BURLESON -- For the first time since 1963, Ellen Louella Jean didn't renew her state cosmetology license this year.
Mrs. Jean was 80, but it was unusual for her not to keep up her license, because her life had been defined by her work ethic -- and her 61-year marriage, said her daughter, Vicki Bailey.
Mrs. Jean died Monday of chronic lung disease, Bailey said.
Ellen Louella Holt was born July 29, 1929, in Blum. Her parents, John Wylie and Mammie UpChurch Holt, were farmers and reared 20 children.
At a young age, she was picking cotton, milking cows and ironing pants for her brothers, her daughter said. She met her husband, Garland Jean, at school in Blum. She was 18 when they married; he was 20.
Mrs. Jean worked at Convair, now Lockheed Martin, before her daughter was born. When her daughter was 5, she began attending beauty school. She opened Ellen Jean Beauty Salon in 1963. Women couldn't establish their own credit in those days, so her husband co-signed for the bank account, Bailey said.
The salon's original location was on Miller Avenue in the Polytechnic neighborhood. Mrs. Jean later moved it to Mansfield Highway.
Bailey said she began working in the salon as a teenager. "The first lady that ever came to her shop, I still do her [hair] every week, and she's 90," Bailey said.
Mrs. Jean "worked Tuesday through Saturday, and she would cook every night," Bailey said. "Every morning, she cooked my daddy bacon and eggs and homemade biscuits."
So it went until 1995 when Mrs. Jean turned 65. She handed the keys to the shop to her daughter and announced, "I'm retired."
For the next few years, she and her husband traveled the United States, usually in their motor home. They visited Nashville and Branson, Mo., to watch their grandson Shawn Bailey play the fiddle in bluegrass and country bands. They took their granddaughter, Ellicia Bailey, to barrel-racing competitions.
But until her husband became ill in 2009, Mrs. Jean filled in at the beauty shop when her daughter took time off. He died in October.
Mrs. Jean went back to work for a while but limited herself to lighter tasks such as shampooing and rolling hair, Bailey said. She finally quit when she became too ill this year.
Other survivors include a brother, Leon Holt of Rio Vista; and sisters Betty Basye of Cleburne and Elsie Hill of Blum.
MIKE LEE, 817-390-7539