Jillian-Rey Catherine Williams was born on September 18, 2008 in Durham, North Carolina to her loving mother and devoted father, both of whom were immensely blessed to experience nine and a half years of pure love and affection from their daughter, Jilli. At the age of five, during the fall of her kindergarten year, Jillian was diagnosed with a Stage IV glioblastoma. She was given a life expectancy of approximately one year. By God's Grace and advances in medical treatment, Jillian LIVED life to the fullest for 4.5 years beyond her initial diagnosis. Jillian's fight began in October of 2013 and ended on the morning of May 19, 2018.
Often endearingly referred to as “Jillibean” by her mother and other family members, she was a conscientious child who excelled in school earning the Principal’s Award (All “A” honor roll) each year. In addition to her consistent academic success, Jillian-Rey loved to cook and demonstrated her advanced culinary skills by winning the award for Best Overall Chef at the Flower Power Camp in July 2017.
Jillian-Rey danced, played piano, and loved to sing. She was only three years old when she officially joined the Full Armor Youth Choir (FAYC) at Cup of Salvation Deliverance Church and Ministries in 2012. She joyfully participated in FAYC rehearsals and became a dedicated and powerful alto who could be counted on to assist the choir director in making sure her section was “on point.” She sang her first solo, “Grateful”, during the October 2015 FAYC concert as she continued to boldly, yet gracefully, walk through medical challenges.
With a well-established and unforgettable father-daughter bond, Jillian-Rey and her dad took life by the horns and lived intentionally while sharing many memorable moments together. For as far back as she could remember, Friday nights with her dad were filled with movies, her favorite ice-cream, and sleeping under their awesome homemade tents constructed from blankets and chairs. Saturday morning memories consisted of helping her dad cook breakfast for his “Jilli Baby”, while she joyfully sang her Saturday morning breakfast song, an original composition created just to celebrate the weekly occasion.
Her love for Jesus was evident in her daily life as she demonstrated thoughtful behaviors and kindness toward her classmates, friends, and family. Like her mom, she was known to get up each morning ready to spend time alone with The Lord. She studied her own daily devotional and reviewed the notes she would take during many of her Apostle’s sermons, which resonated in her heart.
Also like her mom, Jillian-Rey was definitely a “foodie”. She relished “cookie time” with her maternal grandfather and her beloved “brother-cousin”, Joel. Known as his “Golden Girl”, her Granddaddy Elton packed a canister with their favorite cookies and allowed them to dig in. Jilli treasured trying out new recipes with her mother and visiting restaurants together to sample the menus highlighted on one of her favorite Food Network shows, “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives”. Whether grilling by the pool with her dad, going out for ice-cream with family and friends, enjoying family and food at “908” (the O’Neal homestead), or sharing her mom’s Hot Tamales, Jilli LOVED to eat.
Singing “oldies” on road trips, getting mani-pedis, serving as her mom’s “wardrobe checker”, and styling her mother’s hair were some of Jillian-Rey’s cherished mother-daughter moments. She loved to respond to her mother’s expression of love using the recitation they created together, and often sent her mom sweet texts telling her just how much her “Pookah” loved her.
Jillian-Rey was blessed to be well-loved by her step-parents, both of whom she loved in return. Endless pictures of the many trips and fun times she shared with her family will forever document the special memories they created.
On May 19, 2018, Jillian-Rey Catherine Williams peacefully moved to her heavenly home. Her life will be forever celebrated by her parents, Kendra O’Neal Phillips (Toby Phillips), and Gregory R. Williams (Monica); her maternal grandparents, Elton and Myrtle O’Neal of Durham, NC; paternal grandparent, Dale Williams of Bolivia, NC; maternal aunt, Kellie O’Neal; paternal uncle, Johnathan Williams; “brother-cousin”, Joel Tanner; maternal great-grandfather, Reuben “Dupe” O’Neal of Durham, NC; paternal great-grandmother, Mamie H. Frazier of Supply, NC; her God-family, The Littlejohns of Dallas, Texas; and a host of great aunts, great uncles, special cousins, and friends. We believe Jillibean and her grandfather, Greg Williams for whom she affectionately called Granddaddy "Scoot" will one day welcome us all to our eternal home!