Marie Elizabeth Hillerman, 1927-2015: Tony Hillerman’s wife remembered as teacher and devoted Catholic and voracious reader

Marie Elizabeth Hillerman

Marie Elizabeth Hillerman, a former junior high school teacher, a devout Catholic and the widow of best-selling mystery author Tony Hillerman, died Feb. 12 and was buried Thursday at the Santa Fe National Cemetery.

An avid reader and lifelong learner, Marie Elizabeth Hillerman, 87, was born in Shawnee, Okla., and was chosen to introduce Eleanor Roosevelt when the the former first lady came to visit her high school, according to an online obituary.

She graduated from the University of Oklahoma, where she majored in microbiology and education.

She and Tony Hillerman met at a Newman Center dance, married in 1948 and lived in several small towns in Texas and Oklahoma, where she taught school.

The couple and their daughter, Anne Hillerman, a New Mexico writer and journalist, moved to Santa Fe in 1953. Tony Hillerman was bureau chief for United Press International and over the next decade was an editor at both the Santa Fe New Mexican and The Taos News. Marie Hillerman worked as a freelance meteorologist and substitute teacher.

The family moved to Albuquerque in 1963, when Tony Hillerman went to work for The University of New Mexico.

The couple adopted five children, and in addition to raising her family, Marie Hillerman taught classes preparing children for confirmation as members of the Roman Catholic Church.

A resident of Los Ranchos, Marie Hillerman was an active member of Our Lady of the Annunciation Catholic Church in Albuquerque and brought Communion to the sick and elderly. A master gardener, she also worked to improve living conditions on the Navajo reservation and assisted organizations that helped battered families.

In addition to Anne Hillerman, surviving children include Jan Grado, Tony Hillerman Jr., Monica Atwell, Steve Hillerman and Daniel Hillerman, and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Anne Hillerman said Friday that even while her mother was raising six children, she was reading six books a week. And she read voraciously — fiction, history, science and poetry. “My mom was such an avid reader that her passionate love for good writing really infused the whole family,” she said. “And people think of my dad as the literary one.”

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