Martha Jean Ferrell Hilliard, affectionately known as “Mama Jean” at her church, went to be with her Lord and Savior on Tuesday, January 31, 2023, at the age of 94 years. She was born on October 14, 1928, in Atlanta, Georgia, to the late Walter Nathan Ferrell and Mel Robertson Ferrell. Her early years were spent in Atlanta and LaGrange, Georgia. Jean graduated from Miami High School in Miami, Florida. She met her husband there, and one year later she married the love of her life, John Van Hilliard, Jr., and moved to Texas for the remainder of her life. Jean continued her education at South Texas Junior College in Uvalde, Texas A & I in Kingsville, and the Baptist Learning Center in Corpus Christi where she took Seminary Extension Courses to prepare herself for service to her Lord, having given her heart to Him at the age of nine. Jean was a loving wife, mother of four, grandmother of twelve, and a great-grandmother to nineteen. She loved cooking and serving large family dinners and enjoyed sewing stylish clothing for her daughters and granddaughters and making shirts for the men of the family. She also used her skills to sew for others, including orphanages in need. Her other handwork included knitting, crocheting, embroidery, and quilting. Jean was a member of the Alice Garden Club, Alice Music Club, Women’s Missionary Union, and was a member of the American “Rosie the Riveter” Association for her service in World War II. As a mother, grandmother and friend, Jean could always be counted on making memories, over a good game of cards. When her children were growing up she led Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, and worked with Girls Auxiliary and Royal Ambassadors at her church. She taught God’s Word in Sunday School for over 65 years. When Jean and Van moved to Alice, Texas, they joined First Baptist Church and began a new chapter in their lives. Van was ordained a Minister and began preaching at Mission Baptista Esperanza. They also began to do missionary work in Brazil, Ukraine, Armenia, and several locations in Mexico, with Jean leading Vacation Bible School and Van preaching. In Armenia they were also able to give God’s Word to the Kurdish people who were sun worshippers. They made 68 mission trips over four continents before Van’s health prevented them from traveling. Jean made one additional trip to Armenia. Jean was preceded in death by her parents, her loving husband of 64 years, Van, a daughter, Georgia Anne Donald, and a granddaughter, Sarah Elizabeth Donald. Survivors include son John Van Hilliard, III (Donna), daughters Ellen Jean Jackson (Doug) and Susan Fay Westfall (Truman), and son-in-law Steven Donald. Her grandchildren are James Van Hilliard (Sarah), Jeffrey Hilliard (Kate), Paul Jackson (Jaime), Nancy Jean George (Seth), Connie Dee Westfall, Colleen Westfall, Steven Donald, Jr. (Amy), Nathan Donald (Kristin), Preston Donald (Jennifer), Leslie Hope Thier (Randall), and Rachel Nicole Karm (Brandon). Great-grandchildren are Jillian and Abigail Hilliard; Maggie and Van Jackson; Hunter and Tanner George; Mathis and Ryder Donald and Kaylynn and Landon Psencik; Jaxon Engleman; Lee Van, Emma, Eli and Leila Donald; Trace and Carter Thier; and Elizabeth and Noah Karm. Pallbearers are her grandsons, James Hilliard, Jeffrey Hilliard, Steven Donald, Jr., Nathan Donald, Preston Donald, and Paul Jackson. Visitation will be held at the Roberson Funeral Home in Alice on Monday, February 6, from 10AM to 7PM with the family present starting at 5PM. A remembrance celebration will be held at 6PM. Funeral Services will be held at 10AM at the First Baptist Church, 501 E. Second St in Alice, Texas. Burial will be 2PM at the Taft Memorial Cemetery in Taft, Texas. In lieu of flowers, Jean asked that donations be made to the Scholarship Fund at First Baptist Church, Alice, Tx. Services are entrusted to Roberson Funeral Home of Alice, Texas.
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