Doris R. Billhorn


CHICAGO – Doris Rose Billhorn, 86, of Chicago, a longtime resident of LaMoille, died May 7, 2020 at her home in Chicago.

Memorial arrangements will be announced at a later date via Facebook.

Doris was born Nov. 29, 1933 in Spring Valley to Rose and Leo Pinter. Later, upon her mother’s remarriage to Alfred Loebach of Peru, Doris took her stepfather’s name. In January of 1951, she married Dale Billhorn of LaMoille.

Survivors include six children, Mick Billhorn of LaMoille, Patti (Leslie) Schultz of LaMoille, Janice (Daniel) Myers of LaMoille, John (Jill) Billhorn of Chicago, Jodi (Frank) Hoare of Chicago and Jackie (Kevin) Martin of Princeton; four sisters, Betty (Chuck) Scoma of LaSalle, Kay (Bud) Bima of Morongo Valley, Calif., Alice (Tim) DeMoss of Peru and Peggy (Joe) Burgoni of Peru; 18 grandchildren; 27 great-grandchildren; and one great-great-grandson, Ryder of Texas.

She was preceded in death by her parents, a sister and a grandson.

Doris attended nine different grade schools over her primary academic career. Undaunted by different curriculums and the disruption of friends and teachers, the A and A+ grades she received would be a precursor to her earning two college degrees, including the ultimate Master’s degree she earned from Vanderbilt University in 1992. After her family came to rest at a farmstead in Bureau County in the 1940s, Doris attended LaMoille Community High School into her senior year. Although she is prominently featured in the school’s 1951 yearbook as a senior, her final year was interrupted. She did not officially obtain her GED until she returned to LCHS in 1970 for night classes under the careful tutelage of Edith Bauer and the encouragement of Patty Billhorn (Trembly). After perfecting her care-taking skills as a stay at home Mom and area cake baking specialist on the family farm in Clarion Township, in 1971 Doris expanded her working career with a job in the food service department of Mendota Hospital. It was there her nurturing skills really came to fruition, and Doris set her sights on becoming a nurse. In 1974, she returned to her pursuit of education and in 1976 earned an Associate Degree in Nursing from Illinois Valley Community College. She then returned to Mendota Hospital and ultimately worked as the office nurse for Dr. Faulk in Mendota.

In 1984, Doris relocated to Nashville, Tenn. While working in the home health care industry in the Nashville metro area, Doris ultimately pursued a three-year Master’s curriculum in one of the nation’s first geriatric nurse practitioner programs at Vanderbilt University. In 1992, she graduated with Honors from Vanderbilt and after graduation started one of several Director of Nursing jobs in nursing home settings. Before leaving Nashville, she was appointed to an adjunct instructor position in the School of Nursing at Vanderbilt. She returned to Vanderbilt in 2016 to make her personal donation to the nursing school, giving back to the scholarship programs that helped her reach her dreams. (Read the Vanderbilt story at https://nursing.vanderbilt.edu/news/tag/news-home/page/18/.)

In 1996, Doris returned to Illinois where she also held several Director of Nursing jobs in the City of Chicago. Doris loved the urban life and all that Chicago had to offer and reveled in trying new restaurants, attending theatre and workshops and hitting neighborhood thrift shops looking for those deals her Mother Rose gave her an eye for. Along with Cubs games and being frustrated by the Bears on Sundays, in 2016 Doris tapped her foot and snapped her fingers to the hip-hop musical sensation “Hamilton” and thought Lin-Manuel Miranda was “such a handsome young man.” 

After her retirement from nursing in 1999, Doris held a teaching position at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines where she successfully imparted her nursing expertise to hundreds of nursing students. She also spent her retirement time sewing blankets for each and every grand and great grandchild, traveling to Iowa to see her dear friend Pat Merril at Horse Camp, her nursing mentor Nancy Meidinger in Texas, enjoying beading with her best friend Ellen Zurliene of Nashville and beaming over the ever growing family troop she had created.

Doris was well-known in the professional nursing community for her battles with corporate front offices over issues of patient care as well as the treatment and compensation of the nurses who worked under her direction. Always an advocate of quality care and employee morale, her views did not always square with the corporate world. Equally well known was her penchant for an inexpensive red wine, a stiff Manhattan and a tequila Brave Bull. She could often be found where the action was, maybe striking up a song at the end of the bar. 

The nursing legacy established by Doris has carried on in the immediate family. She was proud to share with the world that four of her granddaughters pursued or are pursing education and careers in the nursing field. Julia Tyrone (Schultz), Tori Sadnick (Adkins), Denise Billhorn (Barkman) and Melanie Harden (Billhorn) have all followed in their grandma’s honorable nursing footsteps. Doris had a passion for knickknacks and earrings of which she owned many.

Memorial donations to her designated charities (Vanderbilt School of Nursing and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital) will be detailed when a memorial service is announced. 

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