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Billie Burnett Still Sharing The Faith

Mountain View's "Shell Lady" Turns 97


Billie Burnett – who many know as “Miss Billie” or simply “the sea shell lady” – turned 97 years old Feb. 9 and celebrated with relatives and friends at her home in Mountain View.

On Saturday, smiling radiantly and still glowing from birthday love and attention, she marveled at the event and the display of 86 birthday cards she has received in recent days.

Billie moves with the aid of a walker and shares a home with her daughter Deborah, who has cared for her full-time for the past few years following a heart attack and then a stroke. She moved from her own home next door into Deborah’s residence, and they built on a window-lined studio so that Billie could have her own space for prayer and relaxation, but also a work bench to create the Bible verse sea shells for which she is known.

She still produces 15-20 per day (down from a peak of about 40), using a Micron 005 pen to carefully print a Bible verse on each one. She then trims them in gold metallic paint and sprays each with clear acrylic sealer. It takes about 20 minutes to produce each shell.

The process is more difficult for her than it used to be, and she devotes many hours each day to the project she adopted in the 1960s.

“They’re not as straight as they used to be,” Billie says in reference to her lines of print.

Billie had always shared little pieces of paper with people to tell them about Jesus and how God would help them, but she was saddened knowing that often the paper was discarded. She prayed to God to show her a way to share in a more lasting way.

Having lived in coastal regions, she liked shells and had gathered some. One day, she recalled with clarity, someone gave her a fine point pen and she looked at a shell and thought, “That’s it! That’s it!”

After her habit of sharing the shells was established, people encouraged her to sign them, but the words were not hers to claim. However, she does mark each with three tiny seagull shapes to show they were created by her.

One of Billie’s grandsons went to work in Kansas and saw some of Billie’s shells in his boss’s office. The boss didn’t believe her grandson’s claim that his grandmother had lettered them, but he was soon convinced when the grandson produced additional examples of her work.

“We’ve found them all over the country,” Deb said, thinking of how many are out in the world. “Thousands and thousands of shells.”

Read the full story in the Feb. 14, 2024 issue.

Shells, scripture, Billie Burnett, Mountain View AR, Stone County Leader


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