Jean Mason Purdom Hiers died on May 17, 2012, at The Fairfax, Fort Belvoir, Virginia. She was 94.
Formerly of Las Cruces, New Mexico, and Chilmark, Ms. Hiers was born October 2, 1917, to Archibald and Mildred Inslee Purdom in Blackshear, Georgia.
The third oldest of the four “Purdom Girls,” Jean graduated in 1939 from Milledgeville College for Women in Georgia. In 1940, Jean married Maurice Dowling Hiers, a 1939 Clemson graduate. Teachers by profession, both Jean and Maurice taught high school until 1941, when Maurice was called into Army service. Family assignments included Fort Benning, Ga., Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., Joliet Arsenal, Ill., Paris, France, Falls Church, Va., Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., and White Sands, N.M. A stalwart member and supporter in each local school PTA, church and community along the way, Jean was an excellent role model for her children.
Jean’s love of Martha’s Vineyard began at an early age when she would accompany her Aunt Nellie on the steamship from Savannah, Ga., to the Island. She and her sisters especially liked to row across the Tisbury Great Pond for the walk to the old post office for mail and treats. Rowing to Little Sandy and the South Beach were great adventures for the sisters. Blueberry picking was another delicious chore. Summer family gatherings on Cobb’s Hill, which had been purchased by Jean’s grandfather, Robert Inslee in 1892, were eagerly anticipated each year. Musical performances by the sisters and older generation were the evening entertainment. Attendance at the First Congregational Church in West Tisbury and frequent visits to both old and new West Tisbury Libraries made her summer. Mama Jean became the official best blueberry cobbler baker on Cobb’s Hill.
After Maurice’s retirement from the Army, Jean and Maurice resided in Las Cruces, N.M. Following a brief teaching career at the high school, Jean became involved in the First Presbyterian Church, PEO, and Masonic activities. Her ability to serve as officer and piano player was greatly utilized. In their Airstream Rally participation, Jean’s artistic talents produced many backdrops for various conventions held throughout the region. Her personal oils and watercolors of the Southwest and New England are loved and prized by her children and grandchildren.
Missing her smile and charm are her son Maurice Dowling Hiers Jr. and his wife, Charlene, of Northborough; her son Richard Earl Hiers of Albuquerque, N.M.; her daughter Jeannine Hiers Sample and her husband, Leon H. Sample, of Alexandria, Va.; her sister, Mildred Morris of Douglasville, Ga.; eight grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. Jean was preceded in death by Maurice Dowling Hiers, her beloved husband of 59 years; her daughter, Cynthia Anne Hiers-Robinson, and sisters Cynthia Matthews and Natalie Williams.
Memorial service will be held June 16, 2012 at Washington Farm United Methodist Church in Alexandria, Va., with Reverend Song officiating. Graveside services will be at Fort Bliss National Cemetery, Texas.