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Billie Jean Berne

Billie Jean Berne

Billie Jean Dabney Berne was born in Lancaster, South Carolina in 1938. Although very much a “tomboy” her main interest was playing the piano. Throughout her school days Billie Jean was a leader and organizer of various groups such as Amite Cotillion for girls and a Rainbow Chapter. She was also a high school cheerleader. It was at the University of South Carolina where she met Bill. They were married in the summer of 1959 prior to his entering medical school. During this time she worked as a secretary to the Dean of the Divinity School at Duke University until their first son was born in 1962.

Billie Jean and Bill moved to Lumberton, North Carolina in 1970. Billie Jean was a homemaker, mother, den mother, soccer mom, and basketball mom to her three sons while also acting as President of several organizations such as the Pinecrest Country Club, local and regional garden clubs, Ladies’ Tennis Association, local and regional ladies’ golf associations and the Robeson County Medical Auxiliary. She is a Master Flower Show Judge and a Master Gardner. Now she is a grandmother to three grandsons and has become a baseball, soccer, and golf grand-mom.

Always interested in sports, Billie Jean gave up tennis to become an avid golfer and played in many tournaments including the North Carolina Women’s Amateur Championship for a number of years. She continues to play golf on Bald Head Island where in 1989 she organized and served as Chairman of the Ladies’ Golf Association.

In 1973 Billie Jean and Bill built the first house on the newly developing Bald Head Island (BHI). This was a summer home until 1995 when they moved into a new home on the island when Bill decided to retire. She served on the Board of Governors of the BHI Club from 1987-1993, President of the Board of Trustees of the Village Chapel, President of the BHI Property Owners Association, organized and served as the first President of the Public Service Auxiliary, organized the Friends of Music concert series and various other activities on the island.

Croquet began for Billie Jean when the developer of Bald Head Island decided to introduce a greensward to the Island in 1986. After attending the weeklong instructional school in the spring of 1987, Billie Jean and Bill played in the National Club Teams finishing second in the Fourth Flight. They have continued to play in this event together and won the Championship Flight in 1999 becoming the only husband and wife team to win the national title.

Billie Jean became actively involved in the sport of croquet at the local, state and national levels. As one of the organizers of the Bald Head Island Croquet Club, Billie Jean has served in every office of the club. She became North Carolina State handicapping Chairman and in 1992, at the request of President Foxy Carter, became National Handicapping Chairman. During her term as National Handicapping Chairman the current system for handicapping was begun. For this work she received the Volunteer of the Year Award from the USCA in 1995. She is a Class I Certified Instructor as well as a Regional Referee.

In addition to the National Club Team Championship, the Bernes have won several doubles titles including the Southeast Regional (twice) and the North Carolina Club Teams. Billie Jean was winner of the Payton Ballenger Award in 1995 and was also a member of the Carter Challenge Team when the USA played and defeated Ireland in 1995. She has participated in and won many invitational events. Croquet travel has been world wide — from across the United States to Australia, Bermuda, France, and Ireland.

As well as the love of the sport, Billie Jean cherishes the many friendships that have been made. “without wonderful people like John and Nelga Young, and many others, croquet would not have been the same. Croquet the sport is wonderful but the people are what make it special,” says Billie Jean.

Billie Jean Berne was inducted into the United States Croquet Hall of Fame in 2003.

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