Remembering Billie Osborne-Fears and her Early Childhood Legacy

Throughout much of its history, PEP has been blessed by a partnership with Starting Point and its extraordinary founder, Billie Osborne-Fears. Her passing on Sept. 4 is a heartbreaking loss to PEP and the entire early education community who benefited tremendously from her leadership and passion.

Ann Bowdish, PEP’s former Early Childhood Plus director, worked closely with Billie for decades. “She truly embraced and cared for this community’s most vulnerable children. She called them all her ‘babies,’” said Ann. “She was influential to PEP’s Early Childhood program because very early on she recognized that in addition to developmental and social learning, mental health was important in early childhood. Most people at the time didn’t recognize, let alone embrace, the need for mental health services for young children. Billie helped us develop a new system of care that incorporated it all.”

For those that knew Billie, what made her so extraordinary was not just her exceptional leadership and expertise in early childhood but her consummate professionalism and level-headed approach to strategy. Diane Gatto, PEP’s chief operating officer, had known Billie for many years as a colleague and mentor and said of her, “Women need good women role models – other women who know how to use their power for good without hurting others and she knew how to do that. It’s such a rarity. She was remarkable.”

We mourn the passing of Billie Osborne-Fears and celebrate her legacy as one of the greatest advocates young children our community has ever had.