LILLIAN OLIVER, IHM
February 26, 1947 – March 3, 2015
Lillian Oliver, IHM, a member of the Immaculate Heart Community for 31 years, died on March 3 in Pensacola, Florida, from bone cancer. She was 68. At her side in her last days was her beloved friend, Jewel Christie Reynolds.
Lillian was born in Alhambra, CA on February 26, 1947 to John G. and Agnes Mary Oliver. She earned her M.A. in Education and was a credentialed reading specialist. Throughout her teaching career she was especially dedicated to children with special needs and to African American children in Alabama who experienced inequality in the schools.
Prior to her commitment to the Immaculate Heart Community in 1984, she spent seven years in Canada as a member of the Lay Mission Helpers of Los Angeles, working with Indian children. This commitment to the underserved was followed by her life’s work of service to the poor and the marginalized. She worked with teens in detention, with the homeless, with alcoholics. She spent several summers in Atmore, Alabama, working with Alabama Outreach, visiting the imprisoned and actively demonstrating against the death penalty in vigils at the gates of the penitentiary when midnight executions were being carried out.
Her 10-year correspondence with a death row inmate continued with personal visitations for over 15 years. With Lilian’s help, he progressed from a third grade reading level to college proficiency, and she helped him write a book that will be published this year. Through Lillian’s advocacy, he was released from death row, but remains in prison near Birmingham, Alabama.
Keenly aware of racism in society, especially in education and in the justice system, Lillian made working for justice her mission in life. A devoutly religious person, she lived out what she once wrote, “Called from worship into service/Forth in your great name we go/To the child, the youth, the aged…”
Lillian’s seemingly quiet presence belied her passionate involvement in advocating and acting on behalf of the poor and the oppressed. Through her ministries she modeled the Gospel call to serve the least among us.
Through her life of service and justice work, she blessed her students, prisoners, those in need, and the Immaculate Heart Community.
Services will be held on March 10, 2015, at 10:30 a.m., St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Milton, Florida.
Donations to honor the life of Lillian Oliver may be made to Immaculate Heart Community, 5515 Franklin Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90028 www.immculateheartcommunity.org