Billie Francile Vardiman (1945-present)       

Illinois, Texas, Missouri, Marshall, Saline County, Missouri




Occupation: Registered Nurse

State: Illinois, Texas, Missouri

# of Children: 3

See below photos for narrative


Billie was born at
St. Francis Hospital, Litchfield, Montgomery County, IL
3 Nov 1945

Larry, brother, and Billie
in front of Litchfield house


Siblings - Billie 2 years, Larry 5 years

Billie & Larry

Litchfield, Illinois (1942 - 1949)

Phil and Louise decided to go into practice and moved to Litchfield, Illinois in 1942.  Phil was in his own veterinary practice for about nine to ten years.  "That was one of the best things we ever did." (Louise Carter Vardiman Robinson, 21 April 1997)  The family moved out of town to a small country house where Phil Vardiman had his private practice.

The Vardiman family of five lived in a relatively small house off highway 66.  They had a big yard with a cherry tree.  There was also a storm cellar for storing roots from the garden and to escape into when a tornado came.  Phil Vardiman had a large building in the back for his veterinary practice with tables and cages.  Litchfield was in a large milk producing area and much of the milk was shipped to St. Louis and Chicago.  Phil and Louise liked to go fishing at the Lake of the Ozarks.

Phil and Louise had a total of eight children, six of which survived.  They ended up with three boys and three girls. 

Grandpa Miles & Grandma Molly Vardiman with their son's families before Jan 1949 when Steven was born and before May 1949 when Miles passed away.

Back Row: Ross, Molly, Louise, Phil, Miles
Front Row: June, James, Billie & Larry

Moved to Marfa, TX
Billie Age 4-7

Marfa, TX
Phil & Louise holding Steven
Billie & Larry

Marfa, Texas (West Texas) (1949 - 1952)

Phil’s health was continuing to fail and the doctor said they needed to get to a warmer climate so they moved to Marfa, Texas in 1949 when Phil was 34 years old.  So Phil decided to work on his masters at Texas A&M.  He bought a hay wagon and loaded it with all the families possessions and hauled it behind their old willie station wagon for the 1500 plus mile trip from Litchfield, Illinois to West Texas. 

Phil got a job at an experimental station in Marfa, Texas while he was going to school for his masters in veterinary science at Texas A&M.  The experimental station was on an old airport.  There was a circular drive with a group of buildings, an old barn, an office which was used for the experimental station and two houses.  One house was for the Vardiman family and the other house was for Phil's assistant.

Hundreds of cattle were dying at that time and autopsy's revealed extremely hard, yellow livers. Phil did research to diagnose the problem.  He began to identify all the poisonous plants the cattle were eating out on the range as the source of the problem.  To help educate the ranchers on what the poisonous plants looked like, Phil built "Poison Hill" as he called it in a garden area in the middle of the circular drive which was about  50 feet in diameter.  He brought in dirt and built a little hill then planted all the different types of poisonous plants that he had identified in West Texas. When ranchers came over Phil would take them out to Poison Hill and show them what the plants looked like so they could better protect their Herfer and Long Horn cattle. Phil mixed up a concoction of poisonous plants and fed it to some cattle a little at a time so they eventually were inoculated so that if the cattle ate the poisonous plants on the range they wouldn't die. Phil did his master thesis on his research on the poisonous plants in West Texas.

Texas (1952)

"I attended first grade in Marfa, TX for a few weeks." 
Email from Billie Vardiman 3 July 2010

Molly Vardiman, Frank & Mae Carter with grandchildren: Larry, Billie,
Steve & Mary Phil

Moved to St. Louis, MO
Billie Age 7-11

Christmas 1954 - St. Louis, MO

Back Row: Billie, Louise holding David, Phil holding Ann Lueece, Larry
Front Row: Steve & Mary Phil

St. Louis, Missouri (1952 - 1956)

            In 1952 Phil & Louise moved the family to St. Louis, Missouri where Phil worked for Ralston Purina as a large animal veterinarian. On their way to Missouri Louise went into labor and had to be dropped off at a hospital in Hays, Kansas where their fifth child was born.

