Cover photo for Patricia Lilley's Obituary
Patricia Lilley Profile Photo

Patricia Lilley

d. March 11, 2024

Well-known local jeweler Patricia (Pat) Sommer Lilley died on March 11 at age 95.

Pat Lilley was an artist, a jewelry designer, a businesswoman, a volunteer — but most of all a mother and grandmother. As the parent of seven boys and three girls, she was the matriarch of a huge clan. She was renowned for her artistic skills and her unlimited love for her extended family, their friends and her friends. Her door was always open, no matter who appeared at it. Pat made the Lilley home a great place for her kids and their friends.

She was a very small woman who left a large footprint. She left rich legacies of her family and her jewelry, legacies that will outlive us all.

Pat worked her way through college, painting signs and designing logos for Austin, TX businesses. She and her late husband, James (Jim), moved to Roswell in 1954, after both graduated from the University of Texas-Austin. Jim ran a Sherwin-Williams paint store for decades; Pat ran the family.

While raising an ever-growing family, Pat used her energy and Bachelor of Fine Arts degree to become involved in the community. She volunteered in many venues, including the church, school organizations and St. Mary’s Hospital Auxiliary. She painted signs whenever asked, and some of them hung in the old St. Mary’s for decades. She coordinated art projects, ran school events and organized a special art project at Eastern New Mexico Medical Center to honor her father. She started and operated a bus system for St. Peter’s Catholic School. She managed her kids’ lawn-mowing business and ran a firewood sales business. She typed up advertisements on cards, then took her children door-to-door selling firewood, helping them split, load, deliver and stack the wood. Pat drove the family pickup to deliver and retrieve the kids, lawn-care equipment and wood, until her oldest was able to drive.

In 1973, Pat took a silversmithing class, which launched an almost 50-year career in jewelry making. She operated under the name LilleyCraft and became a staple on the arts and crafts fair circuit. She was known for creating distinctive designs, mostly in sterling silver. Pat loved to trade her jewelry for paintings and pottery made by other exhibitors. She was selected to several juried art shows in New Mexico and Texas, and received awards for her designs and silversmithing. Her “workshop” was her dining room, from which she carved out a section to work and would still parent, cook, clean and answer the door. Her love of making jewelry was exceeded only by her love for her family (and perhaps her love of pulling weeds in the yard).

Pat was an avid sports fan since her children were small. (She wasn’t just a sports fan. She was knowledgeable, never hesitant to discuss the level of play, coaching or refereeing.) She could be seen going to Little League games with one child in her arms, one holding her hand and one hanging on to her skirt. That love of sports continued until her death. She was always cheering on her kids, grandchildren and great-grandchildren at games, meets and matches. She almost always had the television tuned to sporting events. She got many laughs when telling people her husband was the religious fanatic and she was the sports fanatic.

Her devotion to family included attending whatever extracurricular events her progeny were involved in — music and dance recitals, science fairs and academic activities.

Pat was a devout Catholic, which carried her through the trials and tribulations of parenting her (sometimes difficult) children and helping raise grandchildren. She was rewarded by their achievements. A high school valedictorian, she insisted on academic excellence, working with her kids daily to make sure all projects and homework were done to perfection. The result was two valedictorians, one salutatorian, nine college graduates (eight from New Mexico State University), several post-graduate degrees and universal success in their chosen professions. Her children carried on that tradition. Several grandchildren were also valedictorians, and many obtained college and post-graduate degrees and/or became successful in their occupations.

Pat masterminded and hosted annual extended family events — Easter egg hunt, Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebrations. The legendary Christmas Eve gift opening left new in-laws mouths agape, as the festivities had to be paused and then resumed after removal of the two-foot layer of gift boxes, bows, ribbons and torn wrapping paper that covered the living room. This was after the family attended Christmas Eve Mass, which often included one or more of the kids or grandkids playing a role in the pageant. On Christmas morning, the kids and grandkids lined up (youngest to oldest), and the door to the living room was opened so everyone could rush in to find what Santa had delivered. The family rummaged through the piles of gifts, picking what they liked, under Pat’s direction. “I think that is for (insert intended recipient),” she would say. Beginning in the 1950s, Pat created designs and cut the film for the recognizable annual Lilley Christmas cards, which she and Jim printed with a homemade silkscreen printer. Her daughter, Ann, continues the tradition. Pat also was an unparalleled mother-in-law, capturing the love of those who married into the family.

Pat did not seek recognition, though she did receive the Roswell Mother of the Year award in the late 1960s. As far as those who knew her were concerned, she was Mother of the Year every year.

Pat was born on September 19, 1928, in Minneapolis, MN, the only child of Dr. Arno and Alice Sommer. She grew up in tiny Elmore, Minnesota, where her father was a country doctor. One of her childhood friends was former Senator and Vice President Walter Mondale. She followed her father to Texas, enrolling in UT-Austin. Pat’s father ultimately achieved fame as the head of radiology at Scott & White Hospital in Temple. “Doc” Sommer later married Eunice Eberts, and Pat gained two siblings — the late Dr. Jack Eberts (survived by his wife Joyce of Temple, TX) and Jean Withers of Santa Fe, NM (widow of the late John Ed Withers).

She was preceded in death by her husband of 70 years — Jim, who was a well-known community leader and volunteer in Roswell. She also was predeceased by her parents and one great-granddaughter.

Pat is survived by her children — Joe Mathis-Lilley (Sue) of Ft. Collins, CO; Michael (Diane) of Las Cruces, NM; Frank (Jolene) of Lubbock, TX; Chris (Jerra) of Las Cruces; Thomas (Cathy) of Roswell; Ann Jaramillo (Mike) of Lubbock; Dan (Lisa) of Las Cruces; Monica Reynolds (Chris) of Las Cruces; Jess (Bernadine) of Las Cruces, and Kay of Las Cruces. She also is survived by 26 grandchildren, 40 great-grandchildren and six great-great grandchildren.

The Lilley family expresses its gratitude to Flavia Marquez, Maritza Rangel and the many other dedicated home caregivers for their loving care of Pat.If desired, donations in lieu of flowers may be made to Spring River Corridor Foundation (PO Box 1300, Roswell, NM 88202) for Roswell beautification projects; the Arno W. Sommer Radiology Graduate Medical Education Fund (Baylor Scott & White Foundation/ Fund 62355, 2401 S. 31st St., Temple, TX 76508); or your favorite charity.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Patricia Lilley, please visit our flower store.


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