McGEHEE — McGehee, Arkansas has lost a beloved citizen and the last member of its founding family. Ouida Riley McGehee died on Monday, November 26, 2012 at McGehee Hospital. Ouida Riley McGehee was born in Tallulah, La. to the late James Cooper and Beatrice Welch Riley, and moved to McGehee, Ark. with her family shortly thereafter. She graduated from McGehee High School and Baptist Memorial Hospital School of Nursing in Memphis. Ouida served in the Cadet Nurse Corps. Her name is inscribed on the Women in Military Service Memorial in Washington, D.C. Her nursing career included service in St. Louis, Mo., Helena, Ark. and in McGehee for Drs. Charles Leverett and Swan B. Moss and as director of nursing at McGehee-Desha County Hospital.
In 1957 Ouida married Wiley A. McGehee, Jr., grandson of town founder Abner McGehee, until his death in 1975. Upon her husband’s death Ouida became president of the McGehee Farm and Real Estate Co. and took on the responsibility of management of the McGehee family interests. In 1980 during the City of McGehee’s Railroad Days festival, Ouida suffered a severe stroke, the effects of which she lived with for the following 32 years.
In spite of her disability Ouida not only was able to continue management of the family business but continued her participation and contributions to community activities. After her husband’s death Ouida found herself in a position of opportunity to benefit her community in many ways. She and her mother-in-law, Marnette Wolfe McGehee, made donations of land that enabled the city to establish the new High School, Vo-Tech School, baseball field and the Wiley A. McGehee Memorial Park.
A once avid and talented golfer, Ouida was honored by her community by the creation of the Ouida R. McGehee Annual Golf Tournament at the Delta Country Club and was honored in 1978 with the McGehee Area Chamber of Commerce Citizenship Award.
Her civic contributions included serving on the boards of the McGehee-Desha County Hospital, the C.B. King School, the Arkansas Women’s Golf Association and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. In addition, she was an active member of the Chamber of Commerce and a volunteer for the Red Cross Bloodmobile program.
Ouida was blessed with a vibrant, energetic personality that lit up a room when she walked in or rolled in with her wheelchair. As a businesswoman and director of nursing she ran a tight, efficient ship and was respected and adored by her employees and farm renters. Ouida was generous with her time, talents, resources and, most importantly, with herself.
Ouida was preceded in death by her husband, Wiley A. McGehee, Jr., her parents, Beatrice Welch Riley and James Cooper Riley and sister, Joyce Riley Zook. She is survived by her daughter, June Wolfe McGehee, grandchildren, Molly Veteto, Daniel Gardner (Gayle) and Susan Kennedy (Bobby) and great-grandchildren, Belle and Bob Gilbert and her brother, Cooper Riley (Eva) of Little Rock, Ark.
She is also survived by her nephews, Randy Zook (Diane) and James Cooper Riley, Jr. (Melissa) of Little Rock and nieces, Elizabeth Selzer (Doug) of Dallas, Texas, Anne Ferguson (Gibbs) of McGehee, Bonnie Beth Zook of Austin, Texas and Joy Summons (Andre) of Little Rock.
Also surviving her are her great-nieces and nephews, Alan and Riley Selzer, Olivia, Rachel and Sarah Cooper Riley, Jim and Charles Zook and Catherine Baker, Anne-Marie Ferguson, Carrie Burkhead, Jordan, Johnna and Jada Summons.
The family wishes to thank Drs. Young and Prosser, the staff of the hospital, the nurses with Home Health of Southeast Arkansas and the Wound Care Center in McGehee for their loving care during Ouida’s lifetime. Special thanks and gratitude to Estelle Richardson and to all of Ouida’s in home caregivers over the past 32 years.
Visitation will be held from 5-7 p.m. Thursday, November 29 at Griffin-Culpepper Funeral Service Funeral services will be Friday, November 30 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in McGehee with the Dr. Van Windsor officiating. Burial will be in Tillar Cemetery.
Pallbearers: Mark Day, Stephen Day, Andrew Gill, Andy Gill, Charles Pambianchi, Shawn Simpson, and Steve Simpson.
Memorials may be made to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, P.O. Box 246, McGehee, Ark., 71654, McGehee Desha County Hospital, P.O. Box 351, McGehee, Ark., 71654 or to a charity of your choice.
Arrangements by Griffin-Culpepper Funeral Service of McGehee, Ark.
Online guestbook: www.griffinculpepper.com