Billie (1st-4th Grades)

             "I attended first grade in Marfa, TX for a few weeks, then first grade in Kirksville, MO and finally first grade at Chaney Elementary Grade School in Maplewood, MO. This would have been in 1952-1953. I was in grade school there through the fourth grade. I became a Christian in the fourth grade and was baptized at age 10 on Easter Sunday."  Email from Billie Vardiman 3 July 2010

Phil and Louise purchased a fantastic, beautiful house in St. Louis on Dale Avenue in Richmond Heights.  It was about one block from St. Lukes Catholic church.  They lived in that house for about three to four years. While in St. Louis their last child, David, was born.

The house was four stories including the attic and basement.  Larry has very vivid memories of the house.  It had a front porch with a big beautiful glass door with beveled edges.  Inside the door was an entranceway and to the right was a settee and a place to hang hats.  On the right beyond that was a stairway leading to the second floor.  Left of the entrance way was a sitting room with sliding mahogany doors that opened and closed like going into a drawing room.  The ceilings on both floors were 14 feet tall with very fancy wall boards on the floor and ceiling.  In the drawing room to the left was a beautiful ornate working fireplace with white enameled columns.  It had a metal cover to keep out the draft when you weren't using it.  There were also big old casement windows around the room.  Beyond that was a dining room that also had big sliding doors between the rooms to petition them off.  The dining room also had a fireplace on one end and big windows.  Off to the right of the dining room was the kitchen or you could get to the kitchen from the front door by going straight down the hallway.  It was a gigantic farm kitchen with a cupboard off to the side and white cabinets.  There was a big screened in porch in the back.

The second floor had four bedrooms and one bathroom.  The front room was a children's room that looked out onto the street where you could see traffic and buses going by.  There was a wooden window seat that lifted up for storage.  In the back was another children's room which Mom and Dad painted the walls black so the kids could write on the walls with chalk.  The other front bedroom had a fireplace as it was above the drawing room.  The back bedroom on that side had fancy cabinets and closets.  The bathroom had a big tub with a shower.  The porcelain sink was from the 1930's or 1940's and had a column as the base. 

There was a very narrow stairway with only one lightbulb from the second to third floor.  It was kind of creepy to go up the stairs but once you were in the attic it was bright with lights and windows in the front and back.  The attic had sloping ceilings and was one big room.  There was storage up there but still plenty of room to ride a tricycle around on rainy days.

The basement had a coal furnace with pipes running along the ceiling that you had to duck under at times.  There was a coal room and the floor was uneven.  There was also a back door that led outside from the basement.

"Dad often changed the houses we lived in.  Our family joked how we always lived in sawdust." (Larry Vardiman, Glimpses of My Childhood, tape #1B)  Phil didn't like eating in the dining room so he cut a hole in the wall between the kitchen and dining room about a foot high and made a table/bar situation.  Half the family would sit in the kitchen and the other half in the dining room to eat but couldn't quit see each other.  Dad did a similar thing in another house in Pacific, Missouri with a pull down table on a pulley arrangement.

Phil did the carpenter type changes in the house and Louise did more of the painting and papering on the inside.  She wanted the house to look sophisticated and wanted a patriotic theme in the front hallway.  She had Larry, who was in his upper grade school years, fifth-seventh grade, paint the ceiling light blue and use a roller with a star pattern to roll on top.  Then they painted the walls burgundy or dark red with blue stripes running vertically up the walls. We "ended up with a front hall that was very unique with a patriotic theme with stars and stripes and red, white and blue." (Larry Vardiman, Memories of My Childhood, tape #2A)

While in St. Louis, Phil worked for Ralston Purina Company.  He worked downtown at the veterinary center before going to the Ralston Purina farm full time.  He did research projects with cattle.  He got an idea from a Swedish man to operate on a cow and cut a hole in the side of the cow and into the stomach and install a pipe with a plug in it.  He could insert feed into the stomach and see how long it would take to digest food. 

