We are gathered here now, whenever and wherever you are in time as you read or hear these
words, to celebrate the life of Mary Louise Allen. To most of her friends, to her brother, Charles,
and to my husband, Larry, and the Laurenzi children, she was Louise. To Rex and Dianne, she
was Mom. To her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, she was Grandma. But to me, her
daughter, she was Mama.
This has been a difficult year for us all, and not just for the Allen family. We’ve all had to modify
travel plans, cancel friends and family gatherings, and find new ways to be together that allow
us to touch each other’s hearts while foregoing physical presence. Since our mother’s family
and closest friends live in different states, it would be very difficult to hold a funeral at this time
that would allow us to come together as we wish we could. So, in this spirit, we are joining with
you for this virtual funeral through the gift of a website to provide a lasting tribute to her life,
her ministry, and her memory.
When I went to see Mama after her hospital stay in early March, it became clear to Rex and me
that the mother we knew and loved was not coming back. During that visit, she was admitted
as a Hospice home health patient, so she was able to be cared for in her son’s home, surrounded
by loved ones. My brother was a Hospice chaplain before he retired to take care of our parents
in his own home. And since our father, Rev. James Allen, had received Hospice care in Rex’s home
when he passed away in 2018, Rex and his wife, Dianne, were well prepared and committed to
seeing her through to the end as well.
Little did we know how important this decision would be at that time, but looking back we can
see that God had his guiding hand on our lives. As the pandemic began to spread this year, and
hospitals and nursing homes were subject to quarantine, our mother was surrounded daily by
her son, daughter-in-law, grandson Brian and partner Megan, and their son, Liam. We counted
our blessings that she was not separated from her loved ones or left to die in isolation like so
many we had read about as the lockdowns continued. Even though she could no longer stand
or communicate verbally, our mother was present and understood that she was surrounded by
My brother and I promised our father, James, years ago that we would take care of our mother
after he passed. And because Mama was raised in an orphanage, we promised her that she
would never be separated from family and placed in another “home” again.
Rex and Dianne gave that promise wings and made it a reality. For the past 5 years, Rex has
provided constant daily care for both our parents until 2017, and for our mother until now. This
commitment even included diaper duty or showers, as necessary, when the caregivers were
away. Rex, I know very few sons who would demonstrate this level of commitment. Dianne, in
addition to helping Rex with personal care duties, you did all the bookkeeping and shopping for
both our parents. But, particularly for our mom, you also provided moral support and
cheerfulness to help her maintain a positive attitude. Our entire family owes you both a deep
debt of gratitude for providing the comprehensive care our mother needed, 24 hours a day, 7
days a week. It was different from the traditional ministry in which you served together for 40+
years, but it was no less important.
On behalf of the family, we would like to thank the Hospice staff, personal care workers, and
private nurses that assisted Rex and Dianne in sustaining our mother throughout her declining
years and recent illness. Your professionalism, commitment, and care has been invaluable.
Without you, it would have been impossible to keep our mother at home.
Next, I’d like to honor the grandchildren, Brian Allen, Tori Ledford, Brad Allen, and Lindsay
Allen. Thanks to you, our mother knew the joy of being a grandmother, which thrilled her to no
end throughout her life. She loved each of you whole-heartedly, and because of your very
presence, she enjoyed an expanded sense of family where there was always a grandchild to
Brian, because you and Megan lived in close proximity to your grandmother during her last few
years, you were able to offer the gift of constant presence, which reminded her she wasn’t
alone. Then, when you blessed her with her great-grandson, Liam, she was able to enjoy
watching him grow, seeing him learn to walk and talk, and blow kisses. Liam’s daily visits to her
bedside gave her great joy in her final months.
Tori, when your grandmother would visit Memphis, her first question would always be about
you. The close bond the two of you shared was very special and beautiful. You had the pleasure
of spending most of your childhood summers with your grandparents, which deepened your
connection with your grandmother. Just the mention of your name would always lift
her spirits. Thank you and Brandon for being available to make her last visits to Memphis
so very special. And, most of all, thank you so much for speaking to her to make your
goodbyes just before she died. She heard your love and gratitude and I know it helped her
Brad, not only did you bless your grandmother with her first great-grandson, Zach, she was able
to babysit him daily for quite a while during his early years. Fast forward to end of life, after your
grandmother got sick and needed constant care, you were able to spend several months in
Georgia and help your parents care for her. Since you shared a room next to your grandmother,
many nights when you heard her talking to herself, you would slip into her room and check on
her, offer assistance, or just calm her by telling her you were there if she needed anything. You
always had a keen sense of her needs. Your last words to her before she passed were “I love
you. Thank you for being my friend.”
