Janis Gregory Gilliland went to her eternal home in Heaven on Sunday, November 26th, after visits from all her children, their spouses and many grandchildren. A celebration on Jan's remarkable life will be held at 1pm on Saturday, Dec 9th at the Historic Chapel inside the gates of Memorial Park Cemetery at 13400 N. Kelley Ave in OKC.
Jan was born February 23rd, 1934, along with her fraternal twin Joyce. She grew up in Oklahoma City and came to know Jesus as her personal savior on Easter in 1946, at the age of twelve. She excelled in everything - as a cheerleader, receiving the Classen Award (honoring the top 10 students) in high school and Mortar Board (a national honor society recognizing top seniors) in college, as dorm president, a Yearbook Queen candidate and active in Baptist Student Union. After graduation from Oklahoma State with a Bachelor of Science degree in Home Economics and Education, she began a summer internship for The Navigators at Glen Eyrie, Colorado, and its emphasis on scripture memory became a lifelong commitment and discipline. She enrolled at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and graduated in 1958 with a Master of Divinity, becoming one of the few women at that time to earn that degree.
A blind date, arranged by her twin sister and her husband, changed her life, and she married Don Gilliland on August 2, 1958. They moved to Galveston for Don’s medical internship during which their first child, Leslie, was born. After moving to Dallas, Don completed his residency in Ophthalmology at Parkland Hospital, and Jan taught at Highland Park Presbyterian school. Guy and Grant were born at Parkland in 1962, and Jan returned to riding her bicycle to work two weeks after delivering two almost 7 lb. babies. After completing the residency, the Gilliland family moved to Oklahoma City, where Don practiced Ophthalmology for two years in private practice before being drafted during the Vietnam War to serve as the Chief of the Eye, Ears, Nose, and Throat Department at Fort Hood, Texas. They welcomed their youngest son, Lance, there and all four children were native born Texans. Jan also acquired her first of four black toy poodles while in Killeen, and Angel was a fitting name.
The Gilliland family moved back to Oklahoma City in 1968, where they lived until Don’s death in 2013 and Jan’s move to Texas in 2021. Apparently, they might have been afraid of having more children if they stayed in Texas. Jan ran a tight ship and those were busy, busy days. Raising four children, being active in Metropolitan Baptist Church, where they led the youth group for many years, building their “forever home” (subcontracting it themselves), gardening, and teaching piano to four reluctant children made for a full life. Sassy, black toy poodle number two also joined the family. While leading the youth group, they built elaborate Halloween box tunnels in the garage, led youth retreats and chaperoned numerous ski trips (often anonymously sponsoring many trips for teens who otherwise would not be able to go). Their commitment to the Lord was evident in every detail of their lives, which was imprinted on each of their children, and, without doubt, countless others.
Jan served as interim Youth Pastor, substitute taught in a local high school (much to the chagrin of the occasional son who ended up with her in class), and eventually began working in Don’s office. As the kids got older, they headed to Texas for college, and as the nest became a little too empty, she acquired yet another black poodle, named Gabby, and life was good. They moved churches and began teaching a young married adult Sunday School class where they made numerous lifelong friends and hosted many parties and events at their house. They were always available to serve the Lord.
As their children began to marry and have children, Don and Jan’s travel began to increase. Georgia, New York, Texas and Montana became familiar destinations. They adored their grandchildren and were often on the sidelines of sporting events, in the audience for dance recitals, available for homework help and parenting advice. Jan is perhaps best known for her Cuzzins Camps that she and Don hosted every summer for their grandchildren. For five days each summer (way too short for their parents), they picked a biblical theme for the week, created matching t-shirts, scrapbooks that were works of art, fun field trips and the infamous “chore charts”. Jan’s chore charts were legendary, and, while not popular at the time, resulted in a strong work ethic in her children and grandchildren.
Tiki succeeded Gabby as her constant furry companion, and Jan loved working in her garden and mentoring youth at Whiz Kids. She moved to Keller, Texas, in December 2021, and settled into life at Watermere, where she continued gardening, often sharing her zinnias with her neighbors, and excelled at making new friends. She had various health challenges in the last two years but was always optimistic and ready to work to get stronger. She was an encourager and inspiration to all who knew her, and she loved to share her love of Jesus. Her financial advisor said she epitomized the Proverbs 31 woman, and he was right—"Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her. Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
Jan is survived by her older sister Marilyn Porter, four children and their spouses, eight grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren; Leslie and Jimmy Clayton and their children, Evan (Kelly) and Claire Casey (Aidan), Guy and Jacque Gilliland, and their children Jared Gilliland (Lindsey), Rachel Campisi (Steven), Casey Beltran (Angel) and Dustin Evans, Grant and Mimi Gilliland, and their children Connor and Nicole, and Lance and Siri Gilliland, and great-grandchildren Madeleine, Brooke and Case Gilliland, Sally and Emma Clayton, and Arlo Beltran. Jan is preceded in death by husband, Don Gilliland, daughter-in-law, Marcy Gilliland, and twin sister Joyce Sibley.
In lieu of flowers: Living Well Ministries PO Box 720828 Oklahoma City, Okla https://www.livingwellokc.org/
LEAP Global Missions Medical City Hospital, 7777 Forest Ln Suite B326, Dallas, TX 75230 https://www.leapmissions.org
Guy GillilandHonorary Pallbearer
Grant GillilandHonorary Pallbearer
Lance GillilandHonorary Pallbearer
Jimmy ClaytonHonorary Pallbearer
Jared GillilandHonorary Pallbearer
Evan ClaytonHonorary Pallbearer
Connor GillilandHonorary Pallbearer
Aidan CaseyHonorary Pallbearer
Steven CampisiHonorary Pallbearer
Angel BeltranHonorary Pallbearer