Billie Payne, a long-time Phoenix resident and socialite, died Oct. 8, 2011. She was 98. Born in Palmer, Texas, she was raised with five sisters by her single mother, Pearl Holden Dillard, widow of John William Dillard.
At an early age, she ventured to New York, where she began a successful career in modeling that subsequently took her to Los Angeles. During WWII she worked as a secretary for Western Pipe and Steel in San Pedro, Calif., which built 61 ships of various classifications, including 12 destroyer escorts. During that time, she quickly rose to office manager under the company's president, H. G. Tallerday, who served on the National Labor Relations Board. She remained in San Pedro until 1945 after the war.
Afterward, she met Bob Payne, a naval communications officer who was recuperating from an injury related to a torpedo sinking his ship in the Pacific, and a few years later they were happily married and remained so until he died in 1988.
Prior to moving to Phoenix in 1954, they lived in Malibu, Calif., where she adopted Huskie, a Samoyed, and the first of many dogs she would care for throughout her life. While there were no children from the marriage, Billie embraced many in her family and of her husband's as if they were her own.
Active members of Mountain Shadows, she and Bob loved ballroom dancing and actively supported various cultural events of Phoenix. She was a "spiritual explorer" and incessant reader on the subject, with an uncanny sense of people. Unique in many respects, she was once described as having the "mind of a hippie and elegance of a socialite."
A deeply independent woman, she chose to live her life that way until she died. She was dearly loved and will be missed by all.