Jillian Olivia Williams of Hamburg became an organ, eye and tissue donor upon her passing on March 9, 2011.

Her mother, Deanne Mills, shared this remembrance:


When my daughter, Shelby, nominated her sister and best friend, Jillian, to be a Unyts Hero, I was touched. When I learned that she was chosen for the month of October, her birth month, and also the month in which her sister had already been planning a Celebration of Life in her honor, something inside me stirred and I took that as a sign from Jillian.

March 9, 2011. We lost our Jillian when she was taken from this life by a sinus infection that spread to her brain. The seven days that it took for her to go from a migraine to being critically ill and passing from this life to "the next" is still a blur, even years later.

She was a daughter, a baby sister to Elizabeth and Shelby, a big sister to Elijah and a best friend to many. She was an old soul but yet young, beautiful, feisty… and 14. As a young girl she was cheerleader for CSRA and later for Frontier, as well as a lacrosse player there. She loved it and she was good at it too. She was quiet and shy yet strong and opinionated. She was so many things to so many people, many of which I never found out until after she was gone. As if in perfect timing, I would hear a story about how Jillian helped this friend or that friend; she was protective and fiercely loyal, accepting and nonjudgmental.

Jillian would have been 19 this October 8th. She was born a beautiful ten pound baby with a great set of lungs that she wasted no time using.

She talked about her dream of moving to San Francisco to be a sculptor. Although I’m not quite sure where that dream ever came from, if anyone could do it, it would have been her. Jill liked to draw, especially funky flowers, but she was certainly no shrinking violet. Jillian always had a voice, she always said what she thought, whether someone liked it or not. 

She lived by her own mantra, "Stay True." She had a strong personality and was always very “real.” Her favorite color was yellow, she didn't like pink, liked tie-dye, daisies and made her own hemp jewelry; my hippie girl I guess.

She was certainly a force to be reckoned with and being 14…wow, that only made it harder (for me of course). Beneath that tough exterior, she truly was as beautiful on the inside as she was on the outside. Her kindergarten teacher still has her picture taped to her desk all these years later. She loved her. I guess it would be safe to say that everyone loved her. The funeral director said she had over 500 guests at her visitation; the most he has ever seen. The police were called in to direct traffic. So, I guess maybe this is testimony that Jillian is a gift to more than just us.

When Jillian became a teenager, she was quite a force to be reckoned with and although we never got the chance to get past the growing pains and come out on the other side to that “good place”…despite all of that, I think I knew instinctively that Jillian would have chosen to be a donor on her own. Although she was a tie dye, pajama pants, Bob Marley kind of girl, in the months after losing her, I received countless pictures from her best friend…sporting a Donate Life t-shirt, perhaps that was her message...and ultimately her legacy.

That was the beginning of a unique connection that transcends time and space. Jillian’s sisters and I made every decision together and we are all very much at peace with our choice to donate. It was our way of making sure a part of Jillian would live on. The decision to donate was an easy one, there was no question, no second guessing, it just felt right, and it was. We still feel good about it and have not, not even for one second, ever regretted that decision. The hardest part was losing my daughter, not letting her live on.

I wanted my daughter’s life to have meaning. I simply would not, could not, accept that this was all there was. I refused to let Jillian’s story end there. As her mom, knowing that she saved the lives of other people, that she helped two people to see, that her skin hugs babies and burn victims helps me to cope. She may not have had a long life but she truly had a life of powerful significance.

I realize that the only thing you really take with you when you go is what you leave behind.

However unprepared I was, I am truly honored that I was chosen to play a small part in such a big miracle…first, in giving my daughter life, then she, in giving life back.

Perhaps this is the true meaning of paying it forward.



Do you know someone who has been touched by organ, eye or tissue donation?

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