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Barbara Billups, speech pathologist, church volunteer, and dancer, dies at 65

Ms. Billups was also a dancer and actor who worked with the playwright August Wilson. She died Thursday, Aug. 19, at her home in Philadelphia.

Barbara Anne Billups
Barbara Anne BillupsRead moreCourtesy of the Billups family

Barbara Anne Billups, 65, a retired speech pathologist who was active in her church and danced professionally, died Thursday, Aug. 19, from liver cancer at her home in the East Falls section of Philadelphia.

Ms. Billups was a speech pathologist for Magee Rehabilitation Hospital for more than 20 years and later at Delaware County Memorial Hospital, from which she retired in November 2020.

At Magee, officials described her as “an excellent SLP [speech-language pathologist], dedicated employee and wonderful person,” and “an incredibly skilled clinician” who was much loved by the patients and the staff.

During her career, Ms. Billups continued to study dance and performed with the Ione Nash Dance Theatre.

Family and friends called Ms. Billups “Barb” and said she was a cheerful, “stellar woman of God,” known for helping others.

“She was bigger than a ray, she was like a blaze of sunshine, very vibrant, stylish, funny and full of energy,” said her twin sister, Deborah Billups.

She also participated in different church ministries that served women in homeless shelters and elderly people in nursing homes.

“She had a heart for volunteering,” her sister said. “She would cook meals for people and deliver them. She was the most giving person I know.”

Ms. Billups was born March 21, 1956, to Hallie Earley and John Billups Jr. She was the youngest of the family of five children who grew up in West Philadelphia, near 51st Street and Haverford Avenue.

Deborah, her fraternal twin, was born first. They had three older brothers. Their mother became a schoolteacher after earning her bachelor’s degree in education at age 50, and a master’s degree at 57.

Their father first worked at a company that made headbands that girls wore as part of Catholic school uniforms. Later, he worked for the U.S. Postal Service.

The Billups family spent time between their West Philadelphia home and a summer home in Wildwood, N.J.

“After we reached a certain age, we went to the Wildwood house all year long on the weekends, and we brought our friends,” Deborah Billups said. “We would spend all three months of summer there. We had a wonderful and blessed life.”

The Billupses were members of the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Overbrook Farms in Philadelphia. When they were in Wildwood, they attended St. Simeon’s by the Sea Episcopal Church.

It was at church that Ms. Billups, with her sister and mother, developed a love of theater and dance. All three were active with the St. Thomas Actors Guild.

The Billups sisters graduated from the Philadelphia High School for Girls in 1973 (Class 217) and were college roommates during their freshman year at the University of Pittsburgh. Ms. Billups earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in speech pathology from Pitt.

During their college years in the 1970s, the sisters danced with the Pittsburgh Black Theatre Dance Ensemble.

They also acted with Theatre Urge, where they met August Wilson, who would later become a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright.

Ms. Billups also was a member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.

After college, she wed Robert Morgan, with whom she had two children, a daughter and a son. The marriage later ended in divorce.

In 2001, Ms. Billups married Melvin Miller. She joined his church, St. Matthew’s Baptist Church in Williamstown, N.J., where she was a deaconess and a member of the Hospitality Committee. She also started a new dance praise ministry.

After her husband’s death in 2012, Ms. Billups joined Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Philadelphia. She was part of the Caring Hearts Ministry, whose members visited nursing homes and led worship services.

Ms. Billups enjoyed dancing, swimming, bowling, and golf. She particularly liked gardening at the Kroc Center and was a volunteer at the Philly Goat Project in Mount Airy.

Lauren Michelle Morgan, Ms. Billups’ daughter, said she was a devoted mother.

”Everything we did growing up as children, she was always there,” Morgan said. “She always wanted to be there for every special moment and for every milestone and activity.”

In addition to her daughter and sister, Ms. Billups is survived by her son, Jonathan Robert Morgan; two brothers; four grandchildren; her former husband, Robert Morgan; and several nieces and nephews. One of her brothers died earlier.

A celebration of life service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 31, at Trinity Community Church, 1200 Easton Rd. in Abington. Interment will follow at Ivy Hill Cemetery.