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Tilley, Eugenia (Genie) Elizabeth Morris

April 6th, 1924 - June 18th, 2014


Tilley, Eugenia (Genie) Elizabeth Morris, 90, died June 18, 2014 in Perry, Oklahoma. A funeral service will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, June 20 in the Strode Funeral Home Chapel, Stillwater with a visitation to follow. Strode Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements. A second visitation and service with interment will follow in Churdan, Iowa.

Eugenia was born April 6, 1924 in Fulton County, Georgia on the West side of the Chattahoochee River on Power's Ferry Road to the late Luther Burney Morris and Eugenia Elizabeth Power Morris. She grew up and attended schools on the North side of Atlanta, Georgia. From the age of 16, she worked at the Atlanta Farmer's Market, Peachtree Hills Pharmacy and for the Southern Railway.

She married Virgil Albert Tilley October 28, 1944. Eugenia and Virgil moved to Iowa in December 1945 with their first son, Joe, in a 5-passenger, 1936 Ford convertible following Virgil's discharge from the U.S. Army. They rented farms east of Churdan and in the edge of Adaza, Iowa where they farmed and operated an auction service. The first farm they purchased was south of Churdan where they lived from 1962 to 1989, farming and operating Tilley Auction Service.

In 1989, they moved to Stillwater, Oklahoma after they retired, although there were frequent visits back to the farm. Eugenia loved to sew, quilt, cook, do crafts, raise vegetables and take care of her grandchildren and friends. She was an active member of the United Methodist Church and the United Methodist Women in both Churdan and at First United Methodist Church in Stillwater.

Eugenia was a member and Noble Grand of the Rebekah Lodge, International Order of Oddfellows, and Order of the Eastern Star in Churdan. She was proud of her husband's military service and was active in Legion Auxiliary. She loved to tell stories about her childhood growing up with her brothers and sisters in the hills on the north side of Atlanta, Georgia.

Eugenia is preceded in death by her husband, Virgil; parents; sisters, Ethel Moss (Roswell, GA), Bernice Stoval (Loganville, GA), Grace Stowe-Settles (Alpharetta, GA), and Sallie Harper, (DeKalb Co., GA); brothers, Fred Morris (Port Arthur, TX), Jerry Morris (Cumming/Roswell, GA), Luther (infant death), and David (infant death).

She is survived by her two sons: Daniel and his wife, Marcia (Stillwater, OK), and Joseph and his wife, Barbara (Carroll, IA); brother, Charles Morris (Alpharetta, GA); sister, Katherine Morris House (Milton, GA); and five grandchildren: Alec Tilley and his wife, Pam; Joseph Tilley and his wife, Laura; Ann Tilley Reider and her husband, Ryan; Nicole Tilley Pillay and her husband, Pra, and Matthew Tilley. She is also survived by 12 great grandchildren: Emma, Grant, Claire, Zane, Talia, Elizabeth, Grace, Lindley, Austin, Payton, Nikki, and Emily.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the First United Methodist Church, 400 W. Seventh Avenue, Stillwater, Oklahoma 74074 or to the Churdan United Methodist Church, 804 Head Street, Churdan, Iowa 50050.

Condolences may be emailed to the family and an online obituary may be viewed by visiting .


Eugenia (Genie) Elizabeth Morris was a survivor as well as a hard-working, steadfastly Christian, loving, and supporting wife and mother. Born in the depression in North Georgia and named after her mother who passed away when she was 8 days old, she was the seventh child of Luther Burney Morris and Eugenia Elizabeth Power Morris. Genie was raised by her Aunt Pauline and Uncle Ben Morris for all but six days of her first 2 and one half years. Her mother requested that her Aunt Pauline and Uncle Ben Morris have her baptized and the baptism was at the Sandy Springs, Georgia Methodist Church. Eugenia's aunts and uncles were important parts of her life. She lived with many of them at various times as a child. Many of Genie's cousins were like brothers and sisters. Her father later married her mother's sister Mary Lillian Power and had four additional children. The family was together again when Genie was 2 and one-half. Her father ran a saw mill and they lived on various properties on which he would buy, cut, mill and sell the timber. The older children had a great deal of responsibility for the younger children. Lillian was ill with typhoid fever off and on and finally hospitalized 6-7 years after her marriage to Luther. The kids were dispersed for several years after Lillian's hospitalization. When the family was together again, the older children again had a great deal of responsibility in the household. Genie recalls going to seven different schools as a child.

Two weeks after she turned 11, Eugenia joined the Methodist Church on Easter Sunday, April 21, 1935 at St. Luke's Methodist on Pearl Street in Atlanta, Georgia. She was a member of the Methodist Episcopal and now United Methodist Church throughout the rest of her life in Georgia, Iowa and Oklahoma.

Eugenia had to be a survivor in a family with 9 children who survived infancy. Her oldest brother Fred, was reportedly a good shot and would bring home squirrels and rabbits that Genie and her sisters learned to prepare. They had a cow named "Babe" that roamed the hills wearing a bell. It was the kids' responsibility to find the cow and milk her.