"I remember occasionally helping dad when I was out on the farm when he would remove the plug from that cow.  Unfortunately the cow had built up a bit of steam from the digestion and when he would remove the plug it would squirt all kinds of nasty fluid out of the cow as well as all the gases and stinch that came with it.  Anyway that was quite an experience." (Larry Vardiman, Glimpses of My Childhood tape #1B)

Phil also drove out to the Ralston Purina farm for buckets of raw, non-pasteurized milk on Saturdays.  He would take three gallon buckets and put wax paper with a lid on top.  Some milk still spilled so the car always had a spoiled milk smell.

Moved to Columbia, IL


Swimming Hole
Ann and David

Phil & Louise

Age 11-14

2nd Cousins - Missouri
Phil & Louise's children &
Johnny & Luetta's children (Back Row Right Side is Bill, Billie's future husband)

Columbia Illinois, (1956 - 1959)

"The big long porch is the front of the house which faces north in Columbia, Illinois.  There was a porch swing up on the porch and a swing set out in the yard.  Sometimes there was a garden out front also.  I remember us growing peanuts one year.  We entered from what is on the left side of this picture which faced east.

Behind the house is the wonderful old barn that we used to play in for hours.  Larry "put up many a bale of hay in that barn.“ We also had a milk cow and usually had two young vealer calves on her on one side and then milked her for her milk for the family on the other side.  She was a prolific producer of wonderful milk.  She was either a Gurnsey or a Jersey cow.  Mom would make homemade butter and cottage cheese from the wonderful cream that would rise to the top from the delicious whole unpasturized milk.  We had several mangers that the cattle would eat their hay from so our ability to visualize Jesus in a Manger is very real to us.  

The other building that is to the left and somewhat forward is what we considered the garage/storage shed.  All of the old buildings were log cabin like and had been put together with large wooden nails or pegs.  The house we lived in was also partly a log cabin and was about 150 years old at the time that we moved into it.  It had had goats living in it, so we had to scoop all of the goat manure out and clean it up to make it livable.  Our living conditions were quite primitive initially, but altogether doable and quite memorable.  

There was also a trap door on the front porch that took you down to a root cellar under the house.  We stored carrots in sand and stored potatoes, etc. down there for the winter.  We also had to use this space for a storm shelter once when a tornado came from the west, cut through the space between the back of the house and the barn and took a portion of the south side of the garage.  It was scary.

Middle Photo Above: The old log cabin type building that we used for a chicken house on the farm in Illinois.  I had a 4-H project in 6th or 7th grade and raised chickens, had them as a laying flock and sold candled eggs in downtown St. Louis that Dad would take to his work for me. 

I fed and watered the chickens, gathered the eggs, candled and cleaned them, kept the laying nests clean, cleaned out the chicken poop, etc.  Part of my project was also to keep record of my expenses and income.  Those are my laying hens.  And I still love chickens!"

Right Photo Above: The pond was out east of the house. From what I remember about the information about the old farm in Columbia, IL. It sold originally for either 2 - 3 cents an acre for homesteading about 150 years before we moved there in the 1950's. We had I believe 101 acres and about 101 sink holes on the place. What a great place to grow up. Rattle snakes, copper heads, black berries, big as your thumb. Hogs, cattle, chickens, gardening, swimming naked in the pond, frogging, fishing. debeaking, inocculating, cutting wings on chickens, artificial insemination instead of a bull on the place, cutting eye teeth on pigs, docking their tails (?) canning, canning and more canning. Planting tulip poplar trees from the conservation agent, boyfriends on the bus with hard to pronounce German, Archebald Gummensheimer, don't remember his middle name any more. Etc, Etc., Etc. A good life!
Emails from Billie Vardiman describing photos above 2 January 2012

Billie (5th-7th Grades)

"I attended grade school 5-7th grades at Columbia, Illinois where we lived on the farm there. The place is still called Doc's place to this day by the old neighbors. Dad had his heart attack at age 42 and his health required that he have a less stressful job.  I played the piano just a little bit. In fifth grade I started playing the trumpet."  Email from Billie Vardiman 3 July 2010

Moved to Pacific, MOO
Billie Age 14-23

Billie - Band Uniform
Played B flat brass Baritone

Billie's High School Graduation 1964 with Carter Grandparents

Dinner at the Carter's (Louise's side)


Pacific, Missouri (1959 - 1964)

Phil’s health was getting worse so Ralston Purina gave him a job transfer to a research farm near Gray Summit, Missouri.  It was too far to commute from Columbia so the family once again moved to Pacific, Missouri in 1959.  They bought a house on a dead end street on the East side of Pacific up next to limestone cliffs.  It was close to a factory that made roofing materials, toothpaste and cleanser using ground up limestone.  It was at the edge of town and in the woods.

