Mildred Joan Miller Gilpin, 95, of Littleton and Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, peacefully passed away on October 16, 2022.
She was born in Aberdeen, South Dakota on November 4, 1926, to John O. Miller and Stella Rudd.
Spending her early years in South Dakota, she often shared memories that included the difficulties her family endured trying to farm in an area that was very dry and where sand storms were common.
Most memorable was when her family had to retreat to the underground root cellar to survive those storms.
One day her father went out to begin work on the farm and found the entire field of tomatoes he had planted had been stripped clean by grasshoppers. They had invaded the area in swarms, clinging to screen doors, fence posts, and were everywhere. It was after this incident the disheartened family packed and began their move east.
In 1934, traveling in a large truck with all their belongings, the family of 6 moved to the Northern Neck of Virginia to the town of Kinsale. Along the way, she remembered their visit to Mount Rushmore, making the long and difficult journey more enjoyable.
Moving to the new area proved to be hard farm work for the family with little time for 9 year old Mildred to enjoy child activities. However, while working in the fields she enjoyed digging for clay and using it to mold and make small figurines and dishes. Most of the family’s time was spent working together planting, and caring for the crops of tomatoes, potatoes, and corn. They followed an organized plan, with her father digging the hole, the next person putting in fertilizer, the next, water, and the last putting in the plant. She vividly remembered the foul odor of the powdered fish fertilizer which was spread by hand. She recalls field upon field of ripe tomatoes in VA but harvesting their crops was very time consuming and prices were very low, tomatoes selling for a mere 15 cents a basket. Hating to leave, they decided to move to Alexandria, Virginia to find a different way of life for the family.
Most of Mildred’s education was in Hague, Virginia, where she completed three years at Cople High School. When the family moved to Alexandria in 1942, she immediately entered Saint Mary’s Academy where she concentrated on a business course and other requirements to complete her high school education. At the end of the school year, her 4 year accomplishment was recognized by Cople High School and she received her diploma at age 16.
With the United States in the middle of World War II, she wanted to serve her Country and prior to her graduation had already submitted her paperwork for employment with the U. S. Government. Upon graduating on Friday evening, June 10, 1943, she began work as a clerk typist at the Pentagon on the following Monday. Over the next year, her academic success in the classroom combined with her superior performance on the job was rewarded and she was promoted to a statistical clerk in the War Department at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C. in the Adjutant General’s Office.
It was also during this time, her sister, Donna was seeing a young man, Griff, and Mildred was introduced to him. He was working with a local youth club Mildred attended and was serving as a volunteer firefighter when Mildred and Griff began dating. She waited until she was twenty-one and then married Griffith Daniel Gilpin, of Washington, D.C on her 21st birthday, November 4, 1947. After their marriage, her husband soon became a full time firefighter in Arlington County Virginia and they soon began their large family.
Although Mildred continued to work at the Pentagon after her marriage, she resigned her position to become a stay-at-home mom after their first child was born. As a devoted mother of six, she was dedicated to raising them to be good Catholics. She didn’t begin working outside the home until their children were older. When Mildred did go to work, she found employment in the Virginia school system, working as a cashier at the Fairfax High School cafeteria.
By 1986, after twenty-five years of firefighting, they decided it was time to retire, and moved to the area they both loved, Lake Gaston, North Carolina where Griff enjoyed golf and operating a small marina. Mildred enjoyed working outside, gardening, planting flowers, and helping at the marina.
Wanting to stay busy, she worked five years at Manning Elementary in Roanoke Rapids and later worked at Wal-Mart for nine years.
Griff passed away in 1990. Even though she was now past 60, she felt it was time to get her driver’s license. She had grown to love the lake area and found herself involved in countless activities, surrounded by many friends, and now needed her independence.
Over the next eight years, Mildred became an active member of the AARP Clown Corp as “Skittles”, joining with the local O’Shea’s and the Boes’ families. The CORP eventually grew to a total of 24 new friends. She chose her clown name after her multi-colored pet cockatiel, “Skittles”. Taking on the image and persona, she wore a multicolored hat and wig, and a costume covered with red hearts.
The Clown Corp proudly entertained at nursing homes, joined parades, performed on stage at Lakeland Theater and at Eaton Ferry AARP meetings. Mildred loved performing in the skits, singing songs, and passing out candy in parades.
Mildred always kept a busy schedule, enjoyed going to the library, reading the bible, working on puzzles and crafts, taking different classes at Halifax Community College in Weldon, attending meetings, and providing transportation for friends.
She was active in her church, St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Roanoke Rapids for 36 years. Mildred participated in several of the programs there including Bible Study, the Ladies Guild, and was a member of SOLO; Singles of Loved Ones.
Eaton Ferry AARP claimed some of her time, where she was on the decorating committee and made good use of the various craft classes she attended.
Mildred spent many years as a volunteer with Good Samaritan Ministries in Weldon, distributing food to the needy. She was proud to be a dedicated blood donor at the Roanoke Wildwood Volunteer Fire Department.
After 20 years on the lake, in 2006, at the age of 80, she decided to move into town to be closer to her Church, her activities, and the friends she so loved so much. All of her activities continued without missing a beat and she soon became a weekly BINGO player with the many new friends in her community at Olde Town Village Apartments.
Mildred spent months creating handmade Christmas gifts for her friends and family. She especially enjoyed crocheting baby blankets for her many grandchildren and great grandchildren.
In May, 2020, at 94, and after driving for 30 years, she knew it was time to stop and willingly made the change. Her final driving experience was the willing rescue of a stranded motorist, who managed to lock his steering handle in the park position (and unable to move the vehicle) while stopped at a gas station pump.
And even now, we know she is looking for further adventures, more places to visit, making new friends, and finally in Heaven with the Lord and so many loved ones.
She is survived by her children Daniel (Lisa), Patricia Croisetiere (Bill), Gregory (Teri), Ronald (Mary), John (Missy), and Mark (Joanne). She had five grandchildren: Kathryn Coble, Joan Sinnott, Michele Arft, Kristi Gilpin, and Victoria Gilpin. Ten great grandchildren: Seika Bishton, Mika Bishton, Zachary Coble, Luke Coble, Matthew Coble, Dayton Tockey, Maris Boop, William Arft, Isaiah Sinnott and Derek Arft. Four step grandchildren: Richard Douma, Misty Jackson, Christopher Moore, and Jessica Moore, Eight step grandchildren: Alex Douma, Katie Higuera , Abigail Arft, Wesley Seiler, Austin Seiler, Mattie Moore, Lucie Moore, and Lukas Moore.
Wrenn, Clarke and Hagan Funeral Home, of Roanoke Rapids, NC is handling the arrangements. The viewing will be held at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church on Thursday, October 27, beginning at 8:30am and a Mass of the Resurrection will follow at 9:30am.
Interment will take place at Quantico National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to St. John the Baptist Catholic Church office 115 East 9th Street Roanoke Rapids, NC 27870.