And Lindsay, not only have you gifted your grandmother with three great-grandsons, Bailey,
Connor James, and Wyatt, you have also given your grandmother peace of mind by rarely giving
her reason to worry about you. She was so proud of your quiet strength and independent spirit.
She always loved it when your family came to visit. The house was full of kids with laughter and
fun. She soaked it in as she watched all the movement of the house. You helped to brighten her
This tribute would not be complete without recognizing two other people in our mother’s life.
First, we would like to honor our uncle, Charles Jowers, who visited, encouraged, and
supported his sister in ways that always cheered and blessed her. Uncle Charles, your unfailing
presence gifted our mother with knowing what it meant to have the love of a sibling, even
though that opportunity came to both of you late in life.
Second, we would also like to express deep gratitude to Evelyn Wright. Evelyn and her husband,
Jim, were dear friends of both our parents from the time they lived in Kings Mountain, NC. But
after our father passed away, hardly a day went by, Evelyn, that you didn’t call and check in.
Even at the end, when our mom could no longer hold a conversation, you were there,
whispering words of love through the phone without the benefit of a reply. You were one of the
last people to speak to her before she transitioned. By offering this gift of loving commitment,
you provided the sister energy that our mother had missed as a child.
I would like to personally thank my husband, Larry Laurenzi, for your patience, love,
and support by always welcoming Mama into our home for extended visits, for taking care of
her on the days when I had to work during those visits, for picking her up when she fell (both
literally and figuratively), and for loving her with complete acceptance for who and what she
was. I would also like to recognize Larry’s adult children Anastasia Laurenzi, Rebekah Laurenzi,
her husband, John Spaedt, and Joshua Laurenzi for your unfailing kindness and care that you
extended to my mother as part of our family.
And finally, to all the church members, fellow ministers, and friends throughout the years in all
the places our parents have lived and pastored, our family thanks you. We realize it was
through your support and friendship that their lives were sustained and fulfilled. Thank you for
sharing your faith, your love for God, and your love for humanity and the world with our family.
The song Old Friends was selected for this website with you in mind.
As I considered what I would say to honor the essence of Mary Louise Allen separate and apart
from her roles as pastor’s wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, my favorite
memories or stories flooded over me as a I faced a stack of ironing that I had been putting off.
Usually, summer whites and linens would all be crisply pressed and hanging in my closet ready
to wear to work, but now that I’m working from home, their importance has taken a back seat.
After Mama had finally passed and I stood before that stack of ironing, I inhaled, and in my
mind’s eye, I remembered her setting me to the business of ironing when I was only 8 years old.
She put an old wooden crate on the floor for me to stand on to reach the ironing board. In a
chair was a laundry basket containing all Daddy’s handkerchiefs to be ironed. Being a preacher,
he used a lot of handkerchiefs, especially during some of his sermons when he worked up a
sweat while he was on fire for the Lord.
Looking at that backlog of ironing facing me, wondering when I’d have the energy to get to it
now, I merged into the memory of my first ironing lessons so completely that my daydream
carried me right back there, and before I knew it, I was reliving it. On the ironing board I saw a
tall Coke bottle filled with water. Its bottle cap had ice pick holes stuck in it so that it served as a
sprinkler. I mentally went through the process of taking each handkerchief from the basket,
sprinkling it with water, rolling it up, and putting it off to the side. When I finished dampening
each one, I had a neat little stack and was ready to start. Mama had already turned on the iron
and it was hot. The spray starch was at my fingertips. I used too much starch on the first one.
“Hey!” Mama said, “You don’t need to baptize it, Vickie. Use a light coating, like you see women
do with hairspray.” Then I scorched the hanky because I held the iron in one place too long. I
hated the brown stain against the bright white material.
“Oh, Mama, look what happened!” I moaned. She just patiently nodded, tossed that one on the
floor, reached for another one, and told me to try again. I managed to iron the second
handkerchief without leaving any brown spots, but upon examination she announced that I
didn’t bear down hard enough to get all the wrinkles out or even iron out the moisture.
