Juanita Lillian Freeman Pilmer
March 22, 1931 - September 14, 2012
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|Juanita Lillian Freeman Pilmer, 81, died September 14, 2012 at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Fort Thomas, KY, after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. Her former husband, retired Naval officer Lieutenant Commander Edwin H. Pilmer, Jr.; her son-in-law, Edwin G. Kutscher; and her parents, Thelma R. and Cassick J. Freeman, precede her in death.
An only child, she was born March 22, 1931 to Thelma T. and Cassick J. Freeman in Berkeley, CA. During her teen years, she worked as a floral arranger in a florist shop, as a model and a seamstress. She attended the University of California, Berkeley, and then decided to pursue her true passion for fashion design at the Louise Salinger Academy of Fashion in San Francisco until she left school to marry Naval officer and fighter pilot, Edwin H. Pilmer, Jr. As a military wife, she lived in Corpus Christi, TX; San Diego, CA; Norfolk, VA, Providence, RI, and Blackwater, MS. Later, after the Blackwater family home near Meridian, MS burned down, she returned to Berkeley, California to care for her ailing mother, Thelma T. Freeman (nee Townshend).
A great granddaughter of a Montana frontier doctor, she learned early the importance of community involvement. While raising her five children, she also volunteered for many organizations, including serving in the Meridian Symphony League, as a member of the Naval Officer’s Wives Club, and as a Cub Scout den mother.
As a talented Mezzo Soprano singer, Juanita served for many years as a choir director—first for the Blackwater Baptist Church outside Meridian, MS and then later, for the Meridian Naval Air Station’s Protestant Chapel. At the Navel chapel, her music experience, knowledge, sensitivity, and dedication found it’s best directorial expression as she took the choir there to the highest levels of musicianship, expressing theirs and her love for God. It was there that she also probably experienced her most rewarding spiritual and work satisfaction. But as strong as her love for music was, she felt even stronger about justice and love for people of all faiths and color. She attended black churches when invited to mourn or celebrate with her African-American friends during a racially tense era in Mississippi. She sang for the Temple Beth Israel’s Yom Kippur and other Jewish religious observations after months of practice singing Hebrew.
Juanita's passion for music extended to her years as a radio host for a classical music show in Meridian, MS. Her in-depth knowledge of classical music and her conversational talents were evident as she spun classics accompanied by fascinating historical commentary.
Her talents seemed limitless. Other artistic pursuits included acting, drawing and painting, writing poetry, and extraordinary fashion and culinary creations.
Perhaps her most memorable theatrical role in theatre was Bloody Mary in South Pacific at the Meridian Little Theatre, MS. As with all her artistic endeavors, she was detail-oriented in creating the role of Bloody Mary, going so far as to spray her blond hair black instead of wearing an unconvincing wig, and chewing licorice buttons to simulate the effects on the teeth of the character’s betel nut use.
Later in life she attended Meridian Junior College, pursuing a degree in social work. While her own life challenges interrupted her pursuit, for a time she worked for a Crisis Center Hotline, and was known by her friends to be a good listener and advisor.
Juanita is survived by her daughter, Pamela J. Kutscher, Falmouth, KY; son, Edwin H. Pilmer, III, Hattiesburg, MS; son, John F. (Diane) Pilmer, Orem, UT; son, Robert J. (Debbie) Pilmer, Nashville, TN; daughter, Suzanne Dru (Marty Hanka) Pilmer; grandchildren Amanda Pilmer, Justin R. (Camille) Pilmer, Emily Pilmer, and Mitchell J.G Buchanan (formerly Pilmer).
The family wishes to extend a special thanks to Richard M. Snow for his love and care of Juanita for many years, and to the River Valley Nursing Home, Butler, KY, for their devoted care in recent months.
Memorial donations may be made to the Alzheimer's Association or the Lyme Disease Association, Inc.
The family would especially appreciate special memories of our mother that anyone might have to share.