"All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother." —Abraham Lincoln
Weslaco: No one knew that when Billie Jane (Messer) Vanderveer was born in Temple, Texas, on June 27, 1947, a truly dynamic, beautiful, talented soul entered the earth.
Billie grew up in the small town of Troy, Texas. There, she met and fell in love with the only man she would ever date, Robert Vanderveer. They married when she was just 18 years old and started a life adventure when Robert was drafted into the Army just a few months later, landing them in Washington, DC. She loved it there and even got a job working for the ex-Secretary of the Navy as his assistant. Four years after they were married, they were blessed with their first child, Melanie, and shortly after, they decided to move back to the Texas they loved.
Fresh out of college and the military, Robert got a job at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. He and Billie moved to Texas City and soon after were blessed with their second child, Joel. It was around this time that Robert decided to get his master's degree in hospital administration, and this would change their lives forever.
Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen was Robert and Billie's first home in the Rio Grande Valley. They lived and worked there, with Billie working as a legal secretary for four years. But it was their following location that they truly called a permanent home.
In 1979, Robert and Billie moved their family to Weslaco and have been there ever since. There, they built their home and became ingrained in the Weslaco community. Billie loved Weslaco and never thought of moving from her beloved town.
Over her forty-five years in the area, Billie actively engaged in numerous activities, clubs, boards, and associations, significantly impacting various spheres. She was involved in PEO, the Literary Review Club, the Junior Service League, the Bunco Club, Women, Wine, and Wisdom, Foodie Friends, the Hidalgo Cotillion Club, and the Weslaco Museum Board of Directors. She exhibited remarkable leadership, chairing and participating in the organization of previous Knapp Medical Center Harvest Night fundraising events.
Beyond her civic involvement, Billie's dedication to the American Cancer Society held profound meaning to her, as she was a cancer survivor herself. As a testament to her commitment, she chaired the Relay for Life one year and played an integral role in hosting and organizing the Annual Fundraiser, "Cancer Tea." Billie's compassionate spirit extended further as she became a longtime active member of "Reach to Recovery," a group that offered invaluable support to countless women facing the daunting reality of cancer, providing counseling, care, meals, and comfort. Throughout her various engagements, Billie's unwavering presence and willingness to lend a helping hand left an indelible mark, touching the lives of many.
Billie was fabulous at entertaining and could throw spectacular parties. She was known for her decorating abilities, including flower-arranging skills. However, the kitchen is where she shined. She could make the world's best-fried chicken, and she could also make gourmet delicacies. Anyone entering her home was guaranteed a fabulous meal and a terrific time. She had numerous friends and was always up for having fun.
Billie was an artist; she could create visually stunning or emotionally resonant works of art without extensive training. Over the years, Billie's collection of paintings was extensive and sought after by community members.
Billie genuinely loved reading, and her breadth of knowledge was truly remarkable. Her impressive collection of books spanned various genres, encompassing novels, fiction, nonfiction, historical works, cooking books, and landscaping guides. Her passion for learning was evident through her extensive library, a testament to her curious and well-rounded interests.
Billie also loved to travel. She and Robert were able to spend time all over the country. Some of their favorite spots were Florida, West Virginia, Colorado, California, Yellowstone Park, and Alaska. They also explored the Caribbean, visiting the Cayman Islands several times. Billie and Robert enjoyed several cruises, with and without the children. Billie's travel excursions were also spent with close friends. The Women Wine and Wisdom Club visited plenty of wineries, making priceless memories.
Billie possessed the talent to transform her canine-breeding passion into a lucrative career, yet she chose to dedicate her efforts to it as an enthusiastic hobby. Her expertise revolved around raising Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, which she nurtured to attain the highest pedigrees, garner awards, and boast impeccable grooming. She frequently embarked on journeys with Robert to participate in dog shows, where their cherished Spaniels consistently secured accolades for their exceptional quality and outstanding performances. As a testament to the profound bond shared, Billie's Spaniels were regarded and treated as cherished members of the Vanderveer Family.
Billie and Robert were longtime members of the First Christian Church in Weslaco, and Billie loved the Lord. Billie was always so cheerful and fun to be around. Her sense of humor could lighten the mood in any room, and Billie's quick wit was unmatched.
Billie was predeceased by her parents, Wilson B. Messer and Mary Jane (Honeycutt) Messer. She is survived by her husband, Robert Wayne Vanderveer; daughter Melanie Jane Stowe and husband, Jeffrey; son Joel Bryant Vanderveer and wife Laurie; brother Thomas Wilson Messer and wife Cindy; nephew Will Messer and wife Jennifer; and nephew Kaleb Messer, as well as numerous cousins, great nieces, and nephews. All of her family and friends will miss her dearly.
Visitation will be 1-8 pm, Sunday, August 6, and Monday, August 7, at McCaleb Funeral Home. A Celebration of Life will be held Tuesday, August 8, at 1 pm, at McCaleb Funeral Home in Weslaco, followed by burial at Sacred Park Cemetery.
Serving as pallbearers will be Billie’s dear friends, Connie McDaniel, Sandi Sparrow, Melissa Neuhaus, Bernie McCaleb, Claudia Sander, and Beth Masso.