She loved to cook. She loved to read. But, more than anything, Doris Mearl Saling Chiles loved helping others.
Mrs. Chiles, the former executive director of the Columbia Housing Authority, who dedicated 44 years of her life to finding housing for the poor and elderly, died Sunday, Jan. 1, 2006, at her home. She was 64.
Though she was a public figure, Mrs. Chiles is remembered by friends and relatives as someone who knew how to relax and, according to her daughter, Brenda Martin, “could make a mean chocolate pie.”
Books and family were Mrs. Chiles’ loves. When the family went boating, everyone else brought along their fishing poles; Mrs. Chiles brought along a book. Although she never fished, she enjoyed being around loved ones.
“Family always came first. She loved to watch her grandkids grow up,” Martin said.
She was born July 26, 1941, in Mokane, to Fines George and Jessie Martin Saling. She married Robert Lee Chiles on June 6, 1959, in Fulton.
Two years later, Mrs. Chiles went to work as a secretary at the Fulton Housing Authority. She became executive director in 1973, and served in that role until 1989, when she joined the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in St. Louis. In April 1996, she was hired as executive director of the Columbia Housing Authority. She retired on Sept. 30, 2005.
Mrs. Chiles was also an active member of the First Christian Church of Columbia, where she played in the bell choir. She also volunteered for many different groups.
“She has touched so many people you can’t even begin to count them,” Martin said.
Genie Rogers, a member of the CHA board of directors, said she enjoyed both a professional and personal relationship with Mrs. Chiles.
“She was an outstanding Housing Authority administrator and executive director, as well as a very fine person with high integrity and high character,” Rogers said. “I enjoyed our friendship, as well as our working relationship.”
Board member Marvin Kinney said the Housing Authority “made great strides” under Chiles, who was lauded by a city consultant for helping clean up the agency’s “act” after a series of bad evaluations from HUD.
“I can say we were pleased with the job she did as executive director,” Kinney said. “She contributed a lot as a partner with other agencies in the community.”
When she wasn’t busy with the authority, Mrs. Chiles loved to travel. She would go anywhere, anytime, said her daughter, especially if it involved learning about her family’s roots.
“She would even go out of state to work on genealogy stuff,” Martin said. “She had files and files of genealogy.”
Mrs. Chiles also enjoyed taking care of plants, as well as playing cards with friends. She was an avid Cardinals, Rams and MU fan.
“She loved Elvis,” Martin said. In her public life, Mrs. Chiles received numerous awards in her career including: HUD High Performer Award in 2002 and 2004; honorary lifetime membership in the Missouri Chapter of the National Association of Housing Redevelopment Officials; the Order of the Elks Citizen of the Year Award in 2005; the Missouri Association of Realtors HOPE Award; and the 2000 Charles L. Farris Award and many more.
Mrs. Chiles is survived by her husband; one son, Richard Dale Chiles of Fulton; one daughter, Brenda Martin of Columbia; two sisters, Shirley Salmons of Fulton, and Jewell Rutherford of Warrensburg; and six grandchildren. Two brothers and one sister died earlier.
A memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday at the First Christian Church, 101 N. Tenth St. The family will receive friends from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Debo Funeral Home, 833 Court St., Fulton. Services, conducted by the Rev. John Yonker, will be at 10 a.m. Thursday at the funeral home. Burial will follow at Callaway Memorial Gardens in Fulton.
Memorials may be made to the First Christian Church in Columbia, c/o Debo Funeral Home, 833 Court St., PO Box 818, Fulton, MO 65251.