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Lillian Caroline (Watkins) Santilhano

Lillian Caroline (Watkins) Santilhano
  • January 8, 1921 - February 24, 2017
  • Newton, Massachusetts

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Lillian Caroline Watkins was born in Gondercourt, France on January 8, 1921. Her father Rex Eugene Watkins was a soldier in the US Army serving under General John Pershing the first American troops to arrive in France for World War I. Rex was stationed with Pershing's infantry on the Mexican border in El Paso, Texas. Her mother, Marguerite, joked that when the Dough Boys marched into her village that they were all so brown and so unprepared for the cold weather. Lillian's mother, Marguerite Emelie Chaudron, was apprenticed to a tailor met Rex when he came in to the shop to have his stripes sewed on his uniform. They were married in September of 1919 and Lillian was born in the same house as her mother a few years later. Rex planned to live in France but due to health issues from the gas warfare, the family made a number of visits back to the United States for VA treatments. Lillian had made three round-trip transatlantic crossings by the age of ten. After the last crossing in 1932, the family settled in western New York State where Lillian's younger brother, Jacques, was born. Lillian attended school in Frewsburg, NY. A few years later the family moved to Pennsylvania where her sister Jeannine was born.
Upon her high school graduation in 1938, Lillian had hoped to attend art school in Paris but due to the political climate in Europe at this time, her plans were changed. She moved to Buffalo, New York and worked at Flint and Kent Department Store. She also volunteered as a Gray Lady for the Red Cross during the years of the war. Occasionally she would bring a soldier home who needed a good, well cooked meal as her mother was a very good cook. This delighted her younger siblings.
After the war Lillian stayed in Buffalo. There she became friends with Newton Carlson and his wife Lucienne. They introduced Lillian to a friend of theirs, Philip Santilhano. Phil was a salesman from New York. Phil was a wonderful, bright individual and when she brought him home to meet the family, they were smitten. Phil had not been out of the service for very long and, like many other young men, was rebuilding his life. They were married in Orchard Park, New York on July 21, 1947. Phil brought to the marriage a daughter, Jean Catherine Santilhano who was almost nine years old at the time, the same age as Lillian's younger sister, Jeannine. Phil's sales territory included New York and New England, and they chose to live in New England, selecting Hingham. Lillian and Phil had two more children, Susan Elizabeth Santilhano, born October 1, 1949 and Laurie Anne Santilhano, born November 19, 1957.
The family eventually settled in Newton, Massachusetts in 1947 and lived the rest of their lives there, Lillian being a resident of the town for 68 years. They were members of Eliot Church of Newton and all of their daughters attended the Newton schools. Laurie, their youngest daughter, was born deaf and received her early education at the Horace Mann School in Boston and was among the first deaf students to go through Newton High School. Philip was a traveling salesman and Lillian was independent due to this life style. She traveled with family and friends often. The ocean was important and the family spent summers at Captain's Row cottages in Dennisport, Cape Cod, Massachusetts for about twenty-five years. Her travels also included visiting relatives in Europe or taking her daughters and/or grand-daughter to Europe. Her last trip to France was at the age of 90 to visit relatives in Paris.
After the family was grown, Lillian worked at Bloomingdale's Department Store at Chestnut Hill for many years, retiring in 1988. Philip had died in 1987, however, many friends were added to her life throughout her years. Lillian was also active in many areas such as politics, wildlife, reading, church, Boston Red Sox and she always enjoyed completing the Sunday New York Times Crossword Puzzle. She also donated too many wildlife and animal charities including National Wildlife, National Audubon, and Alley Cat Allies to name a few.
Lillian enjoyed gardening and was proud of and enjoyed her yard. In later years, it was a great disappointment, when the doctor's orders restricted her gardening activities. At age 94 she had heart surgery to install a stent. Until this time Lillian had been free from prescription medicines. The next year, she had complications that lead to the installation of a pace maker to control Atrial Fibrillation.
Lillian was able to enjoy a celebration for her ninety-sixth birthday at The Wayside Inn with family and her close friend, Beverly Fanning and attended her son-in-law John Packard's retirement party in early January. Shortly thereafter, Lillian was back in the hospital with heart issues that lead to hospice at home for her final days. She passed away peacefully with her family around along with her Chaplin. Lillian felt at 96 she had lived a full life and was at peace with starting a new stage.
In passing, Lillian joins her pre-deceased parents, her husband of just shy of forty years, Philip Santilhano, grandson Anthony (Tony) Kroeber and sister-in-law Joan (Uhrine) Watkins. She is survived by three daughters: stepdaughter, Jean (Santilhano) Kroeber and husband Bernd of Brensbach, Germany, Susan (Santilhano) Packard and husband John of Enfield, Connecticut and Laurie Santilhano of Newton, Massachusetts, Grand-daughter Gillian Heather (Kilbourn) Walmsley of Southbridge, Massachusetts, Great grand-daughters Gwyneth Walmsley (age 17) and Rowan Walmsley (age 13) of Southbridge, Massachusetts, brother Jacques Watkins of Lower Burrell, Pennsylvania, sister Jeannine Watkins of Newton, Massachusetts and many nieces and nephews in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Florida, Pennsylvania, New York, North Carolina, California and Rhode Island, as well as relatives in England, South Africa, and France.
Lillian Santilhano will be remembered as a gracious, generous, woman who loved her family first and foremost and cared deeply for the environment and all that live in it. The family wants to thank the friends and family who have

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