“Again,” she challenged as she threw the unacceptable one on the floor next to the scorched
one. This time she let me reach for another hanky myself and lay it out carefully on the board.
By my fifth hanky, I was gliding along on the 12-inch squares like a pro, realizing
what it meant to bring crisp neatness and folded order to a situation, even if it was only to a
bunch of handkerchiefs.
And then, as if it was only yesterday, I heard Mama’s voice saying, “I think I’ll tell you the story
of how I learned early on to take care of myself.”
Mama arrived at the orphanage at the age of 5. It took a few months, but after she got over the
shock that she was there to stay, she gradually started making friends and feeling close to some
of the other girls. In fact, in a situation like that, bonds made in childhood are often stronger
than those found in families bound by blood. They were long on need and short on cash, and
since none of them had any personal belongings, they had to take care of themselves through
barter and trade. There was one little girl she felt particularly close to and they became fast
friends. By the time they were 12, their responsibilities grew right along with their little bodies,
and soon they found themselves adjusting to a new kettle of fish, which frankly, Mama said,
they both thought stunk! At “The Home,” when they gave you your marching orders, it was in a
do or die manner, and every one of them knew better than to fall short of a matron’s
On Saturdays, two or three local farmers would take turns bringing a load of chickens over for
Sunday dinners. Of course, it wasn’t just for the children. The orphanage overseer and his wife,
their guests, visiting ministers, administrators, and matrons would eat first. As you can imagine,
the children in The Home all quickly learned to love the taste of dark meat because that’s all
that was left by the time they got to eat. Mama told me they weren’t allowed to waste a scrap:
necks, backs, gizzards, livers, and even the button would go into soups and gravies. Mama was
well into adulthood before she ever had the opportunity to eat a chicken breast. “I don’t mind
telling you, Mama said afterward, it was a real disappointment!”
As far as chicken duties were concerned, it fell to the girls to wring the chickens’ necks, do the
plucking and cleaning, and to fry them up for the lip-smacking meal they looked forward to all
week long. I can still hear Mama saying, “Poor little me, I just never could get the hang of neck
wringing. Like anything else, it’s hard to get good at something if your heart’s not in it.”
However, ironing came as natural to Mama as humming. She got to where she could do it with
her eyes closed. And I’m not talking about just giving a piece “a lick and a promise.” This ironing
required liquid starch and a deft hand to make it through inspection. Well, as it happened, her
little friend was having trouble with her creases.
After several inspections where the matron threw her finished stack on the floor proclaiming,
“Not good enough – do it again!” Mama saw her chance. With a twinkle in her eye and a
knowing smile, she continued with her story.
“My friend couldn’t iron to save her soul, she said, “but I happened to know that she had the
best wrist snap in the chicken yard!” Mama went on to tell me that this girl just had a way
about her. She would stand stone still in the middle of the flock until they got used to her being
there and it never failed that one would just walk over to her and stand beside her. Ever so
gently, she would pick it up and cradle the bird in her arms to soothe it before making her
move. It was hard to believe anyone could kill with such kindness, but this girl could. By the
time her hand made contact with its unfortunate little neck, she had flicked her wrist and the
deed was done. But she didn’t stop there. As soon as it was dead, and while she still cradled it,
she would whisper thanks to its broken little body for offering to trade in its life for all of theirs.
Continuing with her story, Mama said “Well, only the Lord knows why it came so natural to me,
but I was to ironing what this girl was to chickens.” And every time the matron would dump her
friend’s laundry on the floor and tell her to do it over again, Mama knew her friend died a
little inside. She said it was hard for her to watch—just like it was hard for her friend to watch
Mama trying to make a “kill,” with several attempts, lots of shameful tears, and never a pretty
So, she and her friend worked out a deal. I remember Mama smiling when she said, “From
that day till this I’ve never had to wring another neck, at least not a chicken’s. And I’ve put food
on the table many times by taking in ironing. It’s almost a lost art because there aren’t a lot of
folks around anymore who can do it quite so well. Like killing chickens, most people prefer to
have it done for them, or they avoid it altogether. But just between you and me, using the dryer
to get your wrinkles out is like using the microwave to cook your dinner. It’ll get you by, but it
doesn’t have that homemade feel to it. And beyond how it looks and feels, I’ve just always
found that there’s nothing quite like ironing for helping you to find your center when the world
spins out of control all around you.”
