Nell Spears

Obituary of Nell Catherine Spears

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Nell Catherine Spears of Huntington, W.Va., formerly of Fort Gay, W.Va., died Monday, July 8, 2024, after complications from an extremely rare medical condition advanced rapidly.

She and her husband of 66 years, James “Jim” Franklin Spears, who outlasts her, started collaborating on their personal story in 1951 as high school sweethearts, an enduring romance that resulted in domestic happiness with children and a lifetime of family fun: from Thanksgiving feasts and Christmas holiday gatherings to summer pool parties and Independence Day grill-outs. Their vacations included motor-trips and plane rides to beaches and theme parks from coast to coast – and one summer’s extended jaunt across the southern border for Mexico City fun with the family’s cultural ambassador, special niece Lynda Lee Spears-Somuano, sadly now deceased, who’d settled momentously with her own family there.

Nell offered an encouraging, smiling face from concession stands at athletic fields across greater Fort Gay (including the Louisa, Ky. community) for many years from the middle to near the end of the 20th century: from saucing and selling hot dogs alongside hamburgers, dill-pickles, French fries, Frito’s and other diner-counter staples for lunch, game-day treats and after-school snacks on Fort Gay’s Viking Lunch countertop to volunteering time and efforts to support youth sports and high-school band trips. She joined other parents, supporters, teachers and coaches to actively participate in both before- and after-school pursuits to support their children’s interests. This close-knit, like-minded troupe prepared, baked or bought then sold enough cupcakes, cookies, confections, cobblers, chocolate-tangos and cakes to ensure the various school teams and youth leagues had an abundance of happy fans in the stands and parking lots during more than a decade of football, basketball and baseball games. Nell could boast, but probably wouldn’t, that their communal efforts sustained, encouraged and defrayed – or outright paid for – the required sports apparel and equipment, band instruments, travel costs as well as on-the-way-to-and-from meals.

A 1953 graduate of Ft. Gay High School, Nell’s career started while enrolled in the Huntington School of Business on Fifth Avenue, where she was interviewed by recruiters from Jefferson Standard Insurance and offered a position at the company’s Knoxville, Tenn., operations. From there she accepted posts at Jefferson Standard offices in Cleveland, Ohio, then in Pittsburg, Penn., where she assisted with the set-up of a new office by training its clerical secretary staff. After this experience, she accepted a job as a teller at the then-locally owned bank in Wayne, W.Va. Nell soon was recruited by S.B. Noe, the Wayne Co. Sheriff, to oversee cash payments’ records as well as the office’s cash finances, although she frequently was asked to participate in on-the-road duties with Sheriff Noe. Her traveling secretarial tasks involved taking shorthand notes of the Sheriff’s dictated observations along with statements and accounts from bystanders and witnesses as they offered explanations, or provided versions, from jails, holding cells, diners, courthouses and scenes across Wayne County and beyond.

After rowdy firsthand experience alongside the Sheriff and his deputies, Nell chose as her life’s focus the (sometimes) calmer role of caregiver and homemaker for the new Spears family, which started when she married Jim in May 1958 and expanded with the birth of son James in 1960.

Born September 29, 1935, Nell was preceded in death by her parents Roy and Blanche Romaine (Lakin) Wellman; foster sister Mary Arlene Michael and her husband James; brother-in-law Thirl Spears and his wife Lucy; brother-in-law Harold K. Spears and his wife Elizabeth (Lincoln); special nephew Daniel Edward Spears; sister-in-law Donna Faye (Spears) Britt and her husband James R. Britt; and sister-in-law Doris Ann (Thompson) Wellman.

In addition to her husband Jim, she is survived by their sons James Franklin II and Roy Martin as well as grandson Zachary Tyler, all of Huntington; sister Nancy (and husband Charlie) Workman of Ft. Gay; brother Sam Wellman of Campbellsville, Ky.; and sister-in-law Edna Williams of Ona. Including special niece Debbie (Wellman) Carter (and husband Mike) of Campbellsville, Ky., her family of survivors also includes a close group of special nephews: Samuel Wellman Jr. (and wife Terry) of Hickory, NC; Howard Terry (and wife Beverly) Spears of Proctorville, Oh.; H. Keith Spears (and wife Rita) of Campbellsville, Ky.; Marc (and wife Michelle) Workman of Ft. Gay; Michael Lee Workman of Ashland, Ky.; Matt (and wife Jackie) Workman of Prichard; and Greg (and wife Janina) Michael of Huntington.

She assumed a maternal role to nephew Timothy Martin Spears (wife Mimi) of Charleston, attributable to the fact that he lived in her home after his mother Elizabeth’s unexpected death so he could continue hometown pursuits: he excelled in several sports as a Fort Gay Viking then was graduated from Ft. Gay High School before his matriculation at both Marshall and West Virginia universities. Nell always said she considered Tim “her number-one son” because – while he was merely a few years older than her own children – she nurtured and supported his interests and aspirations as if he were her own child.

A life-long member of the Big Hurricane Missionary Baptist Church, near Ft. Gay, W.Va., Nell began attending Sunday school and weekly church services there as a baby, being rocked in the pews on her mother’s lap. She reluctantly ceased attending church services as her age slowed her ability to tolerate the (winding, bumpy, pot-hole-filled) car ride each way from her late-life home in Huntington.

The Spears family would especially like to thank staff members of the Emogene Dolin Jones Hospice House in Huntington for kindness and caring.

Funeral services are Friday, July 12, at 4 p.m. at Big Hurricane Missionary Baptist Church, where its pastor, the Rev. Tony Perry will officiate. Burial will follow in the Bartram/Fort Gay cemetery on High Street. Friends may visit the family on Friday afternoon from 2:00 until the service at the church.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Nell’s name either to the Emogene Dolin Jones Hospice House or Big Hurricane Missionary Baptist Church.

Care for Nell and her family has been entrusted to Wilson Funeral Home.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Nell Spears, please visit Tribute Store
Friday
12
July

Big Hurricane Missionary Baptist

2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Friday, July 12, 2024
Big Hurricane Missionary Baptist
27 Big Hurricane Creek Road
Fort Gay, West Virginia, United States
Friday
12
July

Funeral

4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Friday, July 12, 2024
Big Hurricane Missionary Baptist
27 Big Hurricane Creek Road
Fort Gay, West Virginia, United States
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Nell Spears

In Loving Memory

Nell Spears

1935 - 2024

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