September 20, 2023 at 9:15 a.m.

"It's an Honor": June Gilliland Named 55th Annual Hope Heritage Days Grand Marshal

By JENN WILLHITE | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Inspiration, energetic, mother, grandma and matriarch are just a few words family and the community use to describe Hope resident June Gilliland.

And this weekend, the 95-years-young Gilliland will add Grand Marshal of the 55th Annual Hope Heritage Days to the list.

Her grandson, Brent Berkenstock, nominated Gilliland for the honor simply because it seemed the natural thing to do. After all, she’s served as an inspiration to so many in the Hope community since she first moved here in 1942.

“At 95 years old, she is the matriarch of our family and amazes us each day with her attitude and life,” Berkenstock says. “She’s always been involved with something to do with Hope. Grandma has always made time to be involved with each of our lives individually.”

And she makes amazing homemade noodles, he adds, and became known as the “Noodle Lady” following her venture of making noodles to sell in an effort to help her granddaughter raise money for a school trip in 2002.  

Gilliland is also the lone surviving member of the Hope High School Class of 1945, Berkenstock says.

Born in 1927 and raised in the Atterbury/Edinburgh area of Johnson County, Gilliland says her family moved to Hope when her father Hubert Renner farmed. When Renner retired from farming and the family later moved west of Taylorsville, Gilliland stayed in Hope.

“I married a Hope fella at the time – Harold Gilliland,” she says.

The couple had four children, all who still live in the area, but would later divorce in 1967. 

Gilliland continued to live in Hope following her divorce and went to work with Public Service, she says.  After nearly 25 years of service, she retired in December 1989. But her retirement wasn’t conventional.

“I went to work at the Hope Star Journal and was there for about 10 years,” Gilliland says.

Initially, Gilliland began her work with the newspaper when Charlie Biggs was at the helm. After a few years, she would leave but return and work with Larry Simpson for a short time before Simpson's death in 2014.

“I worked on the computer printing out the content we used in the paper,” she recalls. “It must have been in the early-mid 2000s when I quit working there prior to Larry’s passing.”

All the while, she maintained active involvement with her sorority Kappa Kappa Sigma- RHO Chapter – an affiliation she maintains to this day – as well as being a member of the Moravian Church.

She readily admits the town of Hope and its people are why she’s chosen to stay in the community for more than 80 years.

Gilliland has attended the Hope Heritage Days celebration since it began, she says. Looking back, she recalls making candied apples during her Sunday school class at the church that would later be sold at the annual festival.

“After I joined the sorority, we had a booth and we did cookies,” she says. “Now, our sorority does the funnel cakes. Now, between the church and sorority, not that I’m that busy, it keeps me going.”

She says growing up on a farm is what really instilled her with a strong work ethic and what would appear to the outsider as boundless energy.  After all, movement keeps you young, she says.

“You gotta keep moving and stay active,” she says.

However, there are days when she doesn’t have as much get-up and go, she says, and those days she takes it easy relaxing.

It was one of those laid-back kind of days in early July.   

Everyone was gathering for the town’s Independence Day celebration and Gilliland recalls she wasn’t going to go. After all, she just lives a short way from the Town Square, so she gets a front-row seat to festivities and all the goings on that happen downtown.

“I wasn’t going to go, but the family insisted I come down,” she says. “I was sitting back in a chair, and they told me what it was, I just couldn’t believe it.”

As she practices her wave ahead of the parade and looks forward to seeing everyone, Gilliland says those who come to the festival can find her hanging out alongside her sorority sisters.

“I imagine I will be around the sorority booth the majority of the time,” she says. “I hope the weather is beautiful like it is now… and that we have a nice big crowd again this year.”