Millicent Marr Watkins Conley

Millicent Marr Watkins Conley

Millicent Marr Watkins Conley, Ph.D was born on August 1, 1942, in Chicago, Illinois. The youngest of three children born to Mitchell S. Watkins Sr. and Ora Marr Watkins, and the only girl, “Millie” was doted on by both parents beginning at an early age. Similarly, Millie spoke glowingly of her parents, affectionately referring to them as “Mother” and “Daddy.” She also often spoke proudly of her brothers, Mitchell Sylvester Jr. and James Carl, a.k.a. “Mickey” and “Jimmie,” who preceded her in death in 2013 and 2002, respectively.

Raised in the Park Manor and Woodlawn neighborhoods, Millie graduated from McCosh Elementary in 1956 and Hirsch High School in 1960. Throughout her life, Millie greatly valued education, both as a student and teacher. After earning a Bachelor’s degree in 1963 from Chicago Teachers College, she taught third grade students in the Chicago Public Schools. Continuing her education at the University of Chicago, she was awarded an MST degree in 1973. During her career, Millie held a number of positions in the Chicago Public Schools and other educational institutions, including Governors State University, Northwestern University and DePaul University. She retired from CPS as a Reading/Literacy Specialist in 2012.

In 2005, Millie achieved a lifelong goal by earning a Doctorate of Philosophy degree, with an emphasis on Education, from the University of Chicago. The degree, achieved after many years of hard work, was an accomplishment of which she and her family could not have been prouder.

As an undergrad, Millie was introduced to Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., pledging Lambda Chapter in 1961, on the line known as Nine Fine Pyramids. A dedicated member of DST, she served on the Founders Day Committee and the Executive Board. For many years, she carried out her favorite duty as chapter photographer. Even as illness slowed her down, she continued to show up faithfully to document sorority events. Millie could always be counted on to display her sorority colors in clothing and belongings, and was known for her extensive collection of Delta paraphernalia. Even as her mobility lessened, she continued to participate in Delta gatherings, looking forward to every event.

While still a young teacher, Millie accepted a blind date with Jack Conley, also a young teacher, who had moved to Chicago after graduating from Langston University in Oklahoma. The result of this date was a 50-year marriage that began on June 25, 1967 and ended with Jack’s passing in 2017. Millie and Jack were together constantly, supporting each other through various educational, professional and social endeavors, and complementing each other’s personality. They enthusiastically embraced roles as secondary parents to several generations of nieces and nephews and the offspring of close friends, by guiding, coaching, and touting their accomplishments. Known as “Uncle Jack and Aunt Mil,” the Conleys could always be relied on to provide comfort, advice, encouragement and support whenever needed.

Millie had a variety of interests, including photography, calligraphy, tennis, reading and genealogy. She collected and shared pictures, books and family documents, and was acknowledged as the family historian of her generation. She researched and gathered historical information on both sides of her family and even maintained communication with distant aunts, uncles and cousins in the extensive Watkins clan. She leveraged Facebook to send felicitations whenever the situation called for it.

Millie loved her pictures.

Her favorite pastime was taking candid snapshots, regardless of whether the subject was in the mood, an indication of her unconditional approval of her loved ones.

Millie leaned on a strong faith to sustain her through challenging times. She was baptized at Woodlawn AME Church as a child, was a member of Christ Universal Temple, and joined Good Shepherd United Church of Christ in her later years. Millie was a member of CARA (Chicago Area Reading Association). She served as President of Pi Lambda Theta, an honor society at the University of Chicago and participated in RIF (Reading is Fundamental), an organization providing free books and literacy resources to children.

When thinking of Millie, friends often recall her hearty laugh and excellent diction (honed through early speech training). She will be remembered for her loyalty to friends, her passion for learning, and her devotion to family. Fondly cherishing Millie’s memory are her sister-in-law Marva Watkins, niece Teri Watkins (Abraham Diaz Sr.) and nephew Michael Watkins (Michelle), several generations of nephews and nieces: Andrew Condic, Amy Henry (Tim), Annabelle Millicent Davis (Martin), Abraham Diaz, Jr. Aaron Diaz, Christopher Watkins, Maya Watkins, Jayden Hawkins and Nova Henry. Holding her memory dear are her sisters-in-law Judith Williams, Priscilla Conley, Sandra Posey, and Michelle Boldin. Also cherishing her memory are godchildren Michelle and David Twine, Richard Berry, Tanya Thompson, Marshall Jackson, and Patrick and Monique Goosby.

A memorial will take place on April 15 at the Church of the Good Shepherd, 5700 S. Prairie Ave., Chicago, IL. It begins at 11 a.m.

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