Obituary Listings

Virginia E. Gillies

February 22, 1919 January 7, 2018
Virginia  E.  Gillies
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Obituary for Virginia E. Gillies

DURHAM: Virginia Evelyn Gillies, 98, passed away on Sunday, January 7, 2018 at Seasons at Southpoint in Durham, NC. She was born in Kingston, Oklahoma to the late Martin Edgar Roberts and Lydia Pearl Lumrey Roberts. In addition to her parents, she was also predeceased by her husband, Roderick McLeod Gillies, daughter, Barbara Lynn Gillies, step-daughter, Agnes Dale Gillies Vaughn, as well as her four siblings, Irene Roberts, Eugene Roberts (Louise), Fred Roberts (Margaret), Kay Determan (Leo), and her cousin and lifelong friend, Ruth Williamson Blevins of Kingston, OK.

Virginia grew up in rural Kingston, Oklahoma where she attended a one-room schoolhouse. She excelled in school and advanced several grades to study with the older students and graduate early. She attended Murray State College in Tishomingo, OK where she learned skills in business administration, stenography, and shorthand; and shortly after graduation, she passed the Civil Service Exam. She worked for the Federal Government for several years in Washington, DC before applying for an overseas assignment in the aftermath of WWII. She worked as a civil servant for US Air Force Far East command headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, where she met and married Roderick M. Gillies, Jr. They would spend 13 years in Asia: eight years in Tokyo and five years in Okinawa, where Mr. Gillies served as the Deputy Civil Administrator. They had three children, Barbara and Sarah in Tokyo, and Rhiannon in Okinawa. Virginia became a student of Japanese art, culture, and food, and was known for her Japanese cooking and flower arranging. She also learned to play bridge and golf, pastimes that she pursued for the rest of her active adult life.

In 1960, Virginia and Rod moved back to the Washington, DC area where Rod continued his government service, first at the Pentagon followed by many years at the US Department of Commerce where he served as the executive director of the Export Expansion Council. The Gillies resided in Fairfax, Virginia (Mantua Woods), where Virginia was an active member of Bruen Chapel Methodist Church and participated in the Women’s Club, PTA, bowling league, book and author club, and other community groups. She played golf at Cedar Crest Country Club where she competed in tournaments, even winning a few of the member events. She loved to garden, cook, sew, paint, and entertain guests in her home. Virginia was dedicated to and beloved by family members from coast to coast, continuing to maintain ties with many relatives and friends from every age and stage of her life. After 43 years in the Washington, DC area, Virginia sold her home and relocated to Seattle, WA to be near her daughters, Sarah (Bill) and Rhiannon, and granddaughter, Lydia. At the time of the move she was 86 years old and could not be dissuaded from buying her own home in the Sunset Hill neighborhood. She lived in Seattle for six years and was fortunate during this time to reconnect with her sister-in-law Margaret Roberts, nieces and grandnieces, including Jackie Roberts, Bobby Roberts, Debbie Kelly, Dayna Campbell, Mika Determan, Diana Sampson, Tami Thomas, and Cherise Moore. In 2010, she relocated with her daughters to Durham, NC where she spent her remaining years. These last years were as good as they could have been even as she struggled with the onset of dementia and increasing frailty. She died peacefully and gracefully with family by her side on the afternoon of Sunday, January 7.

Virginia is survived by her daughters, Sarah Gillies Nicholson (Bill), Rhiannon Alexa Royce of Durham, NC; and granddaughter, Lydia McLeod Nicholson of Portland, ME; stepson, Rod Gillies (Nancy) of St. Louis, MO and their children Steven and Christine, step grandchildren, Patricia Vaughn Nixon (Cameron) of Augusta, GA, Chris Vaughn (Jennifer) of Tappahannock, VA, and Randall Vaughn of Richmond, VA as well as step grandchildren (Martha, Henry, and Hill Nixon and Taylor, Riley, and Grace Vaughan), and many beloved grand nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held at 1:30 pm on Monday, January 15 at Massey’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Durham. The family will hold a burial service in the spring (date to be determined) when her ashes are laid to rest next to other family members in the Kingston Cemetery in Marshall County, Oklahoma.

In lieu of flowers you may send donations to the Roderick M and Virginia E Gillies Fellowship for Global Health Students at the University of Washington (online gifts can be made and enter “Gillie“ to identify the fund) or to the Memorial Fund at Bruen Chapel United Methodist Church, 3035 Cedar Lane Fairfax, VA 22031.

The family is being assisted by Clements Funeral Service, Inc. in Durham, NC. Online condolences may be made at

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