2. Lillian Buress Gill (Section 20, Lot 79) 1917 – 2014
In 1944, when she became a young widow of 27 years with three children, Lillian Gill used an entrepreneurial spirit to make a life in her adopted city, Grand Rapids. In 1946, she started classes to learn about life insurance and underwriting–for 13 years. During this same period in the 1950s, she became a pioneer saleswoman for the early Amway Corporation–actually their first Black sales agent; she began her life-long history with the Order of the Eastern Star, rising to Grand Matron on the state and national levels; and she began volunteering with the Urban League and NAACP, serving the latter three times as vice president. Finally in 1959 Gill began a career selling life insurance, and in 1982 she became the first African American woman in the state to retire from the field. In civic life, Gill ran as a delegate to Michigan’s Constitutional Convention in 1961. In her religious life, she participated far beyond the local and served as president of the District of Michigan Sunday School Congress for 32 years to help parents of children who had dropped out of school. Named a Grand Rapids Giant in 1986, Lillian Gill even spent her leisure time with purpose. She was one of two women to integrate Grand Rapids Indian Trails Golf Course—and she wrote occasional poetry!
To find Lillian Gill’s gravesite, turn east off of Kalamazoo into Garfield Park Cemetery. Drive straight in and then make two right turns up the hill. Park when you see on your right a signpost for Section 20. To find the Lillian Gill grave marker, walk four rows east (in the direction of the road) and turn right (or south) toward a tree on the cemetery boundary.