Sunday School teacher was one of the most important and satisfying of her life. She was also involved with the Wilson Historic Museum and was honored with volunteer of the year in 2012. She led water aerobics at the Wilson pool in the summer and ran five miles a day well into her 80s. Billie always took pride in looking her best and had beautiful clothes, many that she made herself. And she could never pass up a pair of white pants on sale.
Most of all she loved her cats. Besides her feline friends through the years—Ralph, Sam, Otis, Bandit, Dingbat, Thumper, Pearlie Mae, Herbert Hoover and best of all cats, Bertha Marie—she loved her feral rescues. She fed, sheltered, doctored and neutered a raft of them who were all named and well-loved.
Billie was predeceased by her father on Aug 19, 1959 and her mother on Sep 13, 1966; her two brothers D. C. “Don” Potts, Jan 23, 1974 and Virgil Buren “Ben” Potts, Nov 25, 1964; sister Rudell Ethel Artherholt, Sep 20, 2003; and youngest daughter Elizabeth Ann Meininger, Sep 13, 2010.
She is survived by three children, Jennye Lu Kerr of Rupert ID, Sallye Sue (Tom) Prenger of Spokane WA, and William S. Kerr (Julie Reahard) of Jemez Springs NM; six grandchildren, Dimity Prenger of Olympia WA, Andrew and Molly Prenger, and Abigail (Chris) Weichman, all of Spokane WA, and Alex and Michelle Meininger and their father, Matt Meininger, all of Nampa ID; and three great-grandchildren, Rubie, Gracie and Tyson Weichman, all of Spokane WA.
Memorial Services for Billie will be 2:00 P.M., Saturday, May 26, 2018 at the First Baptist Church with Rev. Mark Fuller officiating. Services are under the care and direction of Alexander Funeral Home in Wilson.
Online condolences may be made to www.alexanderfuneralhome.org.