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Lillie Christine Billups, age 85, passed away peacefully in the company of her daughter, and niece at Southampton Hospital on January 14th 2024 in Southampton, New York. Born June 15th 1938, Lillie was the daughter of Carl Johnson and Martha Jones. Lillie was preceded in death by her beloved daughter Queen Billups, and her siblings: William “Sonny” Johnson, Ethel Banks, Ernestine Lilly, Brenda Robinson, Melvin “Nick” Johnson, Margaret “Mag” Johnson, Martha “Belvadine” Barnard, & John Wesley Johnson.
She is survived by her cherished siblings Roxie Harney of Elizabeth City North Carolina, Larry Johnson (Joanne) of Riverhead, New York, and Beverly Hopson of Deltona Florida.
Lillie leaves her dearest daughters Christine “Tine Tine” Clay of Elizabeth City, North Carolina and Juanita Lynn Billups of Southampton New York. She also deposited a legacy of passion and love to be carried by her dearest grandchildren Jeffery Clay (Tamara) of Upper Marlboro, MD, Travis Billups (Sarah) of Richmond Virginia, Brandon Clay (Kelly) of Woodbridge, Virginia and Jahlia Nash of Southampton New York.
Her pride and determination light a torch to be shone through her precious great grandchildren Bri’yanni, Haven, Brandon Jr, Langston, Drew, Roman, Quest and Sydney. She also leaves her love to a host of cousins, nieces, nephews and friends.
Lillie was born in Elizabeth City North Carolina, ultimately the sixth of twelve children born to Carl and Martha. Lillie grew up in Weeksville, North Carolina among her siblings and large extended family. She would often times speak fondly of being around so much family and enjoying the adventures and fun times with her siblings. Lillie was also a very proud young woman that drew her strength from the immense love of her siblings.
Lillie Johnson married Octavious Billups and produced three wonderful daughters. Queen Esther, Christine Faye and Juanita Lynn. These three became her pride and joy; moreover, she loved them as fiercely as any parent could love children.
As time passed many of her siblings began to create permanent residency in Bridgehampton, New York. Lillie’s ambitious spirit and desire for a new lifestyle led her to ultimately migrate to Bridgehampton as well. It was in Bridgehampton where Lillie spread her wings of strength and independence.
Lillie hit the ground running once she hit the East End of Long Island, NY. She took on domestic work for the likes of Robin Gibb/ Oyster Bay (Bee Gees), Hugh Carey/ Shetler Island (former New York Governor) and a woman affectionately know as Ms. Elizabeth/ Sagaponack. While taking pride in her service Lillie refused to be limited to the stereotypical work for female African-Americans. Lillie also took on employment at Row Industry Watch Factory in Sag Harbor. Here she enjoyed punching the clock with a few of her sisters who were also employed there. Lillie was ultimately driven to use her skills in professional setting that would yield a pension. It was at this time, with her limited scholastic education, that she studied and earned the position of Certified Nursing Assistant at Southampton Hospital. Lillie would ultimately spend over 25 years serving and caring for friends and family admitted to the hospital. She took pride and pleasure in being a source that assisted with the comfort and healing of those ailing in the East End community.
Lillie ultimately retired; however, anyone that knows her is aware that she liked to be out and about. Shortly after retirement, she became a cab driver. She drove the cab for approximately 15 years. Lillie especially liked meeting the occasional celebrity during her travels around The Hamptons. She enjoyed educating her passengers regarding some of the history and landmarks around the hamlets. Lillie developed a personal relationship with some of her regulars leading to her being a driver exclusively requested for their transportation.
Make no mistake, Lillie was not all work…she played. She loved to load up with family and travel back to Elizabeth City to enjoy extended family. She loved to host cook-outs in her yard and sit under the tree laughing and talking until the wee hours of the evening. She enjoyed her morning coffee by the beach. She enjoyed her North Carolina red sausages. She also enjoyed getting dressed up “Diva” style to hang out and enjoy nightlife with her siblings.
Lillie was also extremely supportive as she would travel to be present at many of her family’s landmark events such as graduations, weddings, parties, funerals, and special ceremonies.
Over the years Lillie took an abundance of joy in allowing her “grandboys” Little Clay, Travis and Brandon to come spend summers in Bridgehampton. She thought it was important that she provide them a space where they could visit and enjoy spending time with their family.
In the later years along came her only granddaughter Jahlia. She certainly, as the only girl, became the favorite grand. Jahlia had the privilege to live with Lillie during a large portion of her life. This allowed Lillie the honor to assist her daughter Lynn in raising Jahlia. Lillie would do anything for Jahlia…as they say, “she don’t play about her!”
Lillie’s legacy is one of love, courage, determination, generosity and pride. She was passionate about her family. She displayed courage to leave her roots and establish new beginnings. She displayed determination when navigating a community of elites to educate herself and create a successful career. She showed generosity when providing her sage wisdom, shelter and finances to those in need. Lastly, she displayed pride in establishing herself as an independent woman that overcame the obstacles of racism, and classism all the way from the south into The Hamptons.