Billie (8th-12th Grades)

         "A position was created for Dad at Gray Summit, MO as veterinarian of the Ralston Purina Research Farm. We moved to Pacific, MO. In seventh or eighth grade I switched to the B flat brass Baritone which I then played all through high school. I also played a little bit one summer in college. I played in the marching band and we went to band competitions and marched in parades. We did not do half time shows because we did not have football in our school until after I graduated from college.  

        I attended the Pacific Middle School for eighth grade and then walked just down the hall and attended the Pacific High School graduating in 1964. I graduated about 3rd or 4th in my class of 65 students, 17 of them being girls."

Email from Billie Vardiman 29 July 2010 

1960s Vardiman Family

Dad, Phil  Vardiman, passed away
23 February 1968 and was
buried 25 February 1968 in

Sunset Memorial Cemetery
Pacific, Missouri

Billie was 22 years old and in
nursing school

3 June 1969
B.S. in Nursing

Missouri University School of Nursing (1964-1969)

I felt God calling me to be a missionary and at the advice of the Southern Baptist Mission Board, attended the Missouri University School of Nursing from 1964-1969 graduating with my BS in Nursing (BSN). From about age 14 on, I believed that God wanted me to be a nurse and I felt I wanted to serve as a Christian missionary in a foreign field somewhere. In my upbringing there was a strong missionary influence on my life through the family, church and mission organizations I was involved in as a teenager. I was involved in the Young Women's Auxiliary which is a missionary organization of the Southern Baptist Convention. They are now called Acteens. Mom, Louise, had a roommate from college that served as a missionary in China during WWII and was incarcerated in prison for a while. Mom talked about her often and kept in touch with her. I also attended conferences throughout my teen years and into college through the Baptist Student Union. If I hadn't gotten married when I did, I would have likely gone on to Seminary at Dallas/Fort Worth Seminary for my Masters Degree. I actually got my BSN specifically in preparation to be able to function as a missionary nurse where God would lead me. Not too many of the RN's were getting their BSN's at that time. This was to prepare me for an administrative role in case I ended up being involved in running a school of nursing or being a Director of Nursing in a hospital on a foreign field. Well, things didn't turn out that way. I feel that my work in Public Health nursing and my newer work in Hospice nursing both were a form of Christian ministry for me. As to having a specific calling to a foreign field, that hasn't happened yet. however, I have gone to the mission work for a full week in 2009 in Southeastern Kentucky. Mom always seem to have this dream for me that I would serve in the hills of Kentucky on horse back; so in a sense I guess you could say I have and may do it again, health allowing us to do so.

Phil died from heart trouble on 23 February 1968 at 53 years old.  Phil and Louise had been married a total of 27 ½ years!

Bill and Billie married
9 August 1969

1984 - Bill & Billie's children:
Johnene (12), Phillip (10) & Sarah (1)


1987 Bill & Billie Vardiman's Family at Vardiman Family Reunion
in Colorado
Left to Right: Phillip, Billie,
Bill holding Sarah, Johnene

1987 Family Reunion

Bill & Billie Vardiman

Grandfathers were brothers:
John Peter - Bill's Grandfather &
Miles Standish - Billie's Grandfather

Married in Missouri and First Home (1969)

Bill and I got married on August 09, 1969 and moved into our first home, which we had bought before we got married as tenants in common, although we didn't live together. That's how it had to be listed since we weren't legally married yet. We lived in town, Marshall, Missouri, in a lovely little white frame home in the northeast part of town from August 1969-November 1973.

