Darda Jean (Billester) Burkhart (Nee Wills)
Born May 4, 1930 in Auburn, WA, to Percy and Margarette Wills.
Predeceased by her mother, Margarette Wills, 1972; her Father Percy Wills, 1990; her brother Frank Wills. 1994; her first husband Robert M. Billester, 1975; and her second husband, Dick Burkhart, 2006.
Darda, also known as Jean at different periods of her life, grew up in Vancouver B.C. in a large extended family of father, mother, brother, grandmother, uncles, and aunts. She attended an elementary school there, until the beginning of WWII, when she, her father and mother moved to Victoria, B.C.
There she graduated from Victoria High School in 1947 and entered Victoria College the next year. After her first year in college, she went to work for the Provincial Government of British Columbia as a clerk in the Motor Vehicle Department. After six months there she elected to leave the job rather than compromise her American Citizenship.
Once settled in Victoria, she took piano and voice lessons, studying the curriculum from the then Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, Ontario, now Toronto Conservatory of Music. In 1950, she received an Associate Degree in Teaching Piano.
In 1949, she married Robert Billester, whom she had met several years earlier on a trip with her mother to the Billester family in El Monte, California. After a short honeymoon on Vancouver Island, the couple moved to El Monte. That fall, she enrolled in the Music Department of Biola Bible School in L.A., where Robert was also a student. She graduated in 1951 with a Bachelors Degree in Sacred Music. Robert also graduated from the Bible School in 1952.
During their student days in Biola, Robert was invited to pastor a small church in Loma Linda, CA., which they served for about two years. Darda was the church pianist and soloist. With the help of Mrs. Amanda Billester (Robert’s mother), the couple incorporated the church. In 1952, their first son, Stephen was born.
A short time later they were able to build a house next door to Robert’s parents. His father, Michael, was President of the Refugee Missionary Society, and was gone frequently for several weeks at a time. This arrangement allowed them to be near Robert’s mother and grandmother for their help, if needed.
Shortly after resigning from the church in Loma Linda, Robert was called to pastor a Baptist Church in San Dimas, Cal. At this time, their second son, Dale was born. This was a larger church and required them to move from El Monte to San Dimas. A parsonage was provided next door to the church and so they moved in. They served there for a year and a half before they left the church and moved back to El Monte.
An opportunity for Darda came to work at J.C. Penney Company in El Monte, to supplement the family income as the cashier for the store. After six years, she resigned to join Avery Label, as it was known then, as a Marketing Research Assistant. She retired from that company, now known as Avery Dennison, as a Senior Marketing Research Assistant.
Soon after Darda started working, the Faith Baptist Church in Monterey Park, California, called Robert to be their pastor. Our third son, John was born just at the time of our transition. During the time there, the church grew. Darda led the choir and played the piano for the services. Robert pastored there for more than 2 0 years until his death in 1975.
The family then moved to Fontana, California. Michael Billester joined the family after his wife and son died. This was a large property and a place of healing for each one of us. In 1979, the property was sold and Darda and Michael moved to Corona, California. There Darda met her second husband, Dick Burkhart, and they were married in 1984.
With Dick’s health failing, the decision was made to move to Lynden, Washington, in 2005 to be near John and his family. Dick died the following year.
Darda continued to live in her home and was active in her church and with friends in the community until April 7, 2023.
ADDENDUM BY FAMILY:
Darda Jean Burkhart our wonderful mother passed away on Good Friday, April 7, 2023.
In April 2014, at the age of 82 she wrote and published her first book, “Forging Ahead For God. Approximately one month prior to her death, she completed writing and published her second book “Miracles In The Making”. Both of her books are available on Amazon.