STAUNTON, Va. — Our mother, Patricia Hopkins Stempkowski Hillery, passed from this life on June 26, 2012, in Staunton, her home for the last 11 years.
Born March 3, 1925, in Aylburton, Gloucestershire, England, to Elizabeth (Weaver) and Charles Hopkins, she had a lifelong love of learning.
The 1930s in England were hard times, but her father and mother provided for all six children and the memories, as the youngest child, Mom shared with us were always happy ones.
When England went to war with Germany in 1939, Mom was 14, and war seemed exciting. Then her boyfriends were killed or wounded, and war, as it always does, came home to even the teenagers. She joined the Women’s Royal Naval Service — WReNs — and was a typist for the Polish Free Forces and, when D-Day happened, wanted to go over to France with her bosses as a secretary. Her father would not give her permission — she was under 21 — and when she married her American suitor, John Stempkowski, he — a career military man — also forbade her from going.
She crossed to America on the Queen Mary as a war bride in March 1946 to join her husband, and they made their homes in Maine and New Hampshire, although she first went across America on the train to Seattle to meet him there. She had Elizabeth Anne and Charles John named for her parents, and then while carrying her third child, her husband was called to duty in the Korean Conflict and killed in action in September 1950. John Joseph was born on Christmas Day as “her Christmas present from God. ”
She met the love of her life, Paul Hillery, at the American Legion, and they were married in December 1952. He adopted her three children, and together they had Michael Anthony, Patricia Louise, Paul Frederic, and Pamela Ann.
Her husband’s work took them from Maine and New Hampshire to Pennsylvania, Ohio, southern Virginia and northern Virginia. She also was able to travel the world, seeing Vietnam in 1974, and living in West Germany from 1977 to 1980 as part of his job with the Department of Defense.
Dad’s and Mom’s interests and associations were many, and led them to meet with dignitaries and high-ranking government officials. When Dad died in 1981, she was in Occoquan, Va., and moved to Christiansburg, Va., then Williamsburg, Va., from 1982-1986, then Helena, Mont., from 1993-2001, then Staunton, where she lived in her own home until early 2012. In these last years, Patricia and Jerry Warner have taken wonderful care of Mom with the rest of us scattered to the winds. Thank you, Pat and Jerry!
She was an avid reader, loved doing crossword puzzles (in ink!), and could knit anything until arthritis limited her mobility. She passed on her love of knitting to her granddaughter Hillery — who honored her grandmother’s homeland by marrying an Englishman and becoming a dual citizen of the UK.
Mom volunteered in every community she lived in with food banks, Meals on Wheels, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and her church. She and Dad left a legacy of service to their children.
Mom will be met by her parents; her siblings, Mary, Kenneth, Lena, Ivor and Hazel “Nutty”; as well as her husbands; her son, John; her granddaughter, Jennifer, and her daughter-in-law, Nan.
She is survived by children Liz in Ohio, Charles in Florida, Mike in South Carolina, Pat and husband Jerry Warner in Virginia, Paul and wife Kath in California, and Pam and husband Paul Tuss in Montana, as well as Tracey Chamlin, John’s wife.
Surviving grandchildren are Nahele Hillery in Texas, Ethan and Megan Hillery in Australia, Kim Hillery in Florida, Jack Warner in New York City, Hillery Warner and husband Sam Driscoll in London, Genevieve Hillery in California, Caroline and Dolan Tuss in Montana, Alyson Gledhill and husband Eric and Jonathan Olander in Ohio. She was able to welcome her first great-grandchild, Dominic John Driscoll, in March.
Services will be private, with interment at a later date at Arlington National Cemetery.
Mom was the rock of our family, and as far away as we all have moved, our hearts were always with her, and she knew that. She gave us the great gift of unconditional love, and we are the better for that love. Thank you, Mom, we love you and will miss you terribly, but we know you are happier now than being in a nursing home. Rest well until we see you again.
Coffman Funeral Home and Crematory in Staunton is in charge of her arrangements.
Condolences may be expressed to the family online at coffmanfuneralhome.net