Ileia Margariette Watkins (87), a Coeur d’Alene, ID resident, passed away at the Silver Ridge Care Center on March 12, 2023. She was born to Thomas and Geneva (Verley) Kirkland on April 9, 1935 in Kalispell, MT.
As a child, Ileia’s family moved around frequently, yet she always considered Kalispell home. She married Al Meek at the age of 16, and the couple had two beautiful daughters, Ruth and Lorrie. Unfortunately, the young marriage soon ended in divorce.
A few years later, after relocating to Idaho, Ileia became pen pals with Julius “Bert” Watkins while he was serving in the U.S. Navy. The couple fell in love while Bert was home on leave. They married on April 20, 1959, and welcomed two additional beautiful daughters, Merry and Jean Gay. The Watkins family moved around in their early days, notably residing in St. Maries, ID, and the Benewah Valley before buying 160 acres near Plummer, ID, on the Agency Road. This is where Bert and Ileia proudly ran a cattle ranch.
In 1985, Ileia became the sole proprietor of the Latah Country Café in Latah, WA. After many successful years of business, she sold the restaurant. A phenomenal cook, this allowed her to stay in camp with her husband, a logger, cooking for him and the crew. She loved her role and took great pride in how much the men enjoyed her meals.
Bert was injured in 1996 in a logging accident that left him a paraplegic. The couple retired to their ranch, for the next six years, before eventually relocating to Coeur d’Alene due to Bert’s failing health, where Ileia remained after his passing in 2002.
Ileia was an avid reader and enjoyed all sorts of books; her absolute favorite was her Bible. She also enjoyed fishing, canning, gardening, and visiting the stockyards. She is remembered fondly for her cooking and the beloved family Christmas tradition of putting together a goodie table full of home-baked treats and an elaborate Christmas dinner spread.
Ileia is survived by her children Ruth (Dale) Groves of Fallon, NV, Lorrie (Don) Yearout of St. Maries, ID, and Jean Gay Thomas (Joel Mielka) of Latah, WA; siblings Florence Wells of Kalispell, MT, Marles Reynolds of Columbia Falls, MT, and Merrietta Roberts of Columbia Falls, MT; 14 grandchildren; numerous great-grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. She is preceded in death by her parents; her siblings Clifton Kirkland, Althea Hemmer, and Janice Holmes; her husband Bert Watkins; and her daughter Merry Evenson.
On March 15, 2023, IIeia’s family laid her to rest in the Woodlawn Cemetery, next to her beloved husband Bert and their daughter Merry, in a private graveside service. Her life will be celebrated on Sunday, May 28, 2023, at 11:00 AM at the Benewah County Fairgrounds, in St. Maries, Idaho, in the Walker Building.