Sally Kay Willburn

January 1, 1951June 18, 2019

Sally Kay Willburn, 68, died on Tuesday, June 18 in North Richland Hills, Texas.

Born in Aubrey, Texas on January 1, 1951 to Opal Marie and John Herbert Dean, she received special recognition as being the county’s first baby of the year. She met and married James Edward Willburn (1944-2003) in 1984 in Clovis, New Mexico. They lived in Amarillo, Texas until his transfer with Santa Fe Railroad in 1988 to Wichita, Kansas. Soon after, they relocated to North Richland Hills, Texas, where they would each live out their lives with family, pets, gardening, and occasional camping vacations in the mountains of Colorado.

Sally had three primary loves. As a first grade teacher for 40 years, teaching children how to read and experience the natural world was her specialty. An education, including a Bachelor of Science in Education from University of North Texas (fka North Texas State University) and a Master of Education from West Texas State University (West Texas A&M University) fostered her passion for teaching and learning. In the classroom at schools including Eastridge Elementary (Amarillo, TX) and W.T. Francisco (Watauga, TX) she was an experimenter, inviting children to love learning through exploration, adventure, and storytelling. She loved her gardens. Every weekend and throughout each summer she was in the gardens, pruning, planting, and otherwise fussing over the details. She was primarily interested in flowering plants that would attract and sustain wildlife, specifically birds, butterflies, and bees. One of her favorite plants was a lily she had nurtured and propagated since its origin in her own mother’s garden. Her greatest love—after the death of her husband—was her sweet dog Ferris, a Pekingese mix. Every morning, Sally and Ferris could be found at Tipps Canine Hollow Dog Park in North Richland Hills. Any conversation with her would quickly turn to Ferris or other dogs, and the occasional neighborhood stray cat she would feed.

She is survived by her stepdaughters Belinda Rogers and her husband Robert and their children Cristi and Steven and their children, Kimberly Gerber and her husband Don and their children Trey, Michael and Ashton and their children, and stepsons James Willburn, and David Willburn and his husband David Kline; sisters Janie Law and her husband Jim and their children Andrea and Kris, Judy Smith and her husband Doyle and their children David and Paula, and her beloved dog Ferris.

She is preceded in death by husband James Edward Willburn, her parents John and Opal Dean, her sisters Mary Owens and Dorothy Gaines, and her brothers Don Dean and Henry Dean.

Sally’s interment will take place in a private ceremony at Shannon Rose Hill Memorial Park. In lieu of flowers the family asks for donations to Humane Society of North Texas or W.T. Francisco Elementary (Watauga, TX) for library funds or student lunch debts.


No services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.


Sally Kay Willburn

have a memory or condolence to add?

Maria Griggs

June 28, 2019

The news came as such a shock to all of us at the dog park. We are all so saddened and shaken up over her passing suddenly. She was always so sweet and loving towards all of our dogs. We will miss her very much and we will also miss our sweet boy Ferris. Ferris has many friends that will miss running around and playing with him😔. Rest In Peace Sally.. you were very much loved.

Cecile How

June 26, 2019

Our prayers go out to the family.Sally had many friends at Tipps canine hollow.we will miss her Dearly.

Malcolm Schwartz

June 25, 2019

We are saddened at Sally's passing. Our condolences to the family and friends. Sally and I dated in 1970-71, when she attended UNT and worked at the Federal Center in Denton. She was 19. Farewell, my friend.
Malcolm Schwartz

Scott Miller

June 25, 2019

I knew Sally from the dog park. She was a kind and sweet lady who always had a treat for my puppy, and others. She will certainly be missed by many of her friends at the dog park.

Maria Martinez

June 25, 2019

She was my daughter’s 1st grade teacher and also my cherished co-worker. She taught me so much, how to help kids learn and to cater to what they need. She always had a way to build the kids’ imagination to the max just like Mrs. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus. She created a great outside space for our pet bunny Rosie, took care of the turtles and the pond with Mr. Juan (our custodian at that time). The great thing was that Mrs. Rayfield trusted her and she knew that she was best. We will always remember you!!!! Love u always ❤️

Tamara Martinez

June 24, 2019

Ms. Willburn was my first grade teacher. She was a wonderful woman, full of love and laughter. I have never met anyone that loved animals and kids as much as she did. I will always remember when one of the rabbits she had in the classroom nibbled a hole through my shirt. She will always be remembered and missed.

Lisa Watts

June 24, 2019

I loved talking with Mrs. Willburn, especially about Ferris. Her eyes twinkled when she talked about her loves. I have seen that same twinkle when a student read a word they hadn’t known before, or when she worked in our beautiful courtyard. She was a true friend to animals, nature, and children. She will be missed.

Maricela Atreguin

June 24, 2019

I chose Mrs. Willburn to be my daughter’s teacher. I knew she was going to be a good one for her. I saw her how she was with her students and I liked that a lot. She will never be forgotten. I am in the classroom that used to be hers and I have a beautiful view to the courtyard built and cared by her and her husband.

Angela Limon

June 24, 2019

Mrs. Willburn will be greatly missed by the staff, students and families at WT Francisco. She has been a huge part of the community with her many years of service. The beautiful courtyard both her and her husband created will continue to be enjoyed by all. My thoughts and prayers are with her family during this difficult time.

Carey Francisco

June 24, 2019

I had the privilege to work with Sally at W.T. Francisco for many years. She was a phenomenal teacher and friend. I consider her one of my mentors who helped shape me into the educator I am today. She had such a passion for science and animals! Some of my favorite memories of Sally are: Every Halloween Jim would come dressed up in costume and spend the day with Sally and her class. Another year we created a "Winter Wonderland" that spanned the entire Kinder/First hallway using small Christmas Trees, stuffing, colored tissue paper, etc. It was so beautiful and the kids loved it! Finally, I remember her sitting in her classroom with her blinds open showing me her squirrel and bird friends that always visited her window during the day. Even when I stayed home from teaching for a while, Sally always welcomed me into her classroom for visits with a hug and a smile.