Lillian M. McCanse - 85

4/11/1929 - 10/27/2014

Oregon, IL

Lillian May Griffin was born on April 12, 1929 in Fullerton, Nebraska, to Hugh Jay & Alta Cora (Igo) Griffin. In 1930, the family moved to Donna, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley, a few miles from the Mexican border; Lil became a lifelong fan of Mexico and its people. In her senior year, the Griffin family relocated to LaGrande, Oregon, where "Texas Lil" met James Edson McCanse; they were married one year later, in 1947. They moved between LaGrande & Corvallis while Ed earned an Agricultural Engineering degree from Oregon State University.

When Ed was hired by John Deere in 1957, Ed & Lil moved with their 5 children to Moline, Illinois. In 1961, with all children under 13 and while holding a full time job, Lillian graduated summa cum laude from the inaugural class of Moline Community College with an AA in Liberal Arts.

In 1962, when Ed became the Chief Engineer for Wood Brothers Manufacturing Company, they moved to Oregon, Illinois. Oregon became Ed & Lillian’s beloved hometown. They were involved in launching Autumn On Parade. For many years they hosted the annual neighborhood picnic; Lillian helped maintain the neighborhood history journal. They spearheaded the “Save Woods” movement when Hesston moved Woods' manufacturing to Kansas. Both were passionate about and very involved in the saving and restoration of the Chana School. And for 44 years, they lived in and loved the home that Ed and his 4 sons built in 1969.

After Lillian graduated with a BS in Education from NIU, she thoroughly enjoyed 12 years of teaching 3rd & 4th grades in Mt. Morris. She was known for her special projects, i.e. her decorated panoramic sugar Easter eggs; huge paper mache masks; molded paper-clay topographical maps; units on Mexico with special dishes, dances and songs; and more.
Lillian enjoyed the craft of creating a household. She was a talented seamstress. Her pièce de résistance was the stunningly beautiful white velvet wedding gown sewn for Donna, Rod’s wife. She knitted and crocheted afghans and throws; she canned vegetables, fruits, and pickles; she was a good cook; she baked and enjoyed decorating cakes; she gardened.

Lillian's "Love Affair With The Taco" was legendary - in fact, she wrote that legend! She and a friend began making tacos in Donna when she was about 8 or 9, and even made them for a women's organization fundraiser. When she moved from Texas, she missed tacos so much that her sister sent her canned tortillas! In Moline, she found a source for great tortillas; authentic MexTex Tacos quickly became a family favorite. Soon she was making them for friends of the family, and then friends of friends, and so it grew. In 1968, she opened a taco stand at the Ogle County fair, then added other county fairs, and for one year ran a Mex-Tex restaurant in Rockford. Her introduction of tacos to northern Illinois far predates any of the Mexican fast food restaurant chains. People at the county fair stand would say, "I want one of the Texas Tay-co things." Even today, there are people who come to their church's Tex-Mex Taco stand at the Pecatonica Fair just to have the best tacos of the year. Of course, in Lillian's home tacos were -- and still are -- the family meal.

Lillian enjoyed games – especially card games. She taught her children the fine points of double solitaire (how to cheat with finesse.) She and Ed were inveterate bridge players, and for years were members of more than one bridge league. They enjoyed it so much they frequently - and heatedly - reviewed each other’s tactics during the next day’s drive to church.

After Ed retired from Wood Brothers and Lillian retired from teaching, they started a consulting business that provided manufacturing safety seminars and training, expert witness testimony, and engineering design services, while continuing the farming and Christmas tree operations they already ran with son Rick. Ed provided the expertise; Lillian ran the office. They were introduced to computers at age 65 and both became totally proficient with the range of software programs required to run a complex and successful business. With Rick’s help, the business grew into a manufacturing company of tree farm equipment. They sold the business in 1999 and retired for keeps.

Lillian & Ed have 20 grandchildren; they were a source of great pride and joy. Lillian loved gathering them together for Thanksgiving and Easter, special occasions, and weeks at a lake. She TRAVELED with them. With between 7 and 19 grandchildren in tow, she, with 3 of their moms, traveled to Yellowstone, British Columbia, Lake of the Ozarks, Oregon & Washington, Florida, Charleston, and Washington D.C. . She was the force behind the many dozens of weeks that her grandchildren spent together, creating the close friendships that exist between many of them today.

Lillian was fearless. In 1971, when she and two teaching colleagues drove to Mexico, once the family waved goodbye no one heard a word from them until they arrived home three weeks later. When Ed began selling products designed and manufactured for the Christmas tree industry, frequently Lillian (by herself) drove the 27’ motor home to and from the trade shows, towing a trailer with demo products behind. She would round up the help needed to unload and set up. She would manage the booth for the long weekend, demonstrating and taking orders for the Shakees, Stumpees, and Heftees.

Lillian made and kept good friends. Through 2008, she and Ed traveled to all the high school reunions in LaGrande, Oregon, and Donna, Texas. They sent a Christmas letter almost every year for more than 45 years. They gathered with high school friends and cousins in California for a month or more each winter after they retired. And during their many travels, they created new friendships even while visiting existing friends around the country.

Lillian loved animals and always had a dog or a cat – or both. Her dogs especially were treasured companions. She was so attached to their Pomeranian, Otto, that when he died, they immediately adopted another and named him Otto 2. He, too, was well loved and pampered.

Lillian died at The Terrace, Pinecrest Nursing Home, Mt. Morris, IL, on Monday, October 27, 2014, at age 85.

She is survived her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren: daughter Sandi (& David Wood), Audrey Wood [Blake {Brayton}], Loren (& Lindsay Watkins) Wood [Roux, Georgia], Katie (& Matt Znameroski) [Tyler, Ingrid], Marci Wood, Jordan (& Callie Kreidler) Wood; son Rod (& Donna Tichler) McCanse, Betsy McCanse [Zoe Sherbet], KateAnne (& Jon Van Lente) [Susie, Drew, Courtney, Natalie, Conner], Andrew McCanse, Emily (& Amir Rahemi) [Lucas, Braydon], Megan McCanse; son Don (& Jude Bonavia) McCanse, Josie McCanse, Michael McCanse, Cara (& D.J. David), Jackie (& Rae Allen), Hilary McCanse; son Rick (& Becky Jansma) McCanse, Seth (& Jessica Marchbank) McCanse [Grayson], Anna (& Jerome Nelson) [Sebastian]; son Bruce (& Sue Spangler) McCanse, Chris McCanse, Holly (& Mike Banghart) [Clarissa], C.J. (&Angie) McCanse, Heather (& Mike Miller) [Monica], Kristopher Harner [Nathan]; and sister Norma Miller, as well as beloved nieces and nephews. Her parents and her sister, Pauline Pope, precede her in death.

Visitation will be held on Saturday, November 29, from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Chana School, 201 N River Road in Oregon. Lunch will be served at the school at 11:30. During lunch, family and guests are invited to share memories and stories of Ed and Lillian. Stories can also be sent to Seth McCanse ( to be shared by a family member.

A private burial was held on November 8th.

In lieu of flowers, expressions of sympathy can take the form of a donation to the Chana School Foundation, 201 N River Road, Oregon; The Alzheimer's Terrace at Pinecrest Community, 414 S Wesley Ave, Mt Morris, IL 61054; or a charity of the giver's choice.


Sat. Nov 29th from 10-11 AM at Chana School, Oregon


No formal service Lunch served at Chana School at 11:30 AM Sat. Nov. 29th where memories may be shared

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