SHELBY - Nellie Blanche Powell, 88, died peacefully on March 1, 2013 at White Oak Manor in Shelby after a long battle with Alzheimer's.
While it may have been a battle that slowly robbed Nellie of many of her memories, she won that battle by retaining her sharp wit, smile and an occasional fist thrust in the air that signaled to all her essence remained with us. Known by many as "Nellie B" or "Aunt Nellie", she was born on Nov. 27, 1924 to George Powell and Mary Hamrick Powell and was a long time resident of Ellenboro. Miss Powell retired in 1985 after 40 years with Cone Mills, her retirement clock and plaque displayed proudly on her wall since then.
If Nellie had a hobby, it was her large extended family. Nellie was one of 10 children and while she never married, it was widely known that after the death of her mother she proudly reigned as the matriarch of the Powell family. It was at Nellie's house that everyone gathered on holidays and where out of town family stayed when visiting. This was in spite of the fact that Nellie was never a great cook. In fact, her refrigerator was usually almost empty and even though from a large family, she never quite figured out that one small bowl of carrot salad and a canned ham was not enough to feed 35 people. Still, we kept coming back because we knew we were welcome. Even so, she could scatter a houseful of nieces and nephews with a single word, making it clear their place was out in the yard, not inside getting "grit" on her clean floor. Over many years, Nellie kept the family connected through her phone calls, visits, letters and the occasional family reunion where she was the main instigator and the family historian.
Nellie was proud of her home, yard and flowers. She had the house built, meticulously overseeing its construction, something that was unheard of for a single woman to do on her own in the early sixties.
Her other family-related hobby was travel. Nellie never favored exotic locations, instead she traveled to visit family, whether it was popping in unannounced on a cousin, niece, or nephew or to visit a brother or sister for an extended stay. On many of those travels, she often tapped a niece or nephew to bring along, giving several their first taste of bus, train or air travel.
Nellie was a longtime member of Bethel Baptist Church in Ellenboro. She also quietly provided gift offerings to other churches, particularly those where other family members were buried or were members.
Nellie had a famously gruff manner and didn't hesitate to speak her mind, but everyone knew that beneath that rock solid exterior was a warm, caring heart -- and a quick sense of humor. She didn't mind, in fact we all know, that she relished being the center of a joke or jab. She could dish it out, but she took it too, with delight.
Aunt Nellie oversaw the lives of many a niece and nephew, keeping up with where they were and what they were doing. She stepped in with a helping hand when she could and even "supervised" when she thought it necessary. She was a caregiver during her mother's illness and didn't hesitate to open her home if someone needed a place to stay. Nellie also had a network of friends that she visited and readily took many of them to the grocery store, the doctor or on errands when needed.
Nellie is survived by her sister, Alma Powell Waters and her husband, John, of Jackson, M.S. and sisters-in-law Eloise Powell and Yoshie Powell. She follows her other brothers and sisters to heaven: Vera Powell Bridges, James (Bub) Powell, Frances Powell McMahon, Walter Powell, Claude Powell, Catherine Powell Bradley, Dorcas Powell Williams and Joe Powell.
The nieces and nephews of Aunt Nellie include: Mike Waters, Lisa Waters, Dean McMahon, Troy McMahon, Wayne Powell, Gene Powell, Ronnie Powell, Greg Powell, Gary Powell, Nancy Powell Hopper, Mary Jo Powell Poole, Cindy Powell Byers, Roger Powell (deceased), Eddie Williams (deceased), Lynn Williams Hensley, Kelly Williams, Don Bridges, Charles Bridges (deceased), Jimmy Bridges (deceased), Earl Bridges (deceased), Susie Powell, Eugene Spratt (deceased), Rick Bradley, Scott Bradley and JoAnn Bradley Fite. Add to those, her many aunts, uncles, cousins, great-nieces, great-nephews and friends and you begin to understand how many lives Nellie touched.
Enjoy that big family reunion in heaven Nellie, you earned it.
The family wishes to thank the many people who served as caregivers for Miss Powell in recent years, including the staff of Sterling House, Carillon and White Oak Manor and Wayne Powell, JoAnn Fite and many others of her family.
Funeral services: Tuesday, 4 p.m. at Bethel Baptist Church
Officiating: Revs. Ad Hopper, Dr. Wayne Blackwood, and Michael Sepaugh
Burial: church cemetery
Visitation: Tuesday, from 3 to 4 p.m. in the church family life center.
Memorials: Bethel Baptist Church in Ellenboro.