Elizabeth Jill Cole WatkinsEl Dorado, AR, 1935 - 2021
Elizabeth Jill Cole Watkins passed away in her family home the morning hours of October 12, 2021. Jill, known to her grandchildren as "Nonnie," will be fondly remembered for her strong devotion to her family and her community, and for her quick wit and playful demeanor. She will be dearly missed.
Despite her birth certificate's insistence that she was born February 1, Jill was born on February 2, 1935, which is consistent with her disdain of being pinned down. She was born to Adrian Earl Cole and Elizabeth Jane Hollingsworth in Electric Mills, Mississippi, but grew up in several locations, including Jackson, Baton Rouge, Connecticut, Memphis, and Little Rock. She had an older brother, Jack Cole, whose name combined with hers provided a source of teasing and taunting from their school-aged friends for years. Her father, a Mississippi state trooper, was killed in an accident in the line of duty in 1940. Later, her mother remarried Daniel Graves Carragher, and that union produced a much younger half-brother, Danny. Jill, being many years older, cared for Danny often, such that he considered her more of another mother than a sister, and they were very close until his death in 2015.
Jill was an unstoppable force on her own, but her 59-year marriage to her husband, Jerry, was one of her greatest strengths. Jill was living in Little Rock with her parents, attending Little Rock Junior College and working at Smith's Country Club Drugs and I.K. Electric. Although she described herself as "ordinary," she finished first runner-up in the Miss City Beautiful contest in 1954 which awarded her the honor of throwing the switch for the Christmas lights at a community dance on December 10, 1954. Because she needed someone to go with, her friend set up a blind date with a young lawyer, Jerry Watkins. Adventurous, but not impractical, she agreed to the date, but she also sold tickets to her parents so they could rescue her in case Jerry turned out to be a dud. He wasn't. See Wilson, J., Wilson R., (2015, Feb. 5.) Obituary: Jerry West Watkins. Arkansas Democrat Gazette, 8B. They were married September 3, 1955.
Jerry and Jill moved to El Dorado where she developed a strong relationship with her community. She was involved in several organizations, taking a leadership role when she had the chance. She served as a "Y Teen Leader" with the YWCA, mentoring young children in the community. She also volunteered with the Service League which required an eight-year commitment and was essentially an unpaid part-time job raising money for its League Fund, providing school supplies and medical services for needy children, and providing Christmas presents for children as well – a practice she passed down to her own children and grand-children. She was a member of Beta Sigma Phi and the Athena Club, and she spent many years as a Campfire Girl Leader, helping shape the lives of young girls in El Dorado. She learned to canoe and build fires, she arranged for the girls to act as Pages with the Legislature, and she researched historical sites in Union County to visit. She was also president of both the Northwest School PTA and the City Council PTA, and she was actively involved in the Jaycettes and the South Arkansas Arts Center.
Jill raised three children – Jennifer, Jay, and Julie. She taught them to be confident and caring, and to look after each other and their community. She had two grandchildren, Robert and Jillian Wilson, and three great-grandchildren, Robert and Virginia Wilson, and Harry Jackson. Jill also loved her dog, Lulu, who will miss her terribly, as will her wide variety of flowers she so carefully curated, and the birds who came to visit her house year after year.
Jill will be remembered by her family for her appreciation for games and the time spent playing them, as well as for her cooking, which did not come naturally to her (but she persisted). She will also be remembered for her no-nonsense style. As she described herself: "I like to get things done…I always chafed when I was sitting there and somebody else was up there and they wouldn't move the meeting along. You know, just women yakking. I don't care for that much. Let's get our business done, and if you want to sit around and talk afterwards, that's fine."
To everyone fortunate enough to know Jill, she was tenacious and fun, with a quick wit and an astute, yet sardonic, sense of humor. She was captivating – more than most she could put you in your place and simultaneously make you feel like you're in on the joke. Jill was thoughtful and playful, and her memory will be an ever-present reminder that life is fragile, precious, but not to be taken too seriously.
Jill is predeceased by her husband, Jerry Watkins, of El Dorado; her parents, Adrian Earl Cole of Jackson, Miss., and Elizabeth Jane Hollingsworth, of Little Rock; her brother, Jack Cole, of Birmingham; her half-brother, Daniel Graves Carragher II; and her children, Jay West Watkins of El Dorado, and Julie Elizabeth Watkins, of Fayetteville.
Jill is survived by her daughter, Jennifer Wilson-Harvey (Jack Harvey) of Little Rock; her grandson, Robert M. Wilson, III (Cate Wilson) of Little Rock; her granddaughter, Jillian Herrick Wilson (Sam Jackson) of Little Rock; her nieces, Erin Tamplet (John Tamplet) of Boerne, Texas; Jacklyn Dale of Dallas, Texas; great-grandchildren, Robert M. Wilson IV, Virginia Wilson, and Herrick Jackson, all of Little Rock; and great-niece, Brady Dale, and great-nephews Grant Tamplet and Cole Tamplet.
Special warm thanks to her incredible caregivers who brought much joy, comfort, and compassion towards the end of her life – Santana, Sandra, Naketa, Kathy, and Nell.
The visitation will be held from 4-6 p.m., on Friday, October 15, 2021, at Young's Funeral Home in El Dorado. Private graveside service for family at Arlington Memorial Park on Saturday, October 16, 2021 at 10 a.m. The service will be held thereafter at 11 a.m. at First Presbyterian Church in El Dorado. Reception will follow the service at the church. Please make any memorials to First Presbyterian Church or the Audubon Society. An online guest registry will be available at www.youngsfuneralhome.com
Published October 14, 2021
OBITUARY SUBMITTED BY:
Young's Funeral Directors
508 Champagnolle Road, El Dorado, AR