Lila Kathryn Winters Estes, known to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren as Lila or Nana, passed away peacefully on August 13, 2021 after 90 full years. Lila will be deeply missed by all that knew and loved her, and we know that she was greeted in Heaven by her devoted husband, Bill, who probably immediately asked why she was so late and then told her how much he had missed her.
Lila was born on November 28, 1930 in Clarksville, Texas and moved to West Texas with her parents at a young age. She grew up in the Stanton area. During high school, Lila played basketball and her team even played one year in the state playoffs. When Lila was 16, in the spring of 1947, she and her family survived a Wizard of Oz experience when a tornado struck.
While Lila was sitting on the couch waiting for a date, the tornado completely demolished her home and swept up her entire family into the funnel. Lila was dropped unconscious in a nearby creek bed. Her parents woke up on the ground, miraculously holding hands, but without their precious child. Three days later, Lila was identified in a hospital. She had been so covered in mud from being swept away that no local person could even recognize her. Their home was destroyed and all their possessions were lost, but the family persevered through lots of love, grit, and generous donations for building materials.
Lila was the only child of Gladys and Elijah Winters. Gladys, who worked as a retail sales clerk, and “Lige”, who was a welder for the City of Midland, somehow figured out how to afford sending Lila to McMurry College in Abilene, making her the first in her family to attend college. As a freshman, Lila saw a picture of her future husband, Bill, in the yearbook, and immediately asked a girlfriend about him. Lila was told, “Don't even think about him, he doesn't date anyone.” That might have been true at that time, but Bill had not yet met Lila. Later, Bill saw Lila walking down the street with her girlfriends and was smitten. He introduced himself and gave her a ride back to her dorm. And, they immediately began a long and magical love story.
On their first date, Bill boldly told Lila that they would have “three little busters.” If that scared Lila, it didn't scare her off. After Bill graduated from McMurry, Lila and Bill married in Abilene on June 12, 1949. Lila suspended her college career and they were married. Bill turned out to be mostly right about the three little busters - they had three little “busterettes” - Debney, Denise and Dawn.
Lila and Bill's song was “Again”, best sung by Doris Day. The song refers to “that once in a lifetime” that lasted in Bill and Lila's case, for 64 years. Lila and Bill had passion and love for each other coupled with mutual respect.
Lila and Bill lived in El Paso where their first daughter, Debney, was born while Bill was in the Army during the Korean War. After the military, Lila and Bill moved to Big Spring where they raised Debney and their second daughter, Denise. Lila taught Sunday School, led Girl Scout troops and worked part-time clerical jobs for Cosden Refinery.
In 1963, twelve years after Denise was born, Lila and Bill became pregnant with their third daughter, Dawn, who has always been skeptical of Lila's assurance that she was planned. Lila was confined to bed during the pregnancy and was afraid that she might lose the baby or her own life. Lila recalled this as one of the defining moments in her life. She used her bed-bound time to make her “bucket list” of everything she wanted to accomplish if she made it through the pregnancy. Once she did, she began checking off the list. She completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education at McMurry College in 1970. She learned to snow ski. She traveled to Europe several times. She taught school, but decided it was not for her. She wanted to do her “own thing” so she started her own successful business. She never did learn to fly an airplane - but that was the only thing on the list that she did not accomplish.
Lila was probably one of the first trailblazers of the women's lib movement. Women-owned businesses were mostly unheard of in small town Texas in 1970, but Lila did not let that slow her down. She opened her “own” business, Reeder Realtors, in a small room in the same building with Bill's insurance agency, Reeder Insurance. Her real estate business was a resounding success because Lila enjoyed the work and truly cared for her clients. She was always excited to close a deal even if it meant working late nights and weekends. She also was a pioneer in moving the real estate industry to the computer world by partnering with ERA Real Estate franchise. She became one of the first offices to offer her clients the ability to see new homes on the computer screen as well as the ability to fax home photos to clients. Debney joined Lila in the real estate business and during those years, the office and Lila won many national ERA awards and travel incentives.
In 2000, after 40 years in Big Spring, Lila and Bill decided to leave the work world and moved to Mesquite to be closer to all their children and grandchildren. Bill and Lila became very active members of the First United Methodist Church of Mesquite where they were welcomed with open arms. They both loved taking their grandkids to City Lake Park to feed the ducks (and fight off the geese) and to play at the “Wooden Park” at Kid Scape Park. With the move, Lila developed her love for Panera Bread (where everyone knew her name), good Braum's hamburgers, and sizzling Martinez Brothers fajitas.
Lila loved attending all of the baseball, basketball, soccer, volleyball and football games that her kids, grandkids and great-grandkids played, even following them to Florida and then to California to watch their college baseball games. She rarely missed a game and was usually the most vocal fan, making sure the refs and umpires knew whenever they would make an unfair call involving one of her “kids”. Lila equally loved attending their many musicals, plays and band performances.
