Nelson Hilliard was born on April 29, 1927 in Odell, Texas. Before the age of six, he had survived several near-death experiences, including being thrown from a car at age 4, being pronounced dead from diphtheria and meningitis later that same year and almost drowning in an attempt to catch tadpoles at age 5. Despite a rough start, Nelson lived to be 91, passing away on Oct. 21, 2018.
Graveside services will be at 1 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018 at Wilbarger Memorial Park under the direction of Sullivan Funeral Home.
He married the love of his life, Johnie Barnhart, on Feb. 25, 1961. Their family included a daughter, Gene Ann, who married Barry Morris, and Charles, who married Laurie Lovejoy. Nelson loved camping and making homemade ice cream with his grandkids, Brett, Bri, Alec, Abby, Avery and Addison. Bri’s son, Ira, the only great-grandson, has added hours of smiles and excitement to their lives. Even with his dementia, Nelson AKA GoDaddy would constantly ask, “Where’s Ira?”
When Nelson wasn’t “the loneliest man in town” selling Maytag appliances or sharing his infectious smile while working the window at the post office, he enjoyed painting and working in his greenhouse.
Johnie and Nelson spent their retirement years travelling to all 48 continental states in their travel trailer. They also visited Hawaii, Israel, Alaska, Mexico, the Caribbean and welcomed numerous friends to join them at Silverleaf timeshare destinations. They also made two trips to China, one in which they taught English to Chinese students at Gwonshee for eight weeks. Upon returning they taught English at Vernon Regional Jr. College and opened their home to these Chinese students, many of whom they remain in touch with to this day. From these friendships, they “adopted” a Chinese son, Charlie, who married Elaine and they have a son, Kenny.
After living in or near Vernon for 70 years, Nelson moved to Rowlett in 1997 to be closer to the grandkids. (And just in case you didn’t know, Nelson was very proud of the fact that Vernon was the birthplace of both Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison). Once in Rowlett, Nelson and Johnie taught English to young adults from Kosovo. They also began serving at Lake Pointe Church where Nelson watered flowers, served as a greeter at an information booth and welcomed newcomers to church as a host at New Member Workshop. They were active members of several Life Groups, where they encouraged their classmates to engage in mission activities.
In the spring of 2012 the Hilliards moved to Christian Care in Mesquite where they celebrated monthly birthdays, participated in field trips, played Bingo and attended a campus Bible study. Following Christmas last year, Barry and Gene Ann invited them to move into their home and they accepted the offer. Our family will be forever grateful to the Vitas Hospice team who supported Nelson in his battle with Congestive Heart Failure and facilitated his peaceful passing to his eternal home at the age of 91!