Virginia ‘Gia’ Ann Moor Lillie, 88, found calling in art after varied career

Gia Lillie was by turns a schoolteacher, a women’s fashion designer and a Realtor, but it wasn’t until late in life that she found what she considered her true calling —as an artist and guide for other artists.

A fellow painter, Chery McKinnon of Lilburn, said she was always attracted to Lillie’s works in acrylic, describing the landscapes, oceanside scenes and floral studies as impressionistic, ethereal and vibrant with color. And Lillie sold many of them, too.

McKinnon said she and other artists often went to Lillie’s Berkeley Lake studio to paint and seek her opinions. “I thought her comments helped me to put finishing touches on my work, to make it complete,” McKinnon said.

Lillie gave helpful critiques of other artists’ work. “Gia told it like it is,” said fellow artist Kathy Tusieko of Snellville. “Creative people need that sort of thing.”

Tusieko said the most useful advice Lillie ever gave her was to paint every day “because that was the only way to keep getting better.”

Gayle Morris of Duluth, one of Lillie’s art students, said she was always encouraging, never negative. “Gia said she never saw a bad painting, but she would suggest improvements in a gracious way — like saying, ‘Have you tried this?’ or ‘How about doing that?”’

Having taken fine arts courses in college, Lillie painted a bit as a young adult but put it aside to raise her children and pursue other vocations. It was only years later, when she traveled to Mexico and took art classes there, that she returned to painting in earnest.

Virginia “Gia” Ann Moor Lillie, 88, of Berkeley Lake died Wednesday at Hospice Atlanta of respiratory failure. Her family plans a private memorial service Sunday at Christ Church Episcopal in Norcross. H.M. Patterson & Son, Oglethorpe Hill Chapel, is in charge of arrangements.

An education major in college, she taught school briefly here before she and a friend opened a shop on Pharr Road in Buckhead called Casa Boutique.

There, said her daughter, Elizabeth Lynch of Atlanta, Lillie outfitted some of the best-dressed women in Atlanta with stylish fashions of the time, including some of her own design. “The look Mom strove for was simple elegance, timeless beauty,” Lynch said.

After that, Lillie took a position as fashion director at the Atlanta Merchandise Mart. For four years she produced fashion shows of top national designers’ lines for buyers from major Southeastern stores.

Having settled with her family in Berkeley Lake, she earned certification as a Realtor and specialized for 15 years in selling residential property in Gwinnett County.

A real estate colleague, Marianne McCrory of Alpharetta, said Lillie made a striking impression. "I'll never forget the way she looked when I first met her in 1982 in our small Century 21 office," she said. "Gia was very tall, very regal, in a bright blue outfit with a long, flowing jacket. She always dressed elegantly."

A founding member of Christ Church Episcopal, she was active for many years in its outreach program for the elderly and in its altar guild.

Survivors beside her daughter include her husband of 51 years, Richard Lillie; two sons, Joseph Lynch of Vancouver, Canada, and Kim Lillie of Taylorsville; a sister, Peg Amston of Clearwater, Fla.; and two grandchildren.