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McKENZIE — Funeral services for Mrs. Forester were Saturday, July 3, 2021 at Shiloh Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Interment was at the church cemetery.
Willie Mae Forester died peacefully in her sleep on Saturday, June 26, 2021 at the age of 95. She was born on May 19, 1926 in Savannah, Tenn. She was preceded in death by her parents, John Claude Prince and Willie Felix Moore Prince; her siblings John, Marguerite, Cornelia, and Jeemes; her husband, Jesse Clem forester, and her son, John Stephen Forester.
The first in her family to graduate college, Willie Mae attended Bethel College during World War II, where she met the love of her life, Jesse Clem (J.C.) Forester. Willie Mae and J.C were married on August 11, 1947 at the log cabin on the campus of Bethel College. Willie Mae would later describe their wedding as the happiest day of her life. After college, Willie Mae struck out for Bridgeport, Illinois and taught high school English, while J.C. answered the call to ministry and attended seminary. Over the course of the next twenty years, the young family lived in Cord, Arkansas; Bradford, Tenn.; Marshall, Texas; Only, Texas; and Denton, Texas, before settling permanently n McKenzie in 1964. J.C. and Willie Mae had four energetic boys in six years—John Stephen, Thomas Byron, David Noel and Jesse Mark.
In addition to serving on church committees, teaching Sunday School, being a den mother in Cub Scouts, singing in the choir, writing a column for the denominational magazine, and parenting four boys, Willie Mae found the time to earn her Master’s Degree in Education from the University of North Texas in the early 1960s –attending classes on the weekends and completing her schoolwork late at night after her boys went to bed. Willie Mae was a determined trailblazer, though she was far too humble to ever admit it.
Willie Mae – nickname “Smiley Mae” by her students –taught English and Spanish at McKenzie High School until her retirement in 1988. Over the years, Willie Mae was loyally active in her community, especially with the McKenzie Garden Club, the Delta Kappa Gamma Society, and the retired teachers’ association. She volunteered with the election commission and McKenzie Hospital, was a counselor at church camp, faithfully attended water aerobics, tutored children after school, and was one of the first women elders at Shiloh Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
After J.C.’s death in 1983, Willie Mae lived with her son, Steve, in McKenzie and maintained her active lifestyle. The girl who grew up on a farm outside of Savannah, Tennessee, visited Hong Kong, Japan and China, and traveled extensively throughout the United States. She had a beautiful garden, served on a presbytery-wide church committees, and enjoyed hosting her former classmates each year at Bethel’s homecoming.
Willie Mae Prince Forester had a smile for each person; she made fussy children light up and grumpy caregivers laugh. She never complained or had a cross word for anyone. While the idea of raising four mischievous boys would strike fear in the hearts of most anyone, Willie Mae bore it with the grace of God and the good humor of a saint. Whenever she remarked on all the scrapes “the Forester boys” got into, she would merely get a twinkle in her eye and laugh at the memories of the boys receiving boxing gloves and BB guns for Christmas.
Willie Mae was a faithful servant of God and lived out the ministry of Christ in everything that she did – from actively serving the church to treating every person with kindness, respect, and love. When her granddaughters joked about how her complexion was that of a much younger woman, they concluded it was because Gram simply did not carry hatred nor resentment toward others.
Willie Mae Prince Forester leaves behind sons Byron (Michelle), David, and Mark (Karen); grandchildren Rachel (Omar), Hayley, Elizabeth and Eleanor; great-grandchildren George Byron and Abigale Mae; and a host of loving extended family members, friends and church family.