SIKESTON - Libby Curtis died last Tuesday evening at the Clearview Nursing Center in Sikeston.
Born Elizabeth Phelps Barnum on March 30, 1923, in New York City, she was the daughter of Phelps Barnum of New York and Catharine Davis Barnum, formerly of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
She grew up in Greenwich, Conn. where she attended the Greenwich Academy and then Westover School in Middlebury, Conn. where she graduated in 1942.
Originally intending to become a professional singer, she redirected her career goals to contribute to the war effort in World War II. She paid for her own training and became one of the nation's first women Airport radio operators, which was the precursor to a modern day air traffic controller.
During the war she was stationed at the airport in Cincinnati, Ohio.
On Oct. 28, 194, she married then Captain Josiah W. Bill (USMC) who had just returned from three years in the Pacific aboard the battleship USS South Dakota.
She was the mother of three children, Larry, Betsy and Josh, and she moved her household 13 times in response to changes of location and promotions in her husband's career in private life.
With each move, she was an active participant in every church the family joined, and maintained a daily ritual of spiritual reading and prayer in her home until the onset of the illness that eventually took her life.
She was widowed in 1970, but remarried in 1973 to Brigadier General James Curtis (US Army-Ret). They traveled extensively and lived in Blacksburg, Va. until his death in 1978.
In 1981, she took up winter residence in Alexandria, Va. where she was an active volunteer at the National Headquarters of the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C. and the College of Preachers at Washington's National Cathedral. In 1995, she moved to Charlottesville, Va. and to Sikeston, Mo., in 2005.
She was a member of PEO, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Colonial Dames, the American Revolutionary Roundtable, the Sons of the Loyal Legion and the Anglican Fellowship of Prayer.
Libby is survived by her son, Lawrence W. Bill of New Canaan, Conn.; by a daughter, Betsy Bill Gross of Cypress, Texas; another son, Josiah D. Bill; and a daughter-in-law, Patricia Huff Bill of Sikeston, Mo. She is also survived by her brother and sister-in-law, William Milo Barnum and Kit Barnum of Providence, R.I.
Further, she is survived by eight grandchildren: Catharine Gross of Maderia Beach, Fla., Margaret Gross of Barrington, R.I., John M. Gross of Houston, Texas, Sarah Greer Bill of Washington, D.C., Catharine Phelps Bill of Sikeston, Mo., Elizabeth and Laura Bill of New Canaan, Conn. and Josiah Bill Jr. of Sikeston, Mo., and one great-grandchild, Lindsay Dawson of Barrington, R.I.
A visitation will be held in the Chapel of First United Methodist Church on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. followed by a memorial service conducted by Senior Paster Geoff Posegate at 4 p.m.
Nunnelee Funeral Chapel is in charge of arrangements.
- - -
The family requests all donations be directed to:
United Methodist Church Capital Fund P.O. Box 682 Sikeston, MO 63801