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NewsTown TalkBerend Willie

To Willie Ellen, a tribute

By Darla Bracken

Willie Ellen was born October 6, 1919 to William Fidel and Sarah Teague Cogdill in Lone Wolf, Oklahoma. Willie’s dad was a farmer and her mother had been a schoolteacher before she married. Willie had an older sister Helen who was about 2 years older.

The family came to Texas in 1929 with Willie and Helen in the back seat of their touring car and their setting hen [nest and all] between them. Eventually, the family bought a place southeast of Friona, but they had lived in various places including the old Hay Hook Ranch House. Willie told me that she and Helen would get up on a chair to look through the bullet hole that was in the front door.

The Hay Hook place was just north of the old Syndicate Hotel when it was still in its original setting in the country.

She had so many stories: life-saving onion plasters for her chest when she was desperately ill with pneumonia and old Doc Wills had given up on her; plowing standing up on an old John Deere tractor when she wasn’t tall enough to sit and reach the pedals; eating cornmeal mush ‘until the world looked level’ she could hardly stand to think about eating any more of it; the bugged bonnet, the friendly loan by a classmate of a beautiful bonnet filled with little hitchhikers that were very difficult to remove from Willie’s black hair; the adventure of riding the school bus to school because there were no school buses in Oklahoma and the misadventures of the her fellow passengers.

As a senior, Willie was privileged to attend the 1936 State Fair of Texas. She, along with several of her classmates, rode the excursion train to Dallas for the fair. Willie stayed with her aunt while in Dallas, and never forgot that awesome experience; she told me about the water display and the huge Ferris wheel.

She and her husband Carl were married in December of 1937. They operated the ‘Past-Time Club’ for many years together. Many a young man spent time in the Pool Hall while growing up in Friona. She and Carl had many special memories of being in Friona and watching their children grow up here also.

I was 18 when I first worked with Willie Ellen. It was the summer after my senior year of high school. I was working at the Friona Public Library as a college work/study student to attend West Texas State University. Willie was 50 and had been hired to replace Zora Gaede, our first full time librarian.

Willie always loved books and reading, but she also loved sewing, crocheting, gardening and canning.

As a young child of 4 or so, my family lived next door to Willie’s mother and dad. Mrs. Cogdill always let me choose a magazine from her hassock when I visited her with my mother.

I first knew Willie when she worked as a clerk at Johnson’s Corner Grocery. She served as our Librarian from 1969 and, with a brief break to care for her elderly father, until 1985 when she retired from the Friona Public Library.

After Willie moved from Friona, her home of 82 years, in 2011 she would call and visit and she’d always have reference questions for me to answer. It was my honor and privilege to do so. We’ll say goodbye now, but we’ll ‘meet you in the morning’, Billie Fairchild.

Memorial donations have been received by: Jean Roberts, Jim Bob Jones to GARY FRANK SHIRLEY; Jim Bob Jones to DORIS JOHNSON; Ouida Jones and Jim Bob Jones to BILL CHAFIN; Gene Zacharys to BILL ELLIS, D.C. HERRING, RUTH RENNER, WANDA REEVE; Hollis Hortons to LETHA GAMMON, ALINE TURNER, M. H. CARSON; Gary Renners & Hollis Hortons to BETTY PHIPPS; Gary Renners to LUELLA DRAKE; Buddy Wisemans, Gene Zacharys, Hollis Hortons, Kent Pattersons, Rex Blackburns, Steve Tunnells, Buddy Wisemans, Paula Fairchild, Sam Mears, Rex Brackens and Marie Perkins to BILLIE FAIRCHILD. Thank you friends and neighbors for remembering these special people with gifts to the Friends of the Friona Public Library.

courtesy photo

Billie Fairchild was joined by Phyllis and Johnny Parker on a bench that was dedicated to her at the Friona Library.