Virginia “Neil” Willson was born June 10, 1923 at the River Ranch, Hulett, Wyoming, to Earl Russell Willson and Beatrice Lillian (Chittim) Willson. Neil was visited and comforted by family on Mother’s Day, May 14, 2017, then passed away peacefully later that evening at her home in Hulett.
Neil attended school in Hulett and would ride her horse five miles from the ranch into Hulett and back every day, no matter the weather. She graduated from Hulett High School as Valedictorian when she was only 15. In May, 1938, she married John Seeley Mahoney of Hulett. To their union eight children were born: Darlene Lanette, Joan Lois, Michael Thane, Lynda Bea, Gaylerd Vonn, Sheryl Marie, Nena Bea and Marla Kay. John and Neil eventually divorced. She was married to Kermit Karlson for a time, then in 1987 married Grant Ager of Belle Fourche, South Dakota. Grant and she lived in Belle Fourche until he passed away in 1998, and then she moved back to Hulett in 1999.
In 1969, Neil attended the Casper School of Cosmetology in Casper, Wyoming, to become a Licensed Cosmetologist, then returned to Hulett to set up and run a beauty shop for many years in her home. Many Hulett residents and family members benefitted from her beautician’s expertise.
Gardening was Neil’s passion, and she was a master at it. She was most contented when running her hands through freshly turned earth, tending her plants and canning the produce, which she did up until a few months before she passed. Her mother taught her to waltz at a young age, and she always loved to dance. She taught herself to play the violin and piano. She mainly played for pleasure, but also enjoyed playing violin at family reunions and, in her later years, playing piano for services at the Community of Christ Church in Hulett. Because she was an avid reader, you could always find her with her nose buried in a good book. She also enjoyed working crossword puzzles and playing five-deck Spider Solitaire and other games on the computer. Neil was a frugal and resourceful woman, who had a gift for making something out of nothing, and she was generous to a fault. She was a good friend to many and a blessing to her family. She especially loved spending time with and watching the antics of the little ones. Regarding her much-less-than-perfect housekeeping, Neil’s take on that was, “Housework makes you ugly, but gardening makes you beautiful.” Must be so, because she was beautiful inside and out!
Neil was a devoted believer in God and loved Jesus as her Lord and Savior. She told someone recently, “Religion is not a matter of formalities; it is a matter of the heart.” Second to Jesus, her family was most important to her, and her church family members were equally important in her life.
Neil was preceded in death by parents, Earl and Beatrice “Bea”; husbands, John, Kermit and Grant; daughters, Lynda and “LaNette Darlene”; granddaughters, Shela Wilkinson and Heather Hix; grandson, Neil Mahoney; siblings, William “Bill” Willson and Lois Waugh; and son-in-law, Ron Waugh.
Neil is survived by her children, Joan (Gary) Wilkinson, Michael “Mike” (Peggy) Mahoney, Gaylerd “Vonn” (Denise) Mahoney, Sheryl “Sherry” (Fran) Walter, Nena (Paul) Handlin and Marla Waugh; sister-in-law Yvonne Willson; numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren as well as numerous nieces, nephews and extended family.
A memorial service will be held to celebrate Neil’s life on June 9, 2017, at 11 a.m. at Hulett Assembly of God Church, 256 Hunter St., Hulett (across from the school). Flowers/cards may be sent to 215 Main St., PO Box 206, Hulett, WY 82720, or in lieu of flowers, donations in Neil’s memory may be made to Community of Christ Church or a charity of choice.