From age 13 to 16, Eugenia was the oldest at home and had a great many household responsibilities. She writes about carrying wood to cook and heat the house, bringing water from a mountain stream for drinking, washing, and cooking. She wrote "I did the cooking, milked the cow and scrubbed the laundry on a scrub board. I heated the flat iron on the stove or over coals in the fireplace.....I churned with a dasher churn and made butter. We drank buttermilk."

They also had fun. Genie would tell stories of their "swimming hole" in which they threw rocks to make sure the water moccasins were in the bushes rather than in the water. Clearly, these kids had to be survivors and they helped care for each other. She wrote about roller skating, hiking and picking wild azaleas and berries, playing house with her nearest siblings (Grace, Sallie, and Katherine), fishing with a bent pin and "sack raveling", shooting marbles and jumping rope.

Eugenia's North Georgia survival skills translated well to the Iowa farm where most of the meat and many of the vegetables were products of the family farm. Sweet corn, yellow squash, cucumbers, green beans, beets, onions, tomatoes, okra, milk, eggs, broilers, hogs, and beef were raised on the farm in her early days in Iowa. Canning, freezing, and pickling were all used for preservation. During early farming days, excess eggs, cream and milk were "traded" for other things the family needed. Eugenia was proficient at baking pies, cakes and bread. When the pheasant hunt proved productive, she knew how to prepare the meat. An occasional squirrel or rabbit graced the family table. Later, when the cash-grain farm became larger and the auction business expanded, the family converted to "delivered" and then "store bought" milk and cream. But the eggs, poultry, and most of the beef retained its farm origins as long as Joe and Dan were home. One of her earliest kitchens in Iowa featured a hand-pump for water and wood/corn cob burning stove and oven with a hot water reservoir. That stove was retained until the early 1960s as the basement backup for heat as well as cooking in case the power went out. In the early 1950s, indoor plumbing, hot and cold water, and an electric stove were part of her reality.

Monday was Eugenia's clothes washing day on the farm. Washing machines with wringers were an innovation. Stretchers for blue jeans and iron-on patches were other innovations she adopted. Winter time in Iowa created the challenge of finding places to hang out clothes. The first automatic washer and dryer in the household seemed to change the weekly ritual in about 1960.

Family was important. Sundays after church were often spent at a family gathering usually involving Sunday dinner (lunch). Virgil and Eugenia made annual post-county-fair vacation trips to Atlanta that always included stays with sisters, brothers, and cousins who grew up helping take care of each other. Joe and Dan became well acquainted with their Iowa and Georgia roots. One particularly large family reunion in Atlanta had nearly 500 present. Even after retirement, vacations were family focused with trips to Georgia, Florida, California, Texas and Oklahoma to visit brothers, sisters, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Vacations were times to maintain and build family connections.

Community was also important. Church and neighbors mattered. When neighbors were incapacitated, other neighbors stepped in to help with food, labor, and equipment. Eugenia became particularly involved with a Churdan family in which the four kids lost their mother when they were young. Was it possible that she could relate to their situation? Privacy was less important and phone calls on party lines were not private. Everyone knew when someone called you. Some of Eugenia's early phone calls from Iowa to Georgia were done by ham radio operators who helped out at both ends.

Eugenia and Virgil were both working full time by the time they were 16. They were both supportive of their sons' education and extracurricular sports, 4-H, church and music activities. Eugenia regularly taught Sunday School and was a cub scout den mother. Virgil provided leadership to 4-H. Eugenia was particularly pleased that both sons earned advanced degrees, Joe with a J.D. in law from Drake University and Dan with a Ph.D. in Economics at Iowa State University.

Grandchildren were always a priority. It was not unusual for the grandchildren to be part of their grandparents' farming and auction lives. Cooking and sewing skills were transferred to the grandchildren. Eugenia made quilts and really enjoyed her relationships with fellow quilt makers at Church, particularly after retirement in Stillwater at First United Methodist Church in Stillwater. She was "cutting quilt squares" into her late 80's. She also knitted many baby caps for newborns at the hospital. Genie made hand-painted china dolls, particularly those that resembled Shirley Temple.

Eugenia and Virgil were married for 53 years. They loved to go dancing and never missed the fireman's ball. They ran successful farming and auction businesses. Eugenia cared for Virgil until his death in 1999. She described them as "best friends".

She Genie spent her last two years at Golden Oaks Village in Stillwater and enjoyed talking to and visiting with her friends and going to Church and Sunday School. Until her last 6 months, solving word puzzles in the newspaper was a daily ritual. She loved to laugh and attempted to not take things too seriously. During one of her hospitalizations, she told her son not to worry, this (meaning death) only happens once. Genie wrote "My mother was my (guardian) angel." Family reunions in Heaven should be extraordinary.


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