|I feel both honored and humbled to have been asked to write the memoir for my dear friend and sister in the faith, Mattie Lois Barksdale.
To me, truth is never so compelling and convincingly contagious, as when it is embodied in personality; when the word comes alive; when the doctrine finds expression through a dedicated life.
This was Mattie Barksdale. She was one of the most “alive” persons I have ever known. She had an infectious sense of humor. You could not be in her presence very long before a smile would break the lines in your face. A long-faced Christian she was certainly not!
Mattie was out-going, warm and friendly, intensely interested in people; little people, young people, especially older people; all kinds, shapes and sizes of people. She had that unique quality of making you feel at home, a part of the family.
I first met Mattie in the summer of 1952 while serving as associate of First Methodist, Alexandria, and Ed and Mattie were serving our church at Oakdale. Ed had invited me to conduct a youth revival. Mattie was directing the music. One evening, as we were about to enter the service, Ed asked one of those last-minute questions; “Mattie,” he said, “what is the name of that chorus that goes ‘Put your eye on...?” Timing being of the essence to Mattie, when he persisted she blurted out, “Ed Barksdale, if you don’t hush, I’m going to put my hand on you!” When the laughter died down, we had prayer, then went into the service, smiling of course!
This lovely lady first graced the earth with her presence as Mattie Lois Herrod, on July 19, 1922, in Hattiesburg. Mississippi, one of five children. Shortly after, while she was still very young, the family moved to Pedal, which might be called a suburb of Hattiesburg. Here Mattie graduated from high school.
From her earliest years Mattie loved to sing, and she chose music as her major in college, graduating from Southern Mississippi in 1945. In point of fact, two of her “special” talents were her good sense of humor and her music. It was this combination that led to her “claim to fame” with her impersonations of the inimitable “Minnie Pearl” of the Grand Ole Opry. She did her best to become the character she portrayed. As Ted Stanley put it in an article written shortly after her death; “Mattie had a Minnie Pearl imitation that Minnie Pearl would have envied.” And on any quiet, star-studied summer evening, if you listen carefully, you just might hear that familiar greeting; “Howdy...I’m just so proud to be here!”
And proud she was! Of her preacher-husband Ed, whom she married in 1942 while she was still a student at Southern Mississippi, and he was in the Naval Chaplaincy; proud of her son, Don, born to their union in 1947; proud of the rest of the family, her daughter-in-law, Dianne, and those two fine grandsons, Brent and Michael; proud of the people in the churches they served together, all the way from their first appointment to Patterson in 1947, to their last at Covington (with Eighth Street, Oakdale, Parker Memorial, St. Paul (Harahan), Jena, Istrouma, St. Luke’s and Bastrop) in-between, spanning some 43 years!
Mattie, in her own way, believed she had a ministry to perform too; not in competition with, but complimentary of, what Ed was doing in the church. She helped to feed and lead the flock. She believed in, and knew how to get things done; whether it be teaching Sunday school, leading a women’s group, directing the choir, or supervising a church supper.
Yet she never lost the personal touch. Though often called upon to occupy center stage, she just as readily knew how to stand quietly in the wings. No matter how involved she was, there was always time; time to listen to the problems, the hurts, and the pains of others. Mattie believed in being ready; to entertain, to worship, to live! She felt that if we were ready for things here, we would be ready for the hereafter. It was as simple as that.
And ready she was! Sometime in the early morning hours of Monday, January 15, 1996, she quietly slipped out of the earthly temple in which she lived, and took her place in “the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” From Pedal, Mississippi, where she grew up, to the Promised Land of opportunity for life’s completion, this was her Journey of faith and love, and she traveled it well. God grant that all of us will do likewise!
|Source: Journal Louisiana Conference, p. 272, By Rev. L. A. “Andy” Foreman|