ASHTABULA — Jacqueline Marie (Washburn) Hillyer, the daughter of David and Peggy Washburn, was born on Feb. 19, 1943, in Los Angeles, Calif. She died on Saturday, August 17, 2013, in Johannesburg, South Africa, from complications due to pneumonia. Jackie left indelible and meaningful footprints during the 70 years she walked this earth.
In her early childhood years living in Hollywood, Calif., Jackie modeled children’s clothing and had the opportunity to audition before legendary movie director Cecile B. DeMille. Her family moved to Fort Worth, Texas for a period of time before Peggy and Jackie relocated to Peggy’s hometown, Jefferson, Ohio.
Jackie graduated in 1961 from Jefferson High School. Her college studies at Kent State University were temporarily interrupted when she and her husband, Dave, had a son in 1964 and a daughter in 1966. Jackie completed her studies and earned her Bachelors degree in English in 1968. Immediately thereafter, she became a teacher at Braden Junior High School and later at Edgewood Senior High School. Here began her resolve to improve the educational system and ensure the full participation of all students in school athletics, without regard to gender.
Jackie led and won fierce early battles in the quest for equality for girls in school sport. She knew full well that team sports build not only confidence in young people, but critical character attributes, such as leadership, collaboration, and fairness, which form the foundation for successful careers and relationships. The passage of Title IX allowed Jackie to wield legal grounds and demand full access for girls to participate in school athletics. She received several honors over the years for her efforts, including admission into the Ohio High School Fast-Pitch Softball Coaches’ Hall of Fame and receipt of the Keeper of the Flame Award. All of the recognitions, trophies and plaques pale in comparison to the sincere gratitude expressed by those students (and their parents) who would have been denied the right to participate had Jackie not led the charge. Jackie also tended to her own further education, having attended graduate courses at Harvard University, Texas A&M and other universities before earning a Masters Degree in Psychology from the University of Akron in 1989. She earned a second Masters Degree in Political Science and Applied Politics in 1994 from the University of Akron.
Jackie taught English, American and world history, psychology, geography, sociology, government, served as yearbook advisor, varsity softball coach, and officiated volleyball. She retired from teaching in 1997. At the time of her death, she was the President of the Buckeye Board of Education.
Jackie’s interest in educational equality grew into a greater passion for full and equal political participation for women and other minorities. She joined and later became an instrumental leader in state and local chapters of the National Organization for Women. She served several terms on the NOW National Board and held several other positions within that organization. At the time of her death, Jackie was the President of Ohio NOW.
Though her political and social change efforts continued after her retirement, her health began to rapidly deteriorate. In 2000, Jackie suffered a respiratory arrest and nearly died. She was external oxygen dependent for a more than a year until she underwent a lung transplant procedure in November 2001. Since that time, Jackie determined to see as much of the earth while she was on the earth. Between 2004 and 2013, she traveled to more than 40 countries, including France, Belgium, England, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Austria, Monaco, Lichtenstein, Italy, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Russia, Greece, Turkey, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania and the Czech Republic.
Jackie enjoyed memorializing her many travels by creating slide shows accompanied by matching cultural music. She often commented on the cultural similarities and distinctions among the regions she visited, particularly with respect to the status of their educational systems.
The last region Jackie visited was southern Africa, traveling to Cape Town, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia, where she saw the Victoria Falls, went on Safari, riding elephants and petting cheetahs. While her postcards home and videos demonstrate that she was having the time of her life in Africa, her weakened immune system was unable to withstand the unfamiliar environment. She became critically ill and was transported to Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg, where she was diagnosed with and eventually succumbed to pneumonia.
Jackie Hillyer died on her own terms doing what she wanted to do.
Jackie was preceded in death by her mother, Agnes M. “Peggy” (Ensman) Washburn; her father, David E. Washburn; and several uncles, aunts and cousins.
She is survived by her husband of nearly 49 years, J. David Hillyer of Ashtabula, Ohio; a son, Scott David (Kelly) Hillyer of Windham, N.H.; a daughter, Shelly Karen Hillyer of Avon, Ohio; and three grandchildren by her son, Lindsay Joanne, Aaron Scott and Jordan Marie, all of Windham, N.H.; her Aunt Shirley (Charles) Cornell of Jefferson, Ohio; and many cousins, good friends and everlasting memories.
Calling Hours will be held from 5 to 8 p.m., Friday, August 30th, at ZABACK-WILLIAMS-DUCRO FUNERAL HOME, 500 W. Prospect Road, Ashtabula, Ohio.
Funeral Services will be held 11 a.m., Saturday, August 31st, preceded by a one-hour calling period at 10 a.m., at First United Methodist Church, 4506 Elm Ave., Ashtabula, with the Rev. Chris Bell, Pastor officiating. A private burial will be held at Oakdale Cemetery in Jefferson, Ohio.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggest that donations be made to Homesafe – Ashtabula County’s Domestic Violence Shelter. Mailing address is: HOMESAFE. P.O. Box 702, Ashtabula, Ohio 44005-0702.
Obituary at www.ducro.com and starbeacon.com.