Beloved by family and friends, Elia Josephine Lilley Dorsey died peacefully, surrounded by family, on the morning of May 2, 2019, at the Langdale Hospice House in Valdosta, Georgia. She was 89.
The daughter of Glenn Newman and Elma Barnes Lilley, Elia was born on November 26, 1929, in Gatesville, North Carolina. Along with her three brothers and one sister, Elia grew up working on the family farm which had been managed by her family for multiple generations. It was in the coastal region of North Carolina that Elia acquired her distinct accent which she would proudly explain by annunciating the difference between “oot” and “aboot.”
She graduated from Gates County High School in 1947 and attended historic Asbury College, of Wilmore, Kentucky. She was especially proud of Asbury’s Wesleyan Holiness tradition and graduated in 1951 with a degree in Religious Studies.
At Asbury, Elia developed a lifelong interest in the missionary work of her classmates around the world. During this same period, Elia met the love of her life, Robins E. Dorsey, who she married May 27, 1951.
While Elia would spend 20 years as a devoted Special Education teacher, she was always at the side of her minister husband, the Reverend Bob Dorsey. Together and inseparable, they served the South Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church for over 41 years, often serving multiple churches, while raising their two children, Zeke and Robin.
Elia served with Bob in many Methodist churches including Bridgeboro, Berlin, Edison, Clayton E. Miller (Savannah), Pelham, Hawkinsville, Sandersville, Hazlehurst, and Sylvania, Georgia. In each of these communities Elia was known and respected for her devotion to the mission of the Methodist Church and also admired for her personal, handwritten notes to those in need and those celebrating a life moment.
Following her husband's retirement in 1992, Elia and Bob moved to Valdosta, Georgia and became active members of Park Avenue United Methodist Church where she was involved in many church activities including the United Methodist Women’s Thursday Morning Circle, The Fellowship Sunday School Class and was a longstanding member of the Congregational Care Committee. Socially, Elia and Bob were very active and involved with the retired Methodist minister and spouse organization, The Eagles. Her favorite personal ministry was delivering devotional books to local nursing homes with encouraging words and a sparkling smile.
She was preceded in death by her husband the Reverend Robbins E. Dorsey who died in April of 2009. She is survived by her siblings, Glenn N. Lilley, Jr., of Gatesville, NC., J. Harvey Lilley, (Nancy) of Swansboro, NC., Fleetwood B. Lilley (Brenda), of Colombia, SC., and Marie Blaylock, (James) of Fort Worth, TX., a son and daughter in law, Howard Ezekiel and Jessie Dorsey of Valdosta, GA., a daughter and son in law, Robin D. and Sam J. Zamarripa from Atlanta, GA., four grandchildren, Matterson E. Dorsey (Heather), Rex H. Dorsey, of Valdosta, GA., Jane M. Zamarripa (Nicolas Garcia) and Eva L. Gonzalez (Eduardo) of Atlanta, GA., and two great grandchildren, Jake and Addyson Dorsey of Valdosta, GA., and many nieces and nephews.
Services were held Saturday, May 4, 2019, at Park Avenue United Methodist Church in Valdosta. Rev. Craig Rikard and Rev. Jimmy Towson officiated. Interment followed at Union Baptist Church Cemetery in Pitts, Georgia in Wilcox County. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to UMCOR-United Methodist Committee on Relief, www.umcmission.org/umcor
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