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Miriam A. Gillis


Miriam Arlene Lingle Gillis was born to Grace Mabel (Foreman) and Harry Arthur Lingle Oct. 23, 1926, in Osceola, and passed away Wednesday, June 24, 2020, in Brenham, Texas. She was 93 years young.

Miriam grew up in Osceola and graduated from Osceola High School in the top 5% of her class in 1944. After graduating, she was accepted into the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps. She completed all of her nursing credentials by May 1946. She was to be sent to the Navy Psychiatric Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, for nine remaining months of field work. However, her fiancÚ and high school sweetheart Dick Prather, an Ensign in the U.S. Navy had recently died while in a training mission, and she was unable to make the move to Missouri and complete her field work.

On Sept. 1, 1946, she married Vernon (Clyde) Downing. Together they had a son, Kenneth Gregg. Throughout the years of Clyde’s Air Force service and civilian career in social work, they moved quite a bit. Together they lived in several cities in Iowa; San Antonio, Texas; Chicago, Illinois; and New York City.

While in New York, Miriam worked on Wall Street for Lybrand, Ross Brothers and Montgomery. She would tell tales of riding the Port Authority Transit and Staten Island Ferry, walking on Wall Street, working for such a big firm, and watching the busy Stock Exchange office while on her lunch breaks. This was her favorite job — and she often shared how fascinating it was and how much she loved it.

In 1971, Miriam moved to Houston, Texas. Here she later met Jim Walker, and on August 17, 1973, they were married. Together they purchased farm land in Austin County. They turned their land into “The Ranch” – a weekend escape from the big city life of Houston. Eventually, they made this their permanent home and filled their 2.5 acres with horses, chickens and a large garden.

In 1989, Jim died suddenly. Two years later, at the age of 65, Miriam retired from Acme Brick in Sealy and enjoyed country life full-time.

Several years later, she met Robert Gillis. On Jan. 5, 1999, they were married. Robert and Miriam enjoyed retired life. They traveled the United States sightseeing and visiting family and friends. Unfortunately, in March 2001, Robert was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He passed away one year later. In 2003, she purchased her home in Brenham, Texas.

Prior to moving, she had already made the First United Methodist Church in Brenham her home congregation. She joined the United Methodist Women and became the treasurer of the Wesleyan Circle, and was appointed to the administrative circle of the church as well. This life of service was no change for Miriam. She was a Christian woman who lived, practiced and demonstrated her faith all the days of her life.

Miriam immersed herself in her new hometown. Not only was she an active member of her church, she volunteered as a member of the clown band that played for birthday parties at the local nursing homes, was a member of the Red Hat Ladies Group for Hospice, volunteered with the local historical society and helped make greeting cards to raise money for missionary work.

She had a standing lunch date with friends to play pitch on Wednesdays, was an active participant at the Blue Bell Aquatic Center for morning water aerobics, and embraced the local Senior Center as a part of her family. She spent many days volunteering, socializing, and playing games at the Senior Center. She was never too busy for a friend, always had an entertaining story to tell, and a welcoming smile on her face.

Miriam had many hobbies and talents as well. She spent countless hours submerged in genealogy research, tracing her family’s roots back to the 1400’s and creating an elaborately detailed family tree. She was a gifted artist and crafter. She painted many ceramics, knitted and made a couple of quilts — one she completely finished in one week’s time.

In her youth, she was a talented musician, playing both the piano and clarinet. She loved to collect antiques and find deals at flea markets and auctions. She was an avid reader her entire life, and remarked that in her youth, she had read all of the books in the local town library. She loved to travel and explore new places and surround herself with family and friends.

Miriam was preceded in death by her parents, her beloved brother Darrell Lingle, and sister Donna Lingle McCormick.

She is survived by one son, Kenneth Gregg Downing; his wife Elaine of Lake Havasu City, Arizona; and granddaughter Melissa Downing. In addition, she is survived by her best friend Coleen Murphy, friend Gregory Kenjura, his wife Kimberly, and their son Parker all of Brenham, Texas. She will be greatly missed.

Miriam was devoted to the medical field and donated her body to the Baylor College of Medicine Willed Body Program. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, a small, private memorial will be held to celebrate her life on Tuesday, June 30, 2020. In lieu of flowers, please make memorial donations in her honor to Hospice Brazos Valley or First United Methodist Church of Brenham.

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