The first time I listened to Mama tell me the ironing story, I marveled. It was only then that I
realized just how strong and smart she really was. This simple woman, without a high school
education, without any rooted family origins, and without any social standing, offered me a
knowledge about living and dying that has sustained me through my adult years. Her story
taught me that death comes as a natural part of life, and as much as we don’t like to think so, it
often comes by our own hands. This is why we would all do well to learn to kill softly.
My mother never saw herself as a minister. To her, that was our father’s role. But in her own
way, she definitely ministered. Mama served her Lord like another Mary we know of—from the
foot of the cross. This view wasn’t nearly as glamorous or important, but when it mattered
most, she never looked away. Through great sadness and tragedies, Mama, like Mary, remained
faithful to the end. This is the life our mother led, and the legacy that she leaves for her
children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. And now, her reward awaits her. Well done,
Mama, well done indeed.
The song, Ave Maria, was selected for her service through the Divine Mother energy, and the
song, If I Can Help Somebody, was chosen to describe our mother’s life philosophy.
Thank you for being with us for this tribute to our very own Mary. Blessings, blessings, blessings
to you today and every day. And may the love and honor we offer Louise today extend to all
mothers and all families everywhere, and spread throughout the world so that all hearts are
united in peace and love. This is our wish, our hope, and our prayer.
Mary Louise Allen died peacefully at the home of her son and daughter-in-law in Locust Grove, GA. Born in Jacksonville, Florida, she was preceded in death by her mother, Mildred Elizabeth Harn Ammons of Largo, FL, her father Henry Bevins McMullin of Largo, FL, her sister Thelma Brannnon of Largo, FL, and her husband of 68 years, Rev. James E. Allen of Greenwood, SC. She leaves behind her brother, Charles Jowers (Kim) of Estill Springs, TN, her son Rex Allen (Dianne) of Locust Grove, GA, her daughter Vickie Allen Laurenzi (Larry) of Memphis, TN, grandsons Brian Allen (Megan) of Locust Grove, GA, and Brad Allen (LaShane) of Miami, FL, granddaughters Tori Ledford (Brandon) of Memphis, TN and Lindsay Allen Salcedo (Dave) of West Palm Beach, FL, great grandsons Zachary Allen of Lake Worth Fl, Bailey O’Keefe, Connor James O’Keefe, and Wyatt Salcedo of Wellington, FL, and Liam Allen of Locust Grove, GA.
Raised in the Church of God Home for Children in Cleveland, TN from the age of 5 until she was 16, Louise married James E. Allen and partnered with him in his ministry, faithfully serving by his side for almost 67 years. Their service took them from Yakima WA, to Grenada, Marks, and Cleveland, MS, and from there to Chicago, IL, St. Thomas, USVI, Northport, AL, Minneapolis, MN, Memphis, TN, Nassau, Bahamas, Greenwood SC, Gastonia and Kings Mountain, NC, and Boynton Beach, FL. Upon retirement from full-time ministry, Louise and James were finally able to return to Greenwood, SC, which they always considered their true home. Even though they were officially retired, they still served in part-time ministry at the Hodges Church of God in Hodges SC. In July of 2015, Louise and James moved to Locust Grove, GA to be near family in their declining years.
As an adult through her first cousin, Elizabeth Gemmer (deceased), Louise became reunited with her biological family in Florida. For many years now, she has enjoyed a loving and supportive relationship with her brother, Charles Jowers, and her cousins Ron Harn and Marilyn Ward, both residing in Largo, FL.
Louise loved music and enjoyed serving as the church pianist wherever they lived as well as focusing her attention on the children, which always captured her heart. Being raised without a mother of her own, she had great compassion for all children everywhere, but most especially for those in need.
Therefore, in lieu of flowers, we have selected two organizations that provide services for children. Memorials may be made in her honor to the memorial fund of Mary Louise Allen at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (stjude.org) 800-822-6344 or to Youth Villages (youthvillages.org) 901-251-5000 in memory of Mary Louise Allen.
Due to the pandemic, Louise will be cremated and her ashes will be placed in the urn with her husband’s ashes until such time the family feels it is safe enough to gather in Largo, Florida, where she and James will be finally laid to rest together in the Rousseau/Harn family graveyard. Arrangements by South Care Cremation and Funeral Servicers, Stockbridge, GA, who also has contact information for the family.
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