Mildred M. Stephenson

Mildred Morris Stephenson

Mildred Morris Stephenson

In Memory of Mildred M. Stephenson

{The Proverbs 31 Woman}

December 21, 1912–June 17, 2013

[Eulogy delivered at Mrs. Stephenson’s Celebration of Life Service, 11:00 am, June 19, 2013]

We have gathered here today to celebrate the life and legacy of Mildred M. Stephenson who celebrated her 100th birthday last December 21. We are also here to celebrate Jesus Christ the resurrection and the life and to celebrate Mrs. Stephenson’s [Nanny as she was known by family] promotion to the land that is fairer than day.

Mrs. Mildred was preceded in death by her husband Bill, her son Jimmie and great grand son Wesley. She was loved and will be missed by her daughter Janie S. Nolen and husband Charles and Daughter-in-law Betty S. Harpe. Mrs. Stephenson was dearly loved by her three grand children: Suzanne Stephenson, Jennifer Garner [Jeff], Fred Stephenson [Mary] and FOUR GREATS: Stratton Garner {Kayla}, Maggie Cunningham {Charlie}, Stedman Garner and Sarah Stephenson. We have one great-great on the way.

Mrs. Mildred requested a brief service, she said, “You preach your funeral by your life.” I’m not about to say she was wrong. But I don’t call this a funeral. I call it a celebration of life and never before does that word seem more fitting than today. The bible says to give honor to whom honor is due and Mildred Morris Stephenson is due some honor.

She left us her favorite scriptures but I have been thinking about one that is not on the list and I have altered it somewhat,  I have paraphrased and personalized. It comes from Proverbs 31, the last part of the chapter and I used the ERV to help me word my paraphrase. We can call it the JEV if you like, Jack’s everyday version.  I must say that I have never used this scripture in this particular way and I doubt that I will ever do it again.

Mildred Stephenson was a strong person, and people respected her. She looked to the future with confidence. She was truly a woman of faith. She spoke with wisdom and she taught others to be loving and kind by her own example. She took care of her household. She was never lazy. Her children say good things about her. Her grandchildren praise her. There are many good women but she was the best. Grace and beauty can fool you, but a woman who respects the LORD should be praised. {Proverbs 31:25-31, JEV}

  1. I Praise Mrs. Mildred for being FAITHFUL…for more than a decade she has attended our Senior Adult fellowship. Up until April she had only missed one. She was faithful to attend her church. She loved West Hartselle and Bro. Jack. She was faithful in reading the word of God [3 hours every day]
  2. I Praise Mrs. Mildred for being GENEROUS…Mildred Stephenson was a giver…she loved to give. I saw that same characteristic in Jimmie. She always sent us a check to help on our LOTTIE MOON Christmas offering. I know that these kids and grandkids have been blessed by her generosity.
  3. I Praise her for her enduring PATIENCE. In all the years that I’ve known this sweet woman and I have been with them in some tough times, I have never seen this woman agitated, upset or angry with anyone. This may be the most amazing thing about Mrs. Mildred.
  4. I Praise Her for being GRACIOUS. When you look up the word gracious, Mrs. Stephenson’s picture should be there: she epitomizes the gracious spirit. She had the gift of mercy and I don’t think she ever looked down on anyone. Of course a part of being gracious is to be grateful and Mrs. Mildred was grateful. I never heard her complain, did you? She even liked my apple pies.

I could say a lot more but I want to honor Mrs. Mildred’s request. Mrs. Mildred loved poetry and so I want to close with a couple of poems…one you have never heard and one that is very familiar.

Mildred Stephenson

She wore a smile upon her face,

 a walking billboard of God’s grace.

Her words were soft, her deeds were kind,

A more virtuous woman, you could not find.

She was never boisterous, never used force,

Never distracted but always holding a steady course.

She was not flashy or into sensation

But she was faithful to Christ and His congregation.

She was loyal to Christ her Savior and LORD,

If all were like her, we’d be in one accord.

She made her mark, there is no doubt or question.

Mildred M. Stephenson has left a deep impression.

The second poem, her favorite was written 3,000 years ago. Most popular poem ever written.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.

Mrs. Stephenson’s favorite scriptures were: Psalm 23, Hebrews 13:5, Romans 8:38-39, I Corinthians 2:9, John 14:1-4, Philippians 1:21 and Revelation 14:13. Her favorite hymns were He Touched Me, Sheltered in The Arms of God and the LORD’s Prayer.

Mrs. Mildred was an avid reader of the word of God. She was known to spend 4-5 hours per day reading her bible. She read the bible through every year since 1965, 48 years in a row. That is a record that I will not break because I did not begin doing it until my early 50’s. In the last few years, she read it through twice each year. Mrs. Mildred said, “I fall short of being the Christian I should be but the Bible is my guidebook and I pray God will forgive me the many times I have failed.” What about that folks! This woman had an incredible attitude. Her creed was “To do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This woman lived her creed in word and deed. She said her father always taught her…”If you don’t have something good to say about someone–don’t say anything.” I knew her for 35 years and I never heard her say a critical word about anyone, not even her husband   Bill. Folks, this fact alone, blows my mind.

Another favorite poem of Mrs. Mildred’s was THE ROAD HOME

When I come to the end of the road
and the sun has set for me,
I want no rites in a gloom filled room
Why cry for a soul set free!
 
Miss me a little–but not too long
And not with your head bowed low;
Remember the love that we share
Miss me–but let me go.
 
