Mary Helen Bowlin Randall

Published 3:30 pm Friday, November 17, 2023

Mary Helen Bowlin Randall passed away peacefully at home on Nov. 16, 2023, at 93 years of age after enjoying visits from friends and family during her last days.

She was born on Feb. 1, 1930, in rural Amite County in south Mississippi, the second of nine children born to Homer Ezekial Bowlin and Ruby Coleman Bowlin.

Her family’s roots date back to the early 1800s in that part of Mississippi.

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Even though conditions were hard at times, as she was growing up during the Great Depression and World War II, most of the memories she talked about were fond ones.

As a consequence of growing up during challenging times, she was very resourceful. She was a great everyday cook who knew how to use whatever food was available to create nutritious meals.

Fascinated as a young child with her mother’s sewing machine, she learned to sew so well that she frequently made clothes for herself and her family as well as for others, who brought sewing projects to her. She took pleasure in making her surroundings beautiful.

She liked to set a nice table, especially when company was coming, and she brought flowers from her gardens in bouquets she artfully placed in the rooms of her house.

She created a home that was orderly and stable for her children as they were growing up, and she loved welcoming her family and friends back home for holiday gatherings. There was always room for all at her table.

Mary graduated from Ford High School in 1949 and married her high school sweetheart, Wallace Randall, later that year.

They moved to Vicksburg where they both found work and began their married life, which extended over 50 years until Wallace passed away in 2002.

Mary worked at JC Penney for some years, then was a full-time homemaker and caretaker for her four children for 11 years.

After all her children were in school, she returned to work at Sears in the audit department. Later she supervised the catalog and customer service functions.

In 1988 she retired early after 25 years at Sears and relished the retired life.

Much of the fabric of her life was woven with threads of service to God through Bowmar Avenue Baptist Church, which eventually became Crossway Church.

Mary served the youngest to the oldest at her church. She took care of babies in the nursery for decades, taught Sunday School for elementary girls, and was active in the Women’s Missionary Union.

Mary came from a long line of great cooks, so anytime there was a meal or reception at church, she was there with something delicious and homemade.

After she retired, and for as long as she could drive, Mary visited the “homebound” in long-term care facilities and in their homes. She would bring them baked treats and flowers from her garden and talk with them about the week’s Sunday School lesson. She loved this ministry, which kept the elders in the community connected to the church family. A favorite activity in retirement was the senior exercise program at her church.

At 93, she continued to attend class three mornings a week. Her 30-plus years of participation in this class inspired others to keep up the effort to stay fit in their later years.

From her youngest days Mary had an interest in plants, especially flowering plants. Even though she had no formal training, she knew the names of hundreds of plants.

Into her 90s, she faithfully fed the birds and noticed which birds were coming to her feeders. She took particular interest in new birds she had not seen before and which flowers and trees were blooming as the seasons changed. Some of her very best times were when her hands were in the dirt.

Many friends and family members have perennials in their yards that she shared from her flower beds.

With just a small subdivision yard to work with, she created flower gardens so beautiful that the local newspaper did a feature story appreciating her gardening talent.

How fitting that she made her departure as the leaves were falling and perennials in her garden were going dormant, as if in mourning for Mary.

She loved her plants, but she treasured people as well, remembering names, connections, and people’s stories in amazing detail, even after decades had passed.

One of her fondest wishes was to live out her days in the house she moved to with her family in 1961 as a young wife and mother.

She was able to fulfill that wish with help from Logan Peterson Peay, her dedicated driver, who became a treasured friend and other GoFer Girls helpers.

Thanks to Logan for all those stops at the ice cream parlor and the donut shop.

Mary is survived by her four children, Jeanne Randall Olson and spouse, Eric, Michael Randall and spouse, Christy, Neil Randall and spouse, Linda and Martin Randall; her grandchildre, James Randall (Danielle), Ashley Randall, Sarah Randall Curtis (Chris), Keith Randall, Steven Decareaux, Cameron Randall and Jacob Randall; great-grandchildren, Trey Randall, Grace Randall, Mason Randall, Grady Curtis and Riley Kate Randall; and siblings Roger Bowlin (Nancy) and Bonita Bowlin Luper (Scotty). She is also survived by many Randall and Bowlin nieces and nephews.

Predeceasing Mary are her parents, Ezekial Homer Bowlin and Ruby Coleman Bowlin; her husband, Wallace Arthur Randall; her grandson, Christopher Anderton Rowland; and siblings, Maxine Bowlin Randall, Elwood Bowlin, Bettye Bowlin Granier, Cathy Bowlin, Bobby Bowlin and Gaylen Bowlin.

On Monday, Nov. 20, services will be held at Fisher-Riles Funeral Home on Indiana Ave. Visitation will be at 1 p.m., followed by the funeral at 2:30 p.m.

Interment will follow at Greenlawn Gardens in Vicksburg.

Flowers are welcome, as are donations in Mary’s memory to Storehouse Community Food Pantry, Box 820914, Vicksburg, MS 39182-0914.