By Debbie Rolen
For the Daily News
Mae O’Bryan Stallard passed away May 27, 2016. The Tug Valley lost a long-time community leader, beloved educator, strong advocate, tireless worker and world traveler. She was a long-time resident of Williamson, who had a loving “Hello friend” greeting for everyone.
Mae was born July 10, 1929. She one of twelve children, eight girls and four boys, born to William “Brown” and Grace Smith O’Bryan. Mr. O’Bryan suffered from tuberclulosis and traveled to Arizona, where he stayed with a friend hoping to recuperate. Unfortunately, he succumbed to the illness in 1949, leaving Grace to raise 11 children on her own (one child died in infancy). Grace acquired property in Pike County, Coeburn Hollow, where she raised her children in a house built by men in the community. The children were given an abundance of love and taught the value of faith in God, education, hard work and community service. Mae treasured her family and her life was a testimony to her love of God and her community.
Mae graduated from Belfry High School and met her husband Howard Stallard at the confectionary on Fourth Avenue. Stallard spent his career working for the Williamson Daily News (WDN). He preceded her in death. The couple had two children, Greg and Nancy Sue. Greg makes his home in Williamson. Nancy Sue retired from a career in military service in the U.S. Air Force. Nancy is married to John Richards, mother of three and the family makes their home in Lynchburg, Va.
Mae worked as an assistant to Williamson dentists Staker and Runyon before attending college. She received an associates degree from Southern West Virginia Community College (SWVCC), graduated Magna Cum Laude from Marshall University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Elementary Education and Social Studies and went on to earn a master’s degree. She received an honorary doctorate from SWVCC in 1995.
Mae taught fourth graders at Williamson Elementary School and West Virginia History and Civics to eighth graders at Williamson Junior High School. She also helped establish social studies fairs throughout the region and state, serving many years on the Mingo County Social Studies Fair Committee and working on the state program as a judge. She retired from teaching in 1995, after 23 years. Among her prized possessions were binders filled with notes and letters from her former students.
Mae’s volunteer spirit championed many causes including servIng as the first president of the Appalachian Regional Hospital’s Women’s Auxilliary, a member of the Board of Directors and secretary of the Mingo Health Association, President of the Mingo County Council of Exceptional Children, member of the Governor’s Advisory Board to the Commission of Mental Retardation, West Virginia delegate to the President’s Committee for the Employment of the Handicapped, co-chairman of Area 9 Citizen’s Committee on Mental Retardation and chairman of the Promoting Individual Liberties and chairman of Public Policy. As President of Action in Mingo (A.I.M), she was heavily involved in planning the King Coal Festival and Great White Way in Williamson. She was also a dedicated and active member of the First Baptist Church in Williamson.
Involvement in these and other community service activities earned her recognition from many, including former Williamson Mayor Sam Kapourales and the city council, who named Sept. 17, 1998, “Mae Stallard Day,” as well as the U.S. Department of Human Services, who awarded her with the “Distinguished Volunteer Award,” WSAZ TV, who named her a “Hometown Hero” for April 2002 and the WDN, who named Mae “Citizen of the Year” for 2008. She was also listed in various publications including, Outstanding West Virginians, Two Thousand Women of Achievement, Community Leaders of America, International Who’s Who in Community Service, Notable Americans and Who’s Who Among American Teachers.
Mae was a prolific writer, who was featured in several publications. She created a booklet of the early history of Williamson, “A Walking Tour of Williamson.” For many years, she expressed and shared her faith through devotionals entitled “An Upward Look,” which were published in the WDN and Logan Banner. Her poems were featured in American Poetry Anthology and Treasured Poems of America (Summer, 1997). She also shared a weekly devotion on Coal Country Radio WXCC every Sunday afternoon until 2015.
The O’Bryan sisters often traveled together to routine appointments, the beach or other get-togethers with family and friends. Mae and Howard shared a love of travel and traveled internationally, often serving as guides.The walls of Mae’s were covered with photos of the couple in countries all over the world. Mae told this writer she had visited every country in the world except India. Her hopes of making the trip faded as her health declined.
At the time of her death, Mae was in the Runk and Pratt Liberty Ridge Health and Rehabilitation Center at Lynchburg, Va., A complete obituary will appear in the WDN. Visitation will be 6 – 9 p.m, Saturday, June 4, 2016, at Weaver Mortuary in West Williamson. Services to celebrate her life will be conducted at 2 p.m., June 5, 2016, at the First Baptist Church of Williamson.