Sylvia Spillman

Published 2:35 pm Friday, August 9, 2019

Sylvia Jean “Gi” Dunaway Spillman passed peacefully from this life on Aug. 4, 2019, at her home in Covington.

Sylvia Jean is survived by her daughter, Tonda Spillman Collett; her son, Donald Allen Spillman (Richelle Richardson); her grandson, Sam Joseph Collett III (Taylor Fernandez); her devoted son-in-law, Sam Joseph Collett Jr.; and her sister, Shirley Stephens (Steve).

She is preceded in death by her husband, Donald Lee Spillman; her father, Ira Dunaway; mother, Lou Etha Smith Dunaway; her brothers, T.C. Dunaway, William Dunaway, Oveid Dunaway, Glen Dunaway, Hildria Dunaway, and Ira Dunaway Jr.; and her sisters, Lanelle Bulloch, Ruth Moffett, and Kathleen Saunders.

Sylvia Jean Dunaway was born in Bogalusa on Dec. 31, 1933, as the youngest of 11 children. She married the first love of her life, Donald Spillman, on Oct. 26, 1956. After Sylvia’s marriage to Donald, the two welcomed their first child, Tonda, into the world on Aug. 11, 1957. Thereafter, on Feb. 4, 1970, Donald and Sylvia Jean had their second child, Don. Through the births of her children, Sylvia’s love expanded. In 1990, the death of her husband irrevocably altered her life, and she would never remarry. However, as is often the case, out of tragedy come hope and joy. Merely months later, she assumed the most prideful role of her life, when she became “Gi” to her grandson, Sam III. Gi spent the formative years of her grandson’s life never far from his side, and was a constant fixture in his life for the remainder of hers.

Gi learned the value of hard work at a young age, and this trait followed her for the rest of her life. She worked for the telephone company, South Central Bell, in Bogalusa for 33 years. Later in life, she began working with the Bogalusa City School System. It was with the school system that she found her true professional calling and passion, serving as a Special Education Paraprofessional until 85 years of age, only to retire in May of 2019. Gi was a shining example of passion and work ethic, and impacted the lives of innumerable children and adolescents with special needs. Gi was a devoted lover of animals of all types, and those that knew her knew this well. She spent her mornings drinking coffee, listening to her parrot sing, while her cat lay close by. A woman of devotion, passion, and unmatched strength, Gi remained active throughout the entirety of her life. While her professional work was a priority, Gi prioritized her family above all else and loved them fiercely. In a world that moves incredibly quickly, Gi’s actions were a constant reminder that you can never be too busy for the ones you love, as she constantly inconvenienced herself in order to help her family in any way she believed possible. As she loved them, they loved her. She will be missed in a manner that transcends words, and her legacy of strength and love will live on through her family.

A graveside memorial will be held Wednesday, Aug. 14, at 10 a.m. at Hillview Memorial Cemetery in Bogalusa. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in her memory to Special Olympics Louisiana, and/or the St. Tammany Parish Humane Society.