Villa Gillis Sierk
Villa Kreiter moved to Keene as a child when her father, Karl Kreiter, was named manager of the Southwestern Junior College farm. Her grandparents had been among the first settlers of the village, and her grandfather L.B. Wallen, drilled the first water well in town. When her family moved to the Concord community west of Cleburne, Villa stayed with relatives in Keene so she could continue school. She completed academy in 1921 and Southwestern Junior College in 1923. At the age of 18, she began teaching first grade at the church school in Fort Worth.
She taught the lower grades for the next ten years in the Concord, Godley and Keene public schools. In 1929, she married Emory R. Gillis, a machinist with the Santa Fe, Railroad. When workers went on strike against the Santa Fe, Mr. and Mrs. Gillis started their own business. Gillis Auto Parts on South Main in Cleburne was a well-known business in the city for many years, and Mrs. Gillis was well-known for her good business sense. A charter member of the Cleburne Business and Professional Women, she was loved and respected by the business community.
She built the structure that housed the company, as well as building and remodeling a number of homes in Cleburne, Keene and Tucson, Arizona. Emory Gillis died in 1949; Mrs. Gillis later married Herbert Sierk, and he preceded her in death. She died in 1992. The Villa Gillis Sierk Scholarship was established by Mrs. Sierk in her will to provide annual awards for Johnson County students with high academic achievement and financial need.