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Doris June Gilbert, Chaplain

Doris June Gilbert, Chaplain, 93, of Amarillo, Texas passed away on May 23, 2023.

Memorial services will be at 4:00 P.M., Friday, May 26, 2023, in the Boxwell Brothers Ivy Chapel with Rev. Corky Holland officiating. Private burial will be at Llano Cemetery. Arrangements are by Boxwell Brothers Funeral Directors, 2800 Paramount Blvd.

Doris was born in Houston, Texas, on March 8, 1930, to Dorothy and Henry Lyles. She was the only child born into a dysfunctional family, spending her formative years in the world of books. Her favorites were The Swiss Family Robinson and Tarzan of the Jungle. She spent a great deal of time with adults, so I never really did “childish” things. Her parents divorced when she was 10 years old and she went to live with an aunt. The following year, her aunt left to join her soldier boyfriend in Washington State. Doris then moved in with a Chinese couple who ran a restaurant. They allowed her to help in the restaurant for her room and board while I attended school.

In February 1944, she saw a poster of Uncle Sam saying, “I want you.” This spoke directly to her – somebody wanted me! Doris went to a recruiting office and tried to enlist but was told that she was too young. She then found another recruiting office and told them that she was of age but didn’t have a birth certificate. She was given a form to fill out to obtain a delayed birth certificate and forged the necessary information with the help of a friend’s mother. The certificate was accepted at the recruiting office, Doris passed the physical and mental tests, and was sworn into the Women’s Army Corps on March 5, 1944, just before her 14


birthday. She was sent to Fort Des Moines, Iowa, for basic training. The training was tough, and many times she wondered what she had gotten herself into! However, after a while, she adjusted to the routines and made friends in her barracks, she began to feel she had found her place in the world.  After completing basic training, Doris was sent to Fort Myer, Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington, D. C. While at Fort Ager, she was trained and served as a medical corpsman, and later as a dental technician.

When they received passes, Doris and her friends would go to D. C. She remembered walking five miles around the newly completed Pentagon and walking the 669 steps to the top of the Washington Monument.

In November of 1945, Doris was called into her commander’s office. He showed her a letter from her mother that stated her real age. Doris flatly denied that she was that person. However, the fingerprints taken at school at the beginning of the year were her undoing. No matter how she begged, she was told she must be discharged.

Doris was shipped to Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas, for discharge in February of 1946. She received an honorable discharge by reason of minority about a month before her 16


birthday, after serving nearly two years. General Eisenhower was visiting Fort Sam at that time and was presenting discharge papers to about twenty soldiers. Doris was among the twenty. The general shook her hand, grinned at her and said, “Go home, little girl, and come back when you grow up; we need soldiers like you.” With many tears, she boarded a train for Houston, leaving friends and memories that are with her to this day.

During the next year, she obtained her GED and enrolled in the University of Houston on the GI Bill. She met her future husband at the university. He was studying to enter law school. They were soon married, and after completing their educations, became parents of seven sons and one daughter.

While her husband, Donald Slatten, pursued his law career, she worked as a juvenile probation officer in Harris County, Texas. She soon saw the need for a facility for pre-delinquent girls whose only crime was a dysfunctional family life that they had run away from. Doris enlisted the help of influential people in the court system and the field of child abuse prevention. Together they established Meadowbrier Home for Girls, where she served as the executive director for eight years.

After her husband suffered a series of major heart attacks, they were forced to change their lifestyle, so they moved to a small ranch in northeastern New Mexico. Doris completed training as an obstetrical technician and worked in the delivery room of a local hospital. She worked her way up and became the assistant CEO of the hospital. Later, Doris was appointed a deputy medical investigator for Mora and San Miguel Counties in northern New Mexico.

Her husband died of cancer and heart disease in 1990. She then moved to Amarillo, Texas, to be near her children. Doris was unhappy with doing nothing, but unwilling to work full-time, so she volunteered at the Amarillo Police Department where she became the volunteer coordinator. She was assigned to work with a handsome lieutenant by the name of Merrell Gilbert. They worked together for a year and were married on March 13, 1993, in Amarillo, Texas.

Merrell retired after 25 years, and they became volunteer chaplains for the police department and the local sheriff’s department. They soon established their chaplaincy and called it the Cross and Badge Ministry. Together they served the DPS, Randall County Sheriff’s Department, and Amarillo Police Department for 42 years as volunteer chaplains. They traveled to a five-state area to assist law-enforcement agencies in establishing chaplaincy and volunteer programs. They also served as law. enforcement consultants for the Baptist General Convention of Texas. They have a blended family of nine sons, one daughter, and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Six of her sons served in the military, two in the Army and four in the Marines.

She was preceded in death by her son, Kenney Slatten; grandson, David Slatten; and granddaughter, Jennifer Nordhavn.

She is survived by her husband, Merrell Gilbert; children, Mike Slatten and wife Donna, Walter Griggs and wife Marilyn, Donald Slatten and wife Mary Ann, Lon Slatten and wife Sue, Donise Thornton and husband Elmer, Larry Slatten and wife Mary, and Barry Slatten and wife Jeanie; daughter-in-law, Janet Slatten; Merrell’s sons, Jon Kent Gilbert, and Robert Kirk Gilbert; and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
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