RIDGELAND — Private Funeral Mass for Billie Rossie Tonos, 95, of Ridgeland and formerly of Greenville, will be held Saturday, Sept. 5. A future memorial celebration is being considered. The funeral will be live streamed at 11 a.m. via St. Joseph Catholic Church, Greenville, Facebook page. She died Aug. 30, 2020, at Highland Home, Ridgeland, after a lengthy illness. Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Boone Funeral Home, Greenville.
A retired teacher from the Greenville Catholic School system, she will be remembered by family, friends and former students for her vivacious spirit and her love of learning. Born Nov. 12, 1924, in Clarksdale, Billie was the sixth of eight children of Shikralla “Sam” Rossie, a Lebanese immigrant and Nazira Hallal Rossie. She spent a happy childhood with her six sisters and one brother in Shaw. After graduating from Shaw High as valedictorian, Billie graduated from Delta State Teachers College in Cleveland with a double major in English and social science. There, she was class valedictorian and a member of both the campus theater and the choir. Her lifelong love of and involvement with her alma mater earned her the title of Washington County Alumnus of the Year in 2002. After college, Billie began her teaching career, first in Minter City and then at St. Rose of Lima School in Greenville. Billie found her rightful place as a Catholic school teacher and a proud Greenville resident. In July 1951, she married John Michael Tonos of Greenville. They built a home, reared their four children and were active in St Joseph’s parish. A talented choir member and soloist, Billie often sang at weddings and other church events. Billie also worked in family businesses. As a child she had helped in the family store and hotel. After marriage, she worked with husband John at Tonos Grocery and later with brothers-in-law at Tonos Jewelers. Billie found humor and wisdom in dealing with customers, many of whom became like family. In 1976 Billie returned to teaching, this time at St. Joseph’s Junior High School, where she taught until retiring in 1992. Loved by students, she enticed them to meet her high standards and would often offer them a Tonos Bonus. Many former students identify Billie with her favorite saying, “Walk with a purpose.” Billie thrived on festivities. There was no place like hers for the holidays, with game playing, camping out on the floor, relatives coming and going in and out of each other’s houses, and plenty of good food. Her Lebanese dishes and her heath candy were always on the menu. A longtime Greenville enthusiast, Billie embraced everything about the city, especially its musical and literary heritage. She participated in many area Red Cross dinner theater fundraisers with gusto and could often be seen at book signings, concerts and other hometown events.
Billie was preceded in death by her husband and parents; a brother, Dr. Emmett Rossie; and sisters, Louise Rossie Ferriss, Helen Rossie Cissell, Margie Rossie Samaha, Evelyn Rossie, Rubye Rossie Sherman, and Nazira Rossie Chudzinski.
She is survived by sons John Michael Tonos Jr. (Jane), of Oxford, and Samuel Christopher Tonos, of New York; daughters, Mary Tonos Brantley, of Madison, and Laura Anne Thurmond (G.T.), of Starkville; grandchildren, Ginger Tonos Spearman, Will, Bridget, and Matthew Tonos, John Brantley and Kate Brantley (Matthieu Huin), and Liz Thurmond; and three great-grandchildren.
The family would like to offer special thanks for the staff of The Orchard Nursing Home, as well as the staff of Highland Home, both in Ridgeland.
Her family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in her memory to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, or JRS/USA for Beirut at Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, 1627 K St NW Ste 1100, Washington, D.C. 20006.