Hallie Billups, teacher, actress, volunteer, churchwoman

Posted: January 23, 2013

WHILE MOST sensible people were sitting out that terrible 36-inch blizzard of 1996, Hallie Earley Billups was slogging her way to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, two miles through waist-deep snow.

She volunteered there, playing with the young patients, keeping them entertained and happy, and she knew they were expecting her. She wasn't about to let them down.

"I wanted to be there for my kids, give them a little hug, play a game, sing a song, blow bubbles," she told the Daily News' Joe Clark in 1997. "They miss you when you're not there, you know."

Hallie Earley Billups, who taught for 16 years at James Rhoads Elementary School, volunteered for various community causes, was a devoted churchwoman, acted in commercials and movies, and found time to be a loving mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, died Jan. 15 of cancer. She was 96 and lived in Mount Airy.

Hallie retired from teaching at age 66, and was able to devote full time to her volunteer work.

In 1996, she was honored by the Philadelphia Senior Center with the annual Art of Living award in recognition of her community work.

Hallie dropped out of West Philadelphia High School in the 11th grade because she couldn't tolerate what she saw as racial prejudice.

However, she later earned her GED and, at age 50, received a bachelor's degree in childhood education from Temple University. At age 57, she got a master's degree from Chestnut Hill College.

She volunteered at Children's Hospital for 10 years, walking from her home in Powelton Village. She taught aerobics at the Kearsley Retirement Community, where she formerly lived.

She worked out daily at the Philadelphia Senior Center's Wellness and Fitness Center at Broad and Lombard streets into her 80s and 90s, using the stationary bike, the treadmill and the rowing machine, and lifting weights.

And she walked everywhere. She used to walk to City Hall and back twice a week for the exercise - even after "Mr. Arthur," her name for arthritis, slowed her down a bit.

She was an active member of the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas. She volunteered with Services for the Blind and worked the gift shop at the Kearsley center.

Through an agent friend, Hallie landed roles in commercials, mostly featuring senior citizens. She had a part in the 1990 film "The Lemon Sisters," starring Elliott Gould and Diane Keaton, about singers in Atlantic City nightclubs.

She was a member of the St. Thomas Actors Guild.

Hallie was born in Philadelphia to Joseph and Hallye Palmer Earley. She married John Billups Jr. in 1940. She worked with him for a time at the LaFair & Sons company in Philadelphia, which he managed and then took over.

Her husband died in 1989. She is survived by two sons, John and Anthony; twin daughters, Deborah and Barbara Billups; 10 grandchildren, and 14 great-grandchildren. She was predeceased by another son, Christopher.

Services: Memorial service 10 a.m. Friday at the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, 6361 Lancaster Ave.

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