Mary Ellen, born October 17, 1930, passed away November 29, 2016, at 86 years of age. She began her life fully lived in Jonesville, NC, the 9th child of William Asa Hollemen; the only child of his marriage to Pearl Smith Hollemen. Raised on the family 'home place,' her time in the tobacco fields surely helped fuel her drive to work and fund her way through higher education at Mars Hill and Women's College (UNCG), the first in her family to earn a college degree. Following in her much-admired father's footsteps, she began a career...
Mary Ellen, born October 17, 1930, passed away November 29, 2016, at 86 years of age. She began her life fully lived in Jonesville, NC, the 9th child of William Asa Hollemen; the only child of his marriage to Pearl Smith Hollemen. Raised on the family 'home place,' her time in the tobacco fields surely helped fuel her drive to work and fund her way through higher education at Mars Hill and Women's College (UNCG), the first in her family to earn a college degree. Following in her much-admired father's footsteps, she began a career in education. As a schoolteacher in Greensboro she was introduced to a dapper young engineer, Henry Odom. In August 1955, they married and over the span of 13 years had 4 children. Hank and Mary Ellen's home was a welcoming place to all. It was rare the dinner table did not include someone needing a place of respite or any of the many international students for whom the Odoms were a home away from home. Mary and Hank were servant leaders in the work of loving people of all races and walks of life. The work they began as a host family for international students support eventually grew to an existing program throughout the NC Baptist Convention. In the early 1960s, they were instrumental in the bold stance of Immanuel Baptist Church becoming an integrated congregation.
In addition to traditional classroom teaching, Mary Ellen completed a Master's in Counseling in 1973, and for 18 years served as Guidance Counselor at Northwest Junior High. Being remembered by her former students was one of her great delights. Always she was a teacher. She also taught water exercise class for those with fibromyalgia and English as a Second Language. For years she taught the TEL Sunday School class at Immanuel, now known as 'The Mary Class' in honor of her commitment. A lifelong Baptist, she was a leader in the Women's Missionary Union and it was her daily mission work to share the gospel; she led many people to faith in Jesus Christ.
Mary and Hank shared 40 happy years until his too-early death in 1995. In 1998 Mary Ellen's life was further enriched when she married longtime friend and fellow church member, Thomas E. Burgess, Sr., combining his loving family with her own. Mary and Tom lived their last 8 years at Brookridge Baptist Retirement Community in Winston-Salem. Mary made friends with all and enemies with none, and no one was above her giving them a chore to do. (Ask the cousins about the post-Thanksgiving dinner when Mary handed out rakes and assigned portions of the yard to clean.) She grew a great vegetable garden and canned its goodness, was a fierce Chinese Checkers opponent and remembered everyone's birthday. Never idle and with the good of others her priority, Mary Ellen gave care and compassion to the places of the world that she touched. To carry on her legacy are her children and their spouses Ben Odom, (Carol), Janice Odom (Doug Long), Susan Midgett (Rob), Christine Odom Ringuette (Joe); three grandchildren, Wren Bruton, Jameson and Mary Kathryn Midgett; step-children, Tammy Burgess (David Rowland) and Eddie Burgess; beloved nephews, nieces and cousins, countless friends, and a hungry possum.
The family extends its deepest gratitude to the staff at Brookridge and at Beacon Place Hospice for their loving care and support of Mary Ellen and her family.
Please join us in celebrating Mary Ellen's life on Saturday, December 3rd, at Immanuel Baptist Church, 2432 W. Gate City Blvd., Greensboro, NC. The family will greet friends from 11 AM to 12:45 PM followed by the service at 1PM. Interment will follow at Guilford Memorial Park.
Memorials in memory of Mary may be made to daughter Chris' work with Dress for Success, 375 Buxton St, Winston-Salem, NC, 27101; daughter Susan's work with an orphanage in Haiti, Free The Kids, Inc. (designation: medical clinic), 5704 W. Market St. #8947, Greensboro, NC, 27419; and do as Mary would have done, befriend an international student or new immigrant to your community, care about the least of these, and love generously.
Online condolences may be made at www.haneslineberryfuneralhomes.com. Hanes-Lineberry N. Elm Chapel is assisting the family.