Billy Joe and Bernice Ellis Irwin Scholarship
The Billy Joe and Bernice Ellis Irwin Scholarship benefits full-time nursing students from Rusk County who maintain a 3.0 GPA and are studying in the Richard and Lucille DeWitt School of Nursing.
Billy Joe grew up in Laneville. He received a Bachelor of Science in agriculture from SFA in 1938. Billy Joe served in World War II in France, England and Germany. After returning home from the war, he received his Master of Science in agriculture from Sam Houston State Teachers College.
A member of the Masonic Lodge in Laneville and Sharon Temple Shrine in Tyler, Billy Joe was a founding member of the Rusk County Mini Patrol and served on the Divan.
Bernice Evelyn Ellis graduated from New London High School in 1931. Just after her 18th birthday, Bernice left New London to pursue her passion — nursing. She attended and graduated from Scott and White School of Nursing in Temple in 1945.
Often called “Bea” by her colleagues, she worked at Henderson Memorial Hospital for many years. In 1962, Bernice became director of the Henderson Memorial Hospital Vocational Nursing School where she taught for 22 years.
After retiring from the hospital, she joined Visiting Nurses of East Texas, a home health care agency, where she served as regional director in 1986. Bernice was a member of the Daughters of the Nile of Sharon Temple.
Billy Joe and Bernice married Dec. 11, 1945. Until Billy Joe’s death on Jan. 17, 1984, the couple lived in Laneville. Billy Joe and Bernice enjoyed many exciting years as members of Sharon Temple Shrine Club.