Career in Saline County, Missouri

I worked in Saline County in 1969-1970 as a MCH (Maternal Child Health Nurse) for the Saline County Nursing Service working about 11 months. I also started during that time to work for the John Fitzgibbon Memorial Hospital as a Med-Surg Nurse. I then worked for them part-time from 1970-1985 usually 3 days per week as I raised our family.

Farm Home

November 3rd, 1973, which is our birth date, Bill and I and Johnene' (1 1/2 years old at the time) moved out to the farm. Phillip was conceived shortly thereafter.  For 37 years our address was RR2, Box 20. Recently Saline County brought in 911 addressing and our new address is now 18203 Indiana Lane, Marshall, MO 65340.  I tried hard to get them to let us name it Vardiman Road, but they wouldn't let us, even though Luetta and Bill and I were the only two houses on this Lane. 

Bill's mother, Luetta grew up on this farm from age 3 on. Her mother, Rosina, and her Dad, William R. (Bill) Ballard, lived here from 1923 till they both finally passed away, Rosina in 1966 and Bill Ballard in 1969. They made a living on this little 32.65 acre farm.  This farm belonged to Johnny and Luetta Vardiman after they bought her brother's inherited half from him and his wife and rented that half out until we bought the farm in 1973 when it was vacated by the last renters.  And we have lived here ever since.

Bill's Dad and Mom, Johnny and Luetta, lived just a 1/4 mile down the road in the home that Bill and his brother and sister grew up in. Johnny had lived there since 1927.  Johnny, age 40, and Luetta, age 19, eloped and married August 1939 down in South Missouri.  She therefore lived just down the road from her parents in her new home with Johnny from 1939 on.  

We just recently sold off a total of 12.14 acres and so our big little farm is now 20.5 acres, with about 9 acres of tillable land. Big Whoop! The original homesteaded property of 32.64 acres had been intact from about 1854 on, till this year, 2010. It was almost a historical shame to break it up. What we did was sell 12.0 acres to the man who bought the farm land and pasture land from Luetta's estate. This way he was able to build a roadway back to his land and not have to go through the other part of the property where the farm house and it's buildings and 5 acres that another person and his wife had bought. They really didn't want anyone going through their land, although we never thought anything about it; just took it in stride as being natural. But people moving from town to the country who really are looking for privacy, found that unacceptable. We also had city water run down from our connection to that property, so that people who were leary of well water would be happier knowing that they had "good water." That well is one of the deepest wells with some of the purest water in the country around here. But, oh, well. What do I know?


I got pregnant in the late summer or fall of 1970 and was due that next Spring. The dates escape me now. Anyway, Bill and I were over at our income tax preparer's house doing taxes, and my membranes ruptured and I went into labor about 2 months or so early and delivered twins on February 13, 1971, not knowing until they came that I was having twins. The Dr. had previously asked me if twins ran in the family and I said no. But later found out that they apparently did. Anyway they were 2 lbs. and 2 oz. in size. They didn't live very long, just a few hours. At that time there were no facilities like we have today. We did not have an ambulance service. The only incubator we had in the county was a small metal box which you lined with hot water bottles and put an O2 tubing into and covered with a blanket. There was no helicopter. And, I knew that there was such a chance that they could be brain damaged being so little. So, we just let them go. However, Mom went to the funeral home and asked to see them and the funeral director said that the parents (us) didn't want them seen. And so even Bill and I didn't see them, which I now regret. Things were viewed so differently then. I thought they would just look like little monkies. But, the funeral director told Mom that they were just perfect, tiny and perfect. So, later I wished I had seen them. We had a grave side service and they are burtied up here at the Mt. Olive Cemetery. We still haven't set a stone;, yet we should. Their names are Lon Thomas and Don Harris. Thomas comes from Grandpa Carter who was Thomas Frank Carter. Harris comes from Dad, Phillip Harris.

Johnene' then was born 1 year and 3 days later in 16 February 1972. That sure made for a long time of being pregnant. I don't recommend it. When I was on the delivery table having Johnene', the same Dr. said that I had a second placenta. So, I may have been pregnant again with twins, but lost the other one. Phillip was born in 1974.

