Roberta (Billie) Virginia Jordan Harris passed away February 20 at the age of 103 (and 358 days) at the Ivy Place Assisted Living Center in Boise. Her younger sister Betty, living in Minneapolis, passed away 12 hours later on the same day – sisters to the end.
Billie was born February 27, 1915 on the family farm just outside of Ammon, Idaho to parents Clem and Mattie Jordan. Growing up, Billie attended the Dewey School. She played with and helped take care of her siblings – Betty and Robert. Winters could be harsh and activities included skiing, ice skating, and “wind skating.” Summers were spent helping on the farm. The Dewey School was fairly close, and she could usually get there – sometimes riding a horse. During her high school years, she often had to board in Idaho Falls for extended periods of time – especially in the winter months. She graduated from Idaho Falls High School in 1932.
She attended Albion Normal School in 1934-35 and made many lifelong friends there. She earned her teaching certificate and graduated in 1935. She then taught at the Dewey School, where she had once been a student, taught in Murtaugh, and then in Preston. During these years, she took a long trip back east to the 1939 World's Fair in New York City and then visited family relatives in Virginia and other places.
While in Preston, Billie was invited to an LDS church activity and met a handsome dark-haired man who she quickly fell in love with. She married Charles (Bus) Harris in August of 1941, and they moved to Salt Lake City, where two children were born – Kent in 1943 and Tim in 1945. After a short stay in Brigham City (with some interesting adventures including Bus picking up his love of trapshooting and Billie running her hand through her washer wringer), the family moved to Boise, where Bus went to work for Meadow Gold. Daughter Judy was born in 1949.
For the next 18 years, Billie raised her family, helped run their candy shop on Jefferson Street (The Hollywood Candy Box), and was heavily involved with church work, including many positions in the Primary, Relief Society, and Scouting program. Bus would make the candy at night, Billie would run the store during the day, and Kent would often have to help his brother and sister get ready for school (which he didn't always appreciate at the time). After several years, the candy business was moved into an addition at their home on Custer Drive, where they made thousands of caramel and candied apples for the Idaho State Fair, commercial candy for Albertson's Ice Cream, wedding mints, and all kinds of candy during the Christmas season. Billie and the family worked long hours in November and December. Several times the only thing that saved Christmas for the family was Billie getting a tree on Christmas Eve, doing some shopping at the last minute, then spending all night decorating the tree and wrapping presents for the kids.
In 1967 the family moved to Orem, Utah and took their candy-making operation with them. Bus and Billie made many wonderful friends there, held many church positions, and continued their commercial candy, wedding and holiday candy making. Billie continued to be a tireless worker in all that she did, and after the kids left home, she picked up a new passion – Temple work. She worked in the Provo Temple for many years.
In 1979, shortly after Bus retired from Meadow Gold, he was offered a chance to go to Saudi Arabia and build a milk plant. He and Billie decided to go, and they spent a year there. Billie saw and did many interesting things but did not care for the restrictions that were placed on women and religious freedom. They returned to Orem and resumed their candy making while Billie began working at the Temple again. In 1983 Bus passed away suddenly after 42 years of marriage. Billie was persuaded by her sons to move back to Boise. With the help of her brother Robert and her sons, she moved all her belongings and the candy business back to her old home on Custer Drive. She continued the candy operation for several more years before finally “retiring” to devote more time to her Temple work and family genealogy.
Billie waited a long time for grandchildren, and when they finally came, she was delighted and spent a great deal of time with each of them. The girls were born ten years apart, and since Grandma lived next door, it was a perfect set-up for a lot of one-on-one time during the day while both parents worked. Billie worked her Temple sessions around the girls and their schedules but still managed to do many sessions each week.
When she was 84 years old, Billie began to volunteer in her daughter-in-law's classroom at Monroe Elementary school (once a teacher – always a teacher). She continued this for 16 years, and the students sang “Happy Birthday” to her on her 100th birthday. During this time, she continued many sessions at the Boise Temple. When they “put her out to pasture,” she continued to go as a patron for many years more and did over 13,000 ordinances. She finally decided to stop going not long after she turned 100. She often spoke of the many friends she had made at the Temple and how much she enjoyed her time there.
In 2016 she moved into Ivy Place Assisted Living in Boise and enjoyed the Tuesday evening music programs and watching Lawrence Welk on Saturdays. The family is very grateful for the love and care she received from Kim and the rest of the staff while there.
Billie was preceded in death by her parents Clem and Martha, husband Bus, daughter Judy, and brother Robert. She is survived by many nieces and nephews on Bus' side of the family, her sister Betty (for 12 hours), Betty's four daughters, Nancy, Susie, Barb, and Jodi, son Kent and wife Liz, son Tim, and granddaughters Susan and Libby.
Billie was an amazing person who spent her long life in service to her family, her church, and her community. She donated many gallons of blood to the Red Cross, supported and donated to a large number of charities supporting children and the disadvantaged, and tried to do her part to make the world a better place. Never wanting to be the center of attention, she requested that no services be held. The family will travel to Orem and have a graveside memorial at a later date.
In lieu of flowers or memorials, the family suggests memorial contributions be made to a charity of your choice. “Pay it forward.”
Mom, we will miss you. Say hello to all your family and friends you have been waiting to see.