This is the journey we all must take
And each must go alone;
It’s all a part of the Master’s plan
A step on the road to home!
 
When you are lonely and sick at heart
Go to the friends we know
And bury your sorrow in doing good deeds,
Miss me–but let me go.
 
Mrs. Mildred was raised in the Cedar Plains Christian Church. She moved her letter to West Hartselle Baptist Church on January 28, 1979. She served there for many years as their Librarian. When you look up faithful in the dictionary, Mrs. Mildred’s picture should be there, she was Simper Fi. I loved Mrs. Mildred and I love the last verse of her poem above. She lived that verse. She incarnated that verse. I know she faced many sorrows but the one that I shared happened on October 31, 1998, the night her only son Jimmie was killed in an automobile accident. It was a horrible night that we will not forget as long as we have memory. Mrs. Mildred hurt but she suffered graciously. I never heard her complain or feel sorry for herself. She carried her grief nobility and grace. Mrs. Mildred was truly the Proverbs 31 Woman.
 

 

 


In Memory of O.B. Owens…Jan. 14, 1938–June 14, 2013

O.B. "Coach" Owens

O.B. “Coach” Owens

The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand. ~Vince Lombardi
 
 
Winston Churchill said, “I cannot forecast what the Russians will do, the Russians are a riddle wrapped in mystery inside an enigma. O.B. was a man of mystery, a riddle wrapped in an enigma. I knew him for more than a decade before I broke through that outer shell and began to see a bit of his heart. Note: I did say a bit.
            O.B. and I did not get off to a great start; probably more my fault than his. My first impression of him was that he was crass, rude, and a little too direct. I guess it’s ironic that people see me in that same light. OB and I had a minor confrontation in 1990. He gave me some advice that I did not appreciate at the time. I walked away from the conversation convinced in my mind that the man was wrong and I thought that I was right. A few years later, I came to realize that OB was right and that I had been wrong. Actually I was amazed, the words he had spoken to me were like prophecy. This revelation was so clear that I was compelled by conscience to go to OB and apologize. In retrospect, I think what had happened had bothered me a lot more than it did him. He knew he was right. When I apologized, he accepted the apology and after that we became friends. I don’t know exactly how it happened, it just happened.
            Little by little, I began to see the heart of the man. I am convinced beyond a doubt that OB had a heart of compassion but for some strange reason, I don’t think he wanted people to know. He loved and cared for people deeply. OB was old school…he believed in showing people you loved them, not telling them. I was raised by an old school father so I can relate. I have some old school tendencies myself. For whatever reason, OB was not one to share inner feelings.
            Not only was he compassionate, he was generous to a fault. We shared a lot of meals together and he paid for everyone. I tried…I would even insist but it was like water off a ducks back. He was going to pay or else. I did get to buy his supper a couple of years back. June and I saw he and Linda at the Western Sirloin in Moulton. We had finished and were paying and they had just finishing their meal. I told the cashier, I want to pay for that couples meal. She allowed me and June and I got the heck out of Dodge. I did not want to be there when he figured it out. Linda said that when he did, he said, “I’ll get him back”. The next THANKSGIVING we got a turkey and a ham. You could not out give O.B. and that is a very Christ-like quality.
            I’d like to tell you that we talked about matters of the heart and spiritual things but we didn’t. I let OB lead the conversation. We talked about what he wanted to talk about. He picked at me a little about my political views. I didn’t pick at him that much.  The strange thing about the friendship is that we never agreed on anything. What ever I said, he always disagreed. It became a sport to me. I would stand by him on the fence watching a high school football game and I would pick out a player and say something like this…Coach that number 41 is going to be a player, don’t you think? He’d say, “Hey, that dude is going nowhere. He is as good as he’ll ever get and that aint saying much, besides he has a bad attitude, know what I mean. He isn’t worth a plug nickel.” If I had said, “That kid is not worth a plug nickel, he would have said, “Hey, slick, that kid is a winner. He has heart. If I were picking a team, he’d be my first pick.
 
Those who didn’t know him well will be shocked at my third observation…
  1. OB was compassionate
  2. OB was generous
  3. OB was a Sage…he was a wise man
At first, I thought he was a smart alec but I learned that he knew what he was talking about. He had a deep insight into things and he had a gift of discernment that I don’t have. I thought he was too hard on certain people but he knew human nature and he did know a bad attitude when he saw one. It took some time for me to come around but I learned that OB was a Teacher, a mentor and I came to respect him as such. Believe it or not, for the most part, OB talked and I listened. That is how much respect I had for the man.
I do have one haunting regret. I tried to hook up with OB this past year to talk with him about some personal things. I stopped at the florist several times hoping I would catch him. I even went to the house he bought in Falkville, hoping to catch him there. I do wish now that I had tried harder. I will say this: OB’s departure has definitely changed my world and it has given me one more reason to long for the world I was created for. Jesus wept with Mary and Martha…it is good to have a God who will weep with us but it would be sad indeed if weeping with us was all that He could do. Jesus not only weeps with us, He has defeated death and the grave in our behalf and once we reach the other side, He will wipe all the tears from out eyes. That being the case, I will cling to the hope that my friendship with OB will be renewed and on a much higher level. I love you family and I long as I have memory, I will remember OB and cherish his friendship.
 
P.S. Huge crowd at the Celebration of Life Service.
 
O.B. was survived by his sweet wife Linda, one daughter Jonna, one precious and beautiful grandaughter Macy Beth Lee, two sister–Barbara Cherilla and Brenda Mutchler and several nieces and nephews.