Robert Jones Lillie
Robert Jones Lillie passed from this life to the next on November 10, 2019 at the age of ninety-eight. He passed away at Cornwall Manor, Cornwall, Pennsylvania.
Bob was born on April 15, 1921 at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. The older of two boys, Bob was the son of the late Dr. Walter Ivan Lillie and Opal Celia Jones Lillie. In addition to his parents, he was predeceased by his brother, Phillip Marr Lillie, who died in July of 1944 at the age of twenty-one in a military training accident. Bob was predeceased by his devoted wife of nearly sixty-nine years, Mary Ellen Guers Lillie, as well as her seven siblings, their spouses, and two nephews. Bob was also predeceased by many aunts, uncles, and cousins who resided predominately in Michigan and Minnesota, with special note of his cousin, Dr. Louis A. "Bud" Buie, Jr., of Edina, Minnesota.
Bob is survived by his daughters Elizabeth Jane Lillie Mastin, husband Robert, of Middletown, RI, and Kathryn Joann Lillie of Cornwall, PA. He is also survived by his niece, Susan C. Lillie of Ponte Vedra, FL, as well as sixteen nieces and nephews, their children and grandchildren, through his late wife's family.
Born bilaterally deaf, Bob was taught to speak and read lips. His mother was his first—and very likely his best—teacher, subscribing to the Alexander Graham Bell Association's one-on-one methodology of instruction. Bob attended specialized schools in Minnesota until his family moved to Philadelphia when he was twelve years old. During his high school years, Bob attended the Wright Oral School in New York and graduated in May of 1940. While still living in Minnesota, Bob acquired a love of the outdoors and of animal husbandry through visits to an uncle's (Dr. H. I. "Pete" Lillie's) farm. Bob pursued an active hobby of raising chickens which continued after the family's relocation to Pennsylvania.
After studying liberal arts for two years at Swarthmore College during World War II, Bob transferred to the Pennsylvania State University and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in poultry husbandry in October of 1944. Bob continued his studies at the University of Maryland and was awarded a Master of Science degree in June of 1947 and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in June of 1949. Bob's graduate studies focused on poultry nutrition. In 1947, while pursuing his Ph.D. degree, Bob accepted a position in the Animal Husbandry Research Division of the U. S. Department of Agriculture in Beltsville, Maryland. He conducted scientific research there, published findings, and more, until his retirement in July of 1978. Having married a fellow research scientist in July of 1946, Bob enjoyed the benefit and challenge of sharing ideas, research activities, and reports of laboratory results at home as well as at work.
On September 30, 1976, Bob was recognized in Washington, D.C. as an "Outstanding Handicapped Federal Employee for 1976." The U.S. Civil Service Commission's recognition program rewarded "exceptional achievements in spite of severely limiting physical factors." At the time, it was noted that "Dr. Lillie was one of only five persons in the world who earned Ph.D. degrees after being born deaf." In advance of the ceremony, a flag was flown over the U.S. Capitol on September 22, 1976, in honor of Bob's accomplishments. The U.S. flag was presented to him at the federal awards program.
Bob's life was characterized by hard work. He made sense of a silent world and worked hard to be understood by it. He was highly conscientious in carrying out his professional and personal responsibilities. He approached life with intensity and vigor. He was an avid gardener and enjoyed playing bridge and scrabble with his wife. He loved to take walks. He enjoyed remarkable good health.
In advanced age, Bob experienced the long, slow-moving storm of dementia which was ultimately eclipsed by a fast-moving, aggressive cancer of the tongue and neck. Mercifully, he is now at peace and at rest.
A memorial service celebrating Bob's remarkable life will be held on Saturday, December 7, 2019, at 2:00 pm in the Levi Zerr Chapel at Cornwall Manor, 1 Boyd Street, Cornwall, PA. The service will also include a special remembrance of the lives of both Bob and Mary Lillie.
Published in Newport Daily News from Nov. 21 to Nov. 25, 2019.