Billie Marie Sealy Massingill, age 95 of Fort Worth, Texas died peacefully on February 19, 2023, after a long happy life. She was born on October 28, 1927.
Billie's story begins with parents William Moore Sealy and Berna Estelle Rhodes Sealy. They had two children and were expecting another when he was killed in a car accident. That child was Billie, born on her grandmother's farm outside Lexington, Texas. Berna Sealy married again, to William Whatley Longmire, and had two more children, and then she too died, leaving Will Longmire with five children, only two of them related by blood. He did not formally adopt the other three, but he considered all of them his own children, and while the children were sometimes split up among relatives, he was always a presence in all their lives, and eventually he was able to unite everyone under one roof, in a house outside San Saba, Texas.
Almost from the start Billie was an excellent student who hoped to become a teacher herself. She graduated from San Saba High School as valedictorian and went on to earn bachelor's and master's degrees in English from North Texas State Teacher's College. Her first job was in Ozona, Texas, where she met and married fellow teacher George Shaffer Massingill. She followed him as he moved through several teaching jobs before switching to a more lucrative career in engineering. His first engineering job was in Tulsa, but after two years there they moved to Ft. Worth, where he started a job at General Dynamics that he would keep until retirement, working first in aerospace engineering and then in information technology. Billie meanwhile was able to devote herself full-time to their three children, a job she thoroughly enjoyed, and to making a home. She planned and cooked the meals; she developed family traditions for holidays; she read to the children; and so much more. When the children were old enough for her to return to the paid work force, she took a job at General Dynamics as a copyeditor and proofreader and worked there until George retired, whereupon she retired again from the workforce.
Meanwhile, she and George had joined Ridglea Presbyterian Church, and she began to work her way into church responsibilities, first as a deacon, then as an elder, and some years later as a commissioner to General Assembly (the denomination's national convention). She also taught Sunday school classes and women's circle lessons, and eventually began to take on organizational jobs, starting as moderator of the women's group. When she retired from paid employment, this became almost a second career, and she surprised some of us by how good she was at running things. Her favorite of these jobs was serving as president of the local Church Women United, comprising women of many different denominations. Late in life she learned enough about computers to do word processing and e-mail, which she put to good use in this work.
Eventually she “retired from retirement” (as she put it) and spent her time keeping in touch with family and friends and in various pastimes. She was an avid reader, partial to well-written novels that told a good story, and to contemporary poetry. She was a fan of the New York Times crossword puzzles, often staying up late to get that one last clue. She continued to enjoy her children, watching them grow and change, applauding their successes and listening patiently when they were in need of a sympathetic ear. She was a loyal wife to George, deferring to his wishes and doing her best to make him happy, although he was not a happy person by nature; when he could no longer live at home, she found accommodations for him and continued to do what she could to make his life better.
When George died in 2003, she surprised everyone by moving to the Austin area, but she spent many happy years there before returning to Ft. Worth, moving from place to place as her needs changed. As a friend put it, she was a model of how to age gracefully while remaining engaged with the world. She realized late in life that she could think for herself, and she made friends with whom she could converse about news and politics as well as family. At one point she had what we half-jokingly referred to as a “weekly salon”, in which a group of friends met to discuss some topic she selected from current news. At each stop she made new friends and kept in touch when she could.
It is not exaggerating that probably almost everyone who met Billie liked her and enjoyed her company; among her other fine qualities she was always a good listener. And her letters, like all her writing, were remarkable in being both simple and eloquent. She will be missed, by family and friends, but she leaves behind so many happy memories.
Billie was preceded in death by her parents; loving husband, George Shaffer Massingill; brothers, Gerald Sealy and Edgar Sealy; and sister, Mary Bess Wilcox.
She leaves behind to cherish her memory her sister, Peggy Brown; children, Berna Massingill, G. Sealy Massingill and wife Debbie and William Massingill and wife Penni; grandchildren, G. Sean Massingill and wife Kirstie, Patrick Massingill, and Sarah Massingill; many nieces, nephews and many friends.
Memorials may be made in Billie’s name to the Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services at https://www.pchas.org