There are condolences waiting approval on Eilleen's Tribute wall
Celebrating the life of Eilleen Downs Payne
Be the first to share your favorite memory, photo or story of
This memorial page is dedicated for family, friends and future generations to celebrate
the life of their loved one.
We ask on behalf of the family that you keep your comments uplifting and appropriate
to help all who come here to find comfort and healing.
Obituary for Eilleen Downs Payne
Eilleen Downs Payne passed away peacefully at her home on February 4, 2018, at the age of 96. She was the widow of Bill Hitch Payne to whom she was married for 68 years. Eilleen was born on April 6, 1921, in Waymart, Pennsylvania to the late Sidney Brink Downs and Alma Stephenson Downs. She graduated from Bloomfield High School in New Jersey in 1938, and from Upsala College in East Orange, New Jersey in 1942. After teaching for one year, Eilleen joined the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve and was stationed at Cherry Point, North Carolina, as a control tower operator. Near the end of World War II, Eilleen met a young Marine from Mississippi named Bill Payne. They were married on December 29, 1945, in a joint ceremony with her sister, “Bun”,and brother-in-law, Ed. Eilleen and Bill settled in Jackson, Mississippi to begin their lives together. She received her master’s degree from Mississippi College in 1948, and earned a Specialist Degree in English in 1970. After being a stay-at-home mother to her four children for a few years, she began a 25-year career as an English and Latin teacher at Central High School. During her tenure at CHS, Eilleen was granted a fellowship from the Asian Institute at the University of Hawaii for a six-week workshop. That experience was a highlight of her professional life. She was known as a supportive teacher with a passion for literacy. After her retirement in 1983, she often heard from her former students about herpositiveinfluence on their lives. Eilleen enjoyed traveling extensively through the United States and Europe. During their retirement years, Eilleen and Bill spent much time at their vacation home in Orange Beach, Alabama, where they enjoyed fishing, reading and being together. Eilleen was a faithful member of Broadmeadow United Methodist Church where she taught Sunday school and was a member of a ladies’ circle at her church. Her community book clubs were a source of much enjoyment and treasured friendships. She was preceded in death by her parents; her loving husband, Bill Hitch Payne;her sister and brother-in-law, Gertrude “Bun” Downs and Edward Opal; her in-laws Juanita Willoughby and Arthur Lee Payne; brother-in-law, Robert L. Payne; and her son-in-law, Howard Russell Berg. Survivors include her sister, Beverly Downs Thompson (Bert) of Waymart, Pennsylvania; her four children, Arthur Downs Payne (Cindy Ables) of Clinton; John Thomas Payne (Jennifer) of Ridgeland;Carolann Payne Alexander of Jackson; and Kathleen Payne Berg of Basalt, Colorado. Her seven grandchildren are: Zachary Wayne Alexander (Domini Bradford) of Baton Rouge; Nicholas Downs Payne (Michelle) of New Orleans; Megan Payne Mascagni (Carter) of Flora; Daniel Thomas Payne (Kara) of Madison; Gus Stephenson Berg of Englewood, Colorado; Jackson Henderson Ables II of Clinton; and Spencer Fielding Ables (Leah Jordan) of Oxford. She is also survived by three great-grandchildren: Lila James Mascagni, Nicholas Clarke Payne, and Miller Jane Ables as well as several nieces and nephews. To her grandchildren, she was affectionately known as “Gim”. Her passing leaves a tremendous void in her family who loved her deeply. Her legacy is her quick wit, intellect, smiles and unconditional love. The family is deeply grateful to Annette Smith of VA home health for her loving care and to Dr. Paul Sheffield and staff for the compassionate care they gave Eilleen over the last several years of her life. At Eilleen’s request, her body was donated to the University of Mississippi Medical Center for the advancement of science. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, February 17, 2018, at 11:00 a.m. at Broadmeadow United Methodist Church, 4419 Broadmeadow Street, Jackson, Mississippi 39206, with visitation beginning at 9:00 a.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Broadmeadow United Methodist Church or a charity of your choice.