In Memory of



Obituary for Margie Lillard

Margie Lillard was a performer and an artist. She was a community leader, a union organizer, an avid reader, a world traveler. She was a devout Catholic, a stalwart military spouse, a loyal friend. Above all, she was a loving and beloved mother and wife, whose impact on the world can be measured in the size and spread of her family, and in the warmth of her affection that will linger long after her passing.

Margie Charlene Wooten Lillard died Dec. 12, 2022, at the age of 101 in Clarksville, Tenn., a town she called home for more than 40 years since moving here upon the retirement of her husband, Col. James A. Lillard, from his Army career.

She was born Feb. 8, 1921, in Memphis, Tenn., to David and Minnie Wooten, the second of their four children. Her older brother, David Jr., passed in 1933; she is survived by younger siblings Joseph Donald Wooten of Rock Island, Ill., and Julia Wooten deRooy of Crossville, Tenn.

Fittingly for a woman who spent 85 years on stage and behind the scenes as a dancer, choreographer and performer, Margie got her name when her mother heard the enormously popular Eddie Cantor song, "Margie," playing outside her hospital room window.

She married James Anderson Lillard on Dec. 26, 1949, in Memphis. Together, they raised seven children in Germany, Hawaii, and military bases across the southern and central U.S., celebrating their 50th anniversary in Clarksville with family and friends several months before his death in April 2000.

Margie made her performing debut at age 9 at the Orpheum Theater in Memphis, where she later operated a dance school. As a young woman, she sang, danced and acted professionally, leading her own troupe of dancers on tour through the Midwest and into Canada. At Fort Campbell and other stops on the family's military travels, she was an integral part of many community theaters, making her last stage appearance at age 94 in "Mary Poppins" at Clarksville's Roxy Theater, which she had supported since its creation.

In 2016, Margie was honored with the Full Circle Award by the Acuff Circle, a non-profit organization affiliated with Austin Peay State University. The annual award is presented to “a living Tennessean who has had a consequential impact on arts and culture in Montgomery County over many years of direct involvement through innovative work, philanthropy or leadership.”

During World War II and before her marriage, Margie worked as a teletype and long-distance operator and supervisor in Washington D.C. and Memphis, serving as an organizer and shop steward for the union now called the Communications Workers of America.

Raising her large family was an accomplishment all its own, especially as her husband's service sent him on combat tours to Korea and, twice, to Vietnam, along with numerous shorter deployments. Wisely, Jim deferred much of the household management to her even when he was at home, and she deftly handled budgeting, cooking, clothing (she was an excellent seamstress and an Olympic-caliber sales shopper), entertaining, and so much more.

Even as the children multiplied, she had energy to spare for many volunteer activities, from helping with the Red Cross and hosting military wives' events, to serving as church organist and choir member, to performing in and choreographing community theater productions (often supplying cast members from her family!), and even presenting a weekly radio show during the family's 1968-74 tour of duty at Fort Campbell. In Hawaii, with most of her children out of the house, she went back to work in the box office of the Honolulu Community Theater.

“If I were asked to do something, I'd think they must think I could do it, so I'd try,” she once said. That willingness and dynamism earned her the title of Third Army “Military Wife of the Year” in 1970.

Margie approached military family life with gusto, passing along to her children a passion for exploration and adventure. With each new assignment, she had scouted out local historic sites, roadside attractions, museums and more well before the household goods caught up with the family. "I figured, if the Army is going to send us somewhere, we should make the most of it," she said.

As Margie's ability to travel diminished due to her increasing age, she was especially grateful for the companionship and comfort she received as a dedicated parishioner at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. Her two eldest children attended the church's school during the family's initial tour at Fort Campbell in the late 1950s, and Jim and Margie both volunteered there (he as an usher, she as organist) once they returned to Clarksville.

Margie is survived by a large family that, while scattered across the country, is unified in love for her and each other. In addition to her siblings and numerous nieces and nephews, she is survived by her seven children: James D. Lillard (Judy Dorsey) of Memphis; Julia L. Roberts (Stephen) of Rollinsford, N.H.; Anneliese L. Kennedy (Craig) of Lincoln, Neb.; Donna L. Migliaccio (John) of Vienna, Va.; John M. Lillard (Barbara) of Alexandria, Va.; Margaret A. Lillard of Raleigh, N.C.; and Joan L. Haines (Sam) of Clarksville. She was blessed with 12 grandchildren, six grandchildren-in-law, and - as of September - six great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 2 pm Tuesday, Jan. 17, at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church at 716 Franklin Street and Margie will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery with her husband.

In lieu of flowers, friends are encouraged to make gifts to the Friends of Clarksville-Montgomery County Public Library or another community-serving organization.

Most importantly, Margie's family encourages you to remember the advice she offered on her 101st birthday last February:

"Be sensible, exercise, get out and move, have friends that you can enjoy, meet lots of people, and be kind. Of all things, be kind to others."

As Eddie Cantor sang, "After all is said and done, there is really only one: Oh! Margie, Margie, it's you."