Thursday, October 30, 2003

A life of loving family, words
Billee Halloran, a bookstore owner, didn't waste time on being unhappy.

Billee B. Halloran
The Orange County Register

You had to be a Halloran to learn the family password. And being engaged to one didn't count.

It wasn't until the wedding day -- after the vows were exchanged - that the password was whispered into the ear of the newest family member.

Billee Halloran took great pride in the family password.

No, it didn't get you into a gated community or even through a garden gate. And it was probably far more significant to Billee than it will continue to be to her children, except as rich family lore.

But to a mom who worked hard to build strong family values, it symbolized a closely knit community of love and respect -- a community that still exists today.

Born: April 13, 1913, Seattle
Died: Oct. 9, 2003, Orange
Survivors: Sons, Terrence, Donald, Dennis; daughters, Kathleen Koziolek, Letty Flatt, Mary and Jane Halloran; brother, Donald Byars; sister, Janett DeMers; 18 grandchildren; 20 great-grandchildren
Services: 10 a.m. Monday, Holy Family Cathedral, Orange, followed by a celebration of life at the Santa Ana Elks Lodge. Arrangements by Brown Colonial Mortuary, Santa Ana.
Donations: Park Plaza Retirement Residence, Employee Christmas Fund, 620 S. Glassell St., Orange, CA 92866

But that's not what Billee was best known for.

To many, she'll be remembered as the longtime owner of the Memorare Guild bookstore, which she ran from her home at the corner of Washington and Spurgeon streets in Santa Ana. For many years it was the only Catholic bookstore around.

Billee was 90 when she died Oct. 9 at an Orange retirement home.

Born Billee Byars in Seattle, she attended Willamette University and Santa Barbara College, where she met Terrence Halloran at a church meeting hall. They were married in 1933 after Billee abandoned her Protestant upbringing and became a Catholic.

In 1934 they moved to Santa Ana, where Terrence was the Orange County director of the state emergency relief agency. In 1941, he became Western regional representative for National Catholic Community Service.

In 1944, they moved to the very large house at 219 E. Washington St. that Billee would always refer to simply as "219."

Billee was 19 when she married and by the time she was 24, she had five children, including one set of twins, Donald and Dennis. Fifteen years later, she gave birth to three more girls. One son, Michael, died in 1999 at age 63.

She and Terrence fulfilled a dream when they converted most of the ground floor of their home into Memorare Guild bookstore in 1950. They were both heavy readers and knew many others who had to go to Los Angeles for religious books or order them from catalogs.

They opened their doors with several hundred volumes purchased on credit. The inventory later increased to 5,000 or more.

The entrance to the house was on Washington, while customers entered the store on Spurgeon.

Business was steady, if not brisk, and the store was largely Billee's responsibility. She also stocked Catholic items such as crucifixes, crosses, statues and rosaries. She called them "holy hardware," and they brought higher profits than the books.

After Terrence's death in 1964, Billee ran the store and enjoyed being able to make all the business decisions on her own, until she sold it to one of her sons in 1976.

Although the boys were pretty well grown when Terrence died, Billee was left to raise daughters ages 7, 9 and 10. She quickly taught them to be independent and to think for themselves. The kids joked that "Mama didn't raise no wimps."

She was strong, determined and opinionated -- a woman who loved to cook, read, play piano and organ, and challenge her friends at bridge or canasta.

She would never tell you what to do but would let you know how she felt about your inclinations. "I don't agree with your decision," she'd say, "but it's up to you."

She had few household rules but still managed to instill an atmosphere of mutual caring and respect. She rarely got angry.

Only when her son Michael was dying of cancer did she express frustration.

"You are doing things in the wrong order," she told him, wagging her forefinger. "Parents are supposed to welcome their children to heaven, not vice versa."

She was 65 when she sold the business. She got a face lift, lost weight and took off for nine months, traveling alone throughout Europe and spending the winter in Mallorca, Spain. Generally, though, she was cheerful and good-natured.

"I don't understand people who are unhappy," she'd say. "It takes too much effort to be unhappy."

* * *

Mass of the Resurrection for Billee Halloran was celebrated at Holy Family Cathedral in Orange, California on November 3, 2003. Invited to speak after the communion of the Mass, I said this:

Mom, you entered eternal life on October 9, 2003. I'm your oldest son Ted. Your brother and sister Don and Jan are here. Dad and your son Mike are with us in spirit. They've gone before you through death to resurrection. Your other children, Kathleen, Don, Denny, Letty, Mary and Jane are here today. We're accompanied by most of your 18 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren.

We apologize for waiting so long to gather for this Mass. But Mom, you and God surprised us with your short final illness. We had to consider both time and distance. When would Ted and Connie return from Wisconsin? When could Kathleen and Leon come from Minnesota? When would Denny and Leslie be home from Virginia? When was Letty coming back from Mexico?

But today we're all here, Mom. We now celebrate your life among us. We're thankful that you were raised in the Presbyterian tradition of our Christian faith. We're grateful that you became a Catholic. We treasure the photos of your wedding with Dad at the Santa Barbara Mission parish church. We value the education we've received from you and Dad, from St. Joseph's School, Mater Dei High School and Santa Ana College, and from a dozen other elementary schools, high schools, colleges, seminaries and universities. You've taught all eight of us by word and example that there's more than one way to believe and live.

We noticed in Friday's newspaper that James O'Gara died two weeks after you did. For most of his 32 years at the lay Catholic magazine Commonweal, he was editor-in-chief. Mom, when we were growing up, you and Dad were devoted readers of this magazine. It's our guess that Dad is still surprised that after he died you stopped reading Commonweal. In recent years you've been a subscriber of the National Review. When we get to heaven, we look forward to discussing this change of loyalty with you and Dad, and with James O'Gara and William F. Buckley.

Mom, we're getting ready to go to the Elks Lodge for the big party that you requested. Everyone is invited to join us there after Mass. Some may not know the way to the Elks Lodge in Santa Ana. But just ask any of the gray-haired people in the first three pews. There will be plenty of food. We have photos and memories to share with family and friends. We hope everyone here will join us.

We've received many condolence cards and e-mail messages in the last few weeks. I'll paraphrase what Monsignor Wilbur Davis wrote. He said it best. Mom, you're a lovely, lively person. We have many happy memories of you, especially from Memorare Guild days. May you rest now in God's grace, well rewarded.

* * *

Billee Halloran's grandsons Stefan, Toby and Paul Koziolek sang the prelude to this memorial Mass. They chose the traditional hymn of praise "How Great Thou Art."