Today I received a phone call from my friend, Neal Scott. He let me know that his wife, Tillie, had passed away last night.
A couple of years ago, in February 2009, I had received a call from Neal. At that time Tillie was recovering from heart surgery, and Neal had decided that he should move from the ends of the earth in eastern Oklahoma to a retirement community near Oklahoma City. He felt that they needed to be nearer their doctors, and emergency medical care. He had made arrangements for his son to come and help them move.
When Neal called me that Thursday, there was a sense of urgency in his voice. He said, "I hate to ask you this, but I didn't know who else to ask. I feel strongly that I need to get Tillie to the retirement village this weekend. She has had a small stroke, and the doctors say you never know if there will be another one. My son won't be able to come for few weeks. Would you be able to help us move this weekend."
I told Neal that we would be over Sunday morning to help them move. Daddy and I got up early Sunday morning and were at Neal's place before 8 o'clock. When we looked at what needed to be moved and then looked at my pickup we began to wonder if we could get it all on. I knew that if anyone could it would be my Daddy.
DADDY TYING THE LOAD SECURELY
We were able to put in my little S-10 pickup, 2 beds, a large dresser, bedding, chairs, clothes, kitchen appliances, and a microwave. We were also able to find places for a number of cases of canned food they had. We definitely looked like Okie's and Arkie's. It made me think of the Grapes of Wrath or maybe the Beverly Hillbillies. As we left for the 200 mile trip to the retirement village, we had to stop at the first gas station with air to pump up the tires on my little truck. There was way more weight on the truck than it was designed for. We took it easy on the trip over, because the 4 cylinder engine had a hard time going more that 55 mph. As we drove, Neal kept me entertained with the story of how he and Tillie met, and the early years at La Vida Mission.
AT A REST STOP ALONG I-40
After about 4 hours we pulled into the Summit Ridge Retirement Village. Neal and Tillie were moving into a small but nice 1 bedroom apartment. Even though they wouldn't have the room they were used to and the wide open spaces, they would be so much safer with people nearby to help if there was a medical emergency. There was a beautiful church right across the street from their apartment.
NEAL UNLOADING THE PICKUP AT THE APARTMENT
The next morning, Neal and Tillie were going to drive into town to get some things at the grocery store. Before they had gone far they turned around and went back to the apartment because the roads were icing up. Before long they were completely iced in.
I was so thankful that Neal and Tillie were in a safe place where help was available if they needed it. Their place out in the woods was completely iced in, and there would have been no way to get help if they needed it. I think that God nudged Neal that Thursday and impressed him that he needed to be in a safe place before the ice storm hit. I believe that God is concerned with every detail of our lives, and that if we listen he will guide us. It was great to be able to help old friends and to feel that they had the security of being in a safe place.
Summit Ridge proved to be an excellent place for Neal and Tillie to live. Over the past two years Tillie has suffered from several strokes, but with help and medical facilities close by her time with Neal was extended. She fought a good fight, but finally last night her fight ended.
I have known Neal and Tillie for over 10 years. They moved to this area after he retired. He bought acreage in the middle of nowhere, Oklahoma where he and his family built a house. Neal would have been a great homesteader, as he is very self sufficient. He actually went to New Mexico as a young man to try and claim a homestead. He didn't get the homestead, but he did find Tillie. He and Tillie were instrumental in starting La Vida Mission for the Navajo people of northwestern New Mexico.
The property of La Vida Mission was once an abandoned trading post. In this one-room trading post, the little mission was born. School was held for six students in the crumbling, mice-infested building by Neal and Tillie, who lived in the school building with their two tiny sons, Steven and Tom. Each day Tillie drove the rutted reservation roads to pick up her students, then returned them to their hogans at the end of the day.
In December 1962 Tillie wrote, "Up on the bluff on the Mission grounds a road is taking shape, a 600- ft. well has been dug, and a pump installed. A 24x88-ft. two-room school building is being built according to specifications, with the foundation, floor and plumbing already finished.
"We here at the Mission so wanted a school this year that we relinquished our bedroom for the purpose. To date, we have nine students all busy learning English. Six are starting from scratch. We travel 35 miles daily to get these nine boys and girls. We could get many more, but our funds do not cover the expense of the gas required to traverse such distances, nor does our vehicle have what it takes to navigate these twisting, rutted, sandy-in-spots and muddy-at-times roads."
Neal and Tillie started their married life with a passion for missions and decided that they would follow wherever God led them. During over 40 years of ministry they worked in many places including Jamaica, Mexico and Africa. Neal was a printer by trade, and he managed printing presses in many places. Tillie was a school teacher and always found ways to help others wherever they were. She always had a special place in her heart for kids, from those Navajo Indians at La Vida Mission where her mission work started to the kids of Africa. Her and Neal adopted two children from Africa and brought them back to the U.S. when they retired.
Even in retirement Neal still had a passion for missions and helping others. He was a local volunteer fireman and helped those in his community however he could. He spent several months after Hurricane Katrina helping in a relief distribution warehouse in south Louisiana.
I know that Tillie spent her life dedicated to God and because of that her focus was always helping others. So many lives were better because Tillie was there for them. I am confident that because of the way she lived her life for others and her close relationship with God that Tillie will be in Heaven. I hope to be able to see her there. I hope that the circle will be unbroken.
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I was born in 1956 in Madison, Tennessee, while my parents were attending Madison College. I grew up along the Front Range in Colorado, attending schools in Longmont, Brighton, Boulder and Loveland, Colorado. Two years after graduating from Campion Academy, I married my sweetheart, Regina. We lived in Loveland, Colorado for six years before moving to Mena in western Arkansas.
I love the people of Mena and the friendly easy going way of life here. I have owned and operated my own business since moving to Mena. I enjoy the natural beauty of western Arkansas and being out of doors.
My newspaper column in The Mena Star, An Arkie’s Faith, premiered on January 7, 2016. In March 2017, I published my first book, titled An Arkie's Faith, using articles from the column.