Thursday, December 21, 2006
Simply put, Marshall County lost one of its best citizens last week.
Mary Walker Jones Penilton died Dec. 12 at the young age of 65, but she left a legacy for all of us.
Three years ago staff writer Sue Watson and I received a great blessing when we visited in Mary’s home in the Slayden community.
We were there to get photographs for a story about Ladies in Fellowship Transition (L.I.F.T.), which Mary organized. We left inspired and with some new friends.
L.I.F.T. brings black and whites from various churches together on a regular basis to enjoy things like food, fellowship and prayer.
“We’re all God’s people,” Mary said. “We’re taught to love one another.”
Another lady there that November day in 2003 was Faye Sanders. She and Mary had built a special, faith-based relationship.
“She was a great friend,” Faye said last week. “She will be missed in the black and the white community, as well as in her church (Hudsonville CME).”
Faye just hopes L.I.F.T. will continue its mission, without Mary.
“Unless someone steps up, it will suffer,” Faye said. “She was so active in that.”
The first meeting of L.I.F.T. took place in Mary’s home with seven ladies present on the first Monday in June 1998. At the July meeting that year 17 ladies showed up at her house for food and fellowship. They met in November of that year at Faye’s and there was not enough room for the crowd. Eventually the ladies began having their meetings at each other’s churches.
“When we meet, each one of us brings a dish and we sit down and talk about what is going on in our communities,” Mary said in the interview three years ago. “We decided on a prayer ministry.”
Following those formative meetings, L.I.F.T. extended its outreach to a monthly jail ministry, a Christmas ministry to seniors living in nursing homes and other types of outreach.
At a meeting in October 2003, the month before our visit with Mary, 65 people attended the L.I.F.T. meeting.
She said many whites and black have always gotten along, and her group was a prime example.
“We are not worried about it (race),” Mary said. “We go on and have a good time in the name of the Lord and forget it.”
“I love them (members of the group),” Faye responded. “They are my friends.”
But keeping a great L.I.F.T. program wasn’t Mary’s only contributions to the county she loved. She was a choir member at Hudsonville CME, trustee, stewardess, evangelist on the local and district level for the CME church, a member of Heroines of Jericho and a member of the H.W. Byers Athletic Booster Club.
I saw her as recently as Friday night, Dec. 8, at Byers when the Lions and Lady Lions played Baldwyn. She was walking around, with her usual big smile, and greeting everyone.
She loved her school, and the school loved her in return.
I wrote a column on Nov. 27, 2003, after our visit to Mary’s home.
It was perhaps the most uplifting 45 minutes I’ve had in my five and a half years in Marshall County as publisher of your newspaper.
Mary talked with great pride about her children and grandchildren. Much of her family lives nearby on adjacent property.
She was all about God and church and family. Mary had her priorities in order. We need more Mary Walker Jones Peniltons in Marshall County.
Funeral services for Mary were Sunday at noon at Hudsonville CME Church Family Life Center. She was laid to rest in the church cemetery. She will be missed by her family and many, many friends - from all walks of life.
Good friend Faye Sanders said back in 2003, “The Lord has gifted this lady.”
Now it’s up to others to carry on her outstanding example of love and caring.
(662) 252-4261 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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