Elizabeth "Betty" Jean Gillon
Elizabeth "Betty" Jean Gillon of Cedar Rapids passed away Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020, at the Dennis and Donna Oldorf Hospice House of Mercy in Cedar Rapids at the age of 92. Private family service will be held at the Cedar Memorial Park Chapel of Memories. Burial will follow at Mt. Calvary Cemetery.
Betty was born Jan. 15, 1928, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to Peter and Irene (Evans) Ragona. She attended St. Patrick's Grade School and graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School. Betty married Francis C. Gillon of Davenport, Iowa, in 1949. Both had been employed by the Paramount Theatre in Cedar Rapids when they first met.
During the latter years of raising her five children, Betty began taking classes at Coe College and often would be found sitting in her favorite living room chair studying late into the evening. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 1975. Betty especially enjoyed the Russian novels of Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, inspiring her to continue her education at the University of Iowa and receive a master's in Russian language and literature in 1983.
She had the opportunity to travel abroad to study Russian language, history and literature in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1987 and taught English and American literature in Moscow in 1989 and Olomouc, Czech Republic, in 1992.
During her working years, Betty taught English composition and American literature at Mount Mercy College, English as a Second Language (ESL) at Kirkwood Community College, and English language survival skills to recent immigrants at Lincoln Learning Center. She also worked at American College Testing (ACT) in Iowa City and Pearson Testing grading college entrance essay exams.
She was a long-time fan of big band orchestras and Frank Sinatra in particular. Betty was president of the local Frank Sinatra fan club as a teenager and was able to attend a few of his performances over the years. With a note of humor, you would often hear her say, "You tell 'em Frank" while listening to his songs.
Betty had fond memories of her late father Peter and was grateful to have been able to visit his birthplace in Calascibetta, Sicily. As a caring daughter, Betty often would take her elderly house-bound mother Irene on Sunday drives and call her on the phone most days, always opening the conversation with a light-hearted "And you are doing what?"
A loving and supportive wife, mother and grandmother, Betty will be deeply missed by her children, Thomas Gillon (Doris) of Upper Darby, Pa., Jerry Gillon (Joan) of Cedar Rapids, Betsy Boudreau (Dennis) of Denver, Colo., Jean Ann Wyant (Scott) of Cedar Rapids, and Matthew Gillon (Laura) of Altoona, Iowa; 10 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Betty was preceded in death by her husband Francis in 2004 and her brothers Robert Ragona, M.D. in 1999 and Paul Ragona in 2013.