Billie Catherine McBride was born in Phoenix at Good Samaritan Hospital, on January 24, 1929, on the cusp of the Great Depression. Her parents were William Otha McBride and Bertha May Wallis McBride, who had relocated to Phoenix from Mississippi. Billie attended Wilson Elementary School, and Phoenix Union High School.
On Valentine’s Day, 1946, Billie married Ray Hamm, Jr., after the war had ended and he returned home from the Navy. Ray began work at his father’s construction business, and in 1949 their daughter, Kathy was born. In 1952, their daughter Nancy was born. Ray had built their first home and Billie was a “stay at home” mom. Unfortunately, Ray fell ill with polio. Life had changed greatly at this point for the very young couple.
This life changing development brought about strength and determination, which later defined Billie’s life. Young and inexperienced, she applied for a job at the Arizona Republic and the Phoenix Gazette. She admitted later that it was terrifying and she was afraid, but she had a very sick husband and two baby daughters. She worked at the Republic and Gazette for 36 years before retiring at age 60.
During this period of not only working full time, and raising her family, she also became a member of the Scottsdale Chapter of Sweet Adelines, a woman’s group of singers which now spans the globe with 21,000 singers. During the 60’s Billie traveled with the Scottsdale Chorus on several tours.
Music was always prominent in Billie’s life. She played the piano, took endless lessons, owned antique sheet music, and her car radio always played KBACH. Her wood paneled sitting room contained books on master musicians, records and CDs of classical music. Her Saturday afternoons were often spent at Circles collecting yet another treasured recording.
In the late 60’s, early 70’s Billie decided to go back to school to get a degree she always wanted. In spite of working full time, she enrolled in night school, packed a peanut butter sandwich and a banana and made it to Phoenix College to complete her degree, with distinction. The family made it through her fascination with Western Civilization, and oddly enough, she learned German. She traveled to Europe many times to visit her daughter and her family and to see and learn about Germany and Vienna (of course).
In addition to the busy life of work, music, travel, and school, Billie had one last passion: GRANDMOTHERHOOD. Both Billie and Ray excelled at being grandparents. They could not get enough of time spent with all of their grandchildren. Billie lived for Friday, after work, picking up grandkids to spend the weekend. Trips to Piccadilly Cafeteria, the toy store, visits to friends, playing in the backyard picking oranges and pecans were the norm. The memories they made are eternal.
Billie got tired this year. She missed her husband, her parents, her family and friends that have gone ahead of her. We told her it was okay. We’ll be along soon!
Billie passed away in her own home, on December 5, 2022. She was preceded in death by her husband, Ray, and her son-in law, Dr. Donald Fournier, sister, Jean McCarthy, and brother, Marvin “Bud” McBride. She is survived by her daughter, Kathleen Duck and her husband, Col. David Duck, and daughter, Nancy Fournier, and sister, Sherry (Dale) Jaco.
She was the grandmother to Christopher Duck (Erin), Catharine Fournier Raslavsky (John), Jacques Fournier, Alison Duck, Julia Fournier, Donald Fournier (Kristen), John Fournier (Rhonda), Anne Fournier Selin, and James Fournier (Alison). She had 19 great grandchildren, and 6 great-great grandchildren! A private family memorial will be held at a later time.