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Sybil Wattner

Thursday, May 11, 2023
Sybil Wattner
Sybil Wattner

Sybil Gilstrap Wattner took her last breath Thursday morning, April 4, 2023. She was 100 years old.

Born July 29, 1922, in Batson, Sybil was the seventh child (by seven years) of Daniel Luther Gilstrap and Bessie Lee Shackleford Gilstrap. Most of her happy childhood was spent on a farm in Dickens before moving to Kilgore where she went to school at Leverett’s Chapel (three years prancing with the band as their sweetheart).

She attended Kilgore College, dreaming of becoming a Rangerette.

She met and fell in love with Fred “Buddy” Wattner, who was working for the Railroad Commission. Their lives upended with the onset of World War II. She and Buddy were married June 30, 1943, in Fort Worth, where she was working at Consolidated Aircraft in the blueprint department, while he was training at Sheppard Air Force Base. The Air Force sent him to Tampa, Florida, before going on to the South Pacific and Japan.

Sybil left her Florida job at Dun & Bradstreet when she found out she was pregnant and went back to Texas “where they know how to have babies.” Sharon Maxine was born Jan. 3, 1945.

The end of the war found them back in Kilgore, he once again working for the Railroad Commission, beginning his life-long career in the pipeline industry. The young family moved to his parents’ farm in Van Zandt County so he could take advantage of the GI Bill and go to college.

On Jan. 14, 1951, Nancy Lu was born.

Pipelining won out over farming and academia; subsequently the next years took them to Tenaha, Marshall, Snyder, Greggton and Longview. She sold cosmetics for a while — something she excelled at and enjoyed. She was a creative person – designed and made all her daughters’ clothes — from baby dresses to wedding dresses.

By the early 1970s, Fred had reached international status as chief inspector, which took him all over the world.

Sybil stayed home when he worked in the Mid-East but accompanied him to live in Venezuela and New Zealand.

Returning to the U.S., they made their home in Canton where they lived nearly 30 years.

Nancy and Steve bought a ranch in Hamilton where she often visited. Sybil, living amid Canton Trade Days, shared her love of antiques with her daughters; they all loved the hunt. They rented a space in an antique mall in Hamilton. It didn’t take long before they were painting and decorating an old building on Ross Street, filling it with antiques and collectibles. “In the Pink” opened in 1995, Sybil making that three-hour drive many, many times.

In 1998, Sherry and Nancy bought an historic fixer-upper building to open a restaurant.

Tragedy struck when Sybil’s beloved husband of 55 years passed away. About a year later she opted to move to Hamilton to be close to her daughters who were busy with their newly opened Hen-House Café. The Sunday buffet was extremely popular serving at least 150 patrons. Sybil will be fondly remembered by Hamiltonians for the marvelous deserts she made and served on those Sundays.

After the HenHouse closed, time slowed down a bit for family and friends with birthdays, holidays and parties —many of which Sybil hosted. She always loved a party.

Sybil lived alone, independently, past her 100th birthday. She attributed her longevity to dancing every day, a glass of wine instead of a pain pill, and Dr. Lee.

She died peacefully in her sleep in her own house, in her own bed with no pain. And isn’t that all anyone can ask?

She leaves behind daughters, Sherry Knowles and Nancy Dunn; grandchildren; great-grandchildren; and great-great-grandchildren, one of whom is named…Sybil.

Memorial donations may be made to Hamilton Community Center, PO Box 615, Hamilton.