There was only about 2-3 years when Johnene' and Phillip were small that I didn't work. And then it was really hard to go back. Then, of course in 1982 along about August or September, we discovered that we were going to have a little surprise! package. We used to say that God alone planned Sarah and he did a wonderful job. I had wanted another child, but Bill didn't think so and then she came along anyway. Sarah wanted a baby brother or sister and I told her that someone had to be the last and she was it. She didn't really care for that answer. I was 36 when she was conceived and turned 37 before she was born. I can tell you having children later in life isn't easy. But, she has been a wonderful blessing to us.

When Phillip was in band I played the Baritone again for 2-3 years in the Marshall Municipal Band. That was after not having played for about 20 years. Boy, was I rusty. But, believe it or not, it comes back. But, my family said I sounded like a dying moose. They were soooo supportive. That was fun. We started practice in the Spring and then had summer concerts almost every Thursday evening for about 2 months in the summer. I believe I started doing that when Phillip was in band and we would go together. Later, Sarah did the same thing. Both of them played in the percussion section. Sarah started originally on the flute. She also plays the piano well. Johnene' played the piano starting off with Suzuki piano at age 4 but then didn't stay with it. Uncle Bill would tell you that he played the radio.

Career Continued and Masters Degree

In 1985 I became the Administrator of the Saline County Health Office (formerly the Saline County Nursing Service) from 1985-1999. From 1989-1991 I got my Masters in Public Health from the St. Louis University School of Public Health. My goal was to provide the best public health for Saline County that was possible. The County Commission made the situation political and walked me out the door in July 1999.

I then got a job working full-time with the Bothwell Regional Health Center in their Bothwell Home Health and Hospice Department, predominantly working as a Hospice nurse, working full-time from 1999-2007. Once again, events entered in and I left my job re: a brain tumor surgery in Oct. 2007.

After my recovery, I started working for the Marshall Habilitation Center in December 2007 and am currently still working there as an RN IV caring for a case load of mentally challenged individuals. My initial position was a Clinical Nurse, but I am now working as a staff nurse carrying a case load of 21, down from a caseload of about 40 people initially in Jan. 2009. The job is hard with lots of paperwork and bureaucracy which drives me nuts. I am making plans to retire in either late 2010 or early 2011 after I turn 65 on November 3, 2010. I can't wait. Every day is a struggle to go to work, because this work is just not my thing and I am tired of nursing. I may or I may not find something else to do on a part time basis. Probably not. I just want to spend time with Bill and we do things we want to do when we want to do them. If we wake up one morning and want to strike out for S. Dakota or Colorado, I want to be be able to do just that. The money is likely to be tight, but "Oh, well, what else is new!" We have lived that way all of our lives. Public Health never, never paid very well. I don't think that I realized just how poorly I was getting paid until I was forced out of public health. It has only been since 1999 that I have gotten paid a decent wage for my training. So, I will miss the money, but not the getting up every day and punching a time clock like I have done for over 41 years. I probably enjoyed the Hospice nursing the most since it gave me such a feeling of ministry for people who were going through a really hard time and I could guide them along.


Bill and I have a private ministy of reaching out to young college students at Missouri Valley College, providing a home away from home, having them over to stay overnight or out for a home cooked meal. Often we have young girls that are involved with the rodeo team come and stay with us. I call our ministry unofficially the Barnabas Ministry or "BnB's B&B." We have a girl staying/living with us this next school year by the name of Bobbie Sue. Her parents are in the middle of a divorce and neither one have a home for her to come home to. So all of her stuff is in our basement. She will be here probably for the next few years. We have a spare room down there, with a half bath under the basement stairs and the family room space which is finished, providing her an area to relax and study or watch TV other than her bedroom. She has a rodeo scholarship but it apparently does not provide room and board, so we are planning to do that for her. We don't charge anything, but she is to keep her area clean and help out around with dishes, etc. She is welcome to cook upstairs and be upstairs with us any time she wants to. But, she usually is so busy with her schedule of classes, studying and taking care of her horse, that we don't see her a whole lot."

Email from Billie Vardiman 3 July 2010

Copyright 2016