Lila is remembered for her fantastic style and amazing taste. She was always the most beautiful and well-dressed woman in the room. She popped her collar up to frame her face long before anyone was doing that on TV. She loved beautiful and expensive things and somehow always persuaded Bill to buy something that caught her eye. When Lila and Bill were all but broke and expecting their first child, Lila fell in love with the latest style in baby beds, a beautiful but expensive crib built by a fledgling company named Stork. Heard of that company? It took the American market by storm. It cost almost more than a new car! After many conversations, Lila won and all three of the busterettes, each as they born, used that same expensive crib! Lila was an “influencer” long before social media starting using that word. Her hair was never gray and was styled perfectly in the most popular style of the time. When she “went blonde”, everyone in town went blonde as well. Her lipstick, the perfect shade of deep coral, was always flawless. Lila loved new clothes and loved to shop - a trait she has definitely passed down to her daughters and grandchildren.
Lila could sew beautifully - just like her mother, who used to take Lila with her when she went to buy large sacks of flour so that Lila could choose the fabric pattern of the flour bag. Then, her mom would make Lila a new dress with the flour cloth fabric. Lila made baby clothes, doll clothes and pageant gowns covered with sequins and beads. She even became a quasi-barber and cut Bill's hair on a regular basis. She also beautifully cut Dawn's “Farrah Fawcett hair do” throughout Dawn's high school, pageant and modelling years.
Lila was usually the smartest person in the room, too, although she knew how to hide that by asking the right questions to lead them to the right conclusion. Lila's mere presence filled any room she entered and she was able to make those she spoke with feel like they were the only person in the world that she wanted to talk to.
Lila was a skeptic, but she was also a dreamer who always looked to the future and loved making plans. Lila lived in the world of “what if?”, and she was brave enough to see it through. She was upbeat and always moved forward in life. She loved working in the dirt, planting flowers, including geraniums every spring. Lila loved a good list - she often joked that she had lists of her lists. She loved to travel (with Bill, of course) - to Europe, Mexico, California, New York, New England and anywhere with a beach. She loved walking on beaches, looking at the seagulls and gathering shells with Bill. The Del Coronado in San Diego was one of her very special places, and Jonathan Livingston Seagull was one of her favorite books.
Lila loved chocolate. A lot! Her favorite was 5th Avenue bars which almost always made everything better. She would pull into a 7-11 store, and Deb and Denise would jump out and buy her 3 or 4 5th Avenue bars to keep Lila going. Snickers bars were a distant second. Lila loved peanut butter straight from the jar and Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk straight from the can. Lila is fondly remembered for inventing “unbirthday presents”, creating the “marshmallow drawer” that always had presents for the grandkids, and singing her post-bath song “wrap-her-up-before-she-freezes” during grandkids' overnights.
Not to be forgotten, she regularly sent food back in restaurants (which mortified her children), hid money in clothes (just in case), even froze milk during the Three Mile Island nuclear incident (for safety) and ducked down in the car when she was delivering her grandson in the carpool lane since she was wearing her robe. And she did love her legendary shopping trips to Northpark Mall and had a passionate love for all cats and dogs.
We all loved and looked forward to Lila's fantastic holiday cranberry pecan salad, her labor-intensive date loaf that always left Bill's arm hurt from the hand-mixing and her amazing broccoli cheese casserole. She and Bill really enjoyed a good bridge party with friends. They were actually brilliant competitive bridge players and even were state-level winners many times. Lila was great at playing Little People, racing Hot Wheels and serving a tea party with the grandkids. She looked forward to her weekly coffee at McDonalds with her girlfriends from their church. She just had a generous heart and would welcome people who would otherwise be alone during Christmas season to join her family's holiday dinners and parties.
Lila understood that children need to know that they are absolutely perfect, that they are loved in every way, and that anything is possible for them. She raised all three of her daughters to know that, which gave them unbridled confidence. Lila also made sure each of her grandchildren and great grandchildren heard that from her every time she saw them.
In Heaven, Lila is joining Bill. And we are sure he is elated to see her so they can find a great beach to walk on and gather shells. She is also joining her parents, Gladys and Winters. She is survived and remembered by her three daughters and their husbands, Debney and Ford Farris, Denise and Karl Kutch, and Dawn Estes and David Timmins; her six grandchildren and their spouses, Heather Farris Randolph, Brant and Lee Ann Farris, Kelly and Justin Keen, Kevin Kutch and fiance' Aubree, Grayson Timmins, and Katy Timmins; and her seven great-grandchildren, Addie Farris, Boston Farris, Kinsley Keen, Hudson Randolph, Connor Randolph, Ben Keen, and Collin Keen.
Lila's ashes (which are probably mostly made of chocolate) will be interred next to Bill's at the Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery on Friday, September 3rd at 9:15 AM with family and friends invited. Cars are to line up at the front gate at 9:00 AM.
Lila's amazing and trailblazing life will be lovingly celebrated by all family and friends at Lakewood Country Club on September 3 at 10:30 AM, immediately after the interment.
Donations in Lila's name may be made to the First United Methodist Church in Mesquite, Texas. To mail your donation, please use this address:
First United Methodist Church, 300 N. Galloway
Mesquite, TX. 75149.
Published by Star Local Media from Aug. 26 to Sep. 1, 2021.