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Mary Rebecca Ferrell Hendrick

July 27, 1920 May 29, 2020
Mary Rebecca Ferrell Hendrick
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Obituary for Mary Rebecca Ferrell Hendrick

MARY REBECCA FERRELL HENDRICK, 99, died in her beautiful room at The Blake in Ridgeland, MS, May 29, 2020. She was isolated for several weeks with COVID-19, but her youngest daughter, Ann Hendrick, in full pandemic gear, was permitted to be with her when she died.

Born in Etta, MS, on July 27, 1920, Mary lived in Oxford with her parents, Arthur Clay Ferrell and Dorothy Baker Ferrell, until her mother died of cancer and was buried on Christmas Eve, 1934. Mary and her three siblings, Baker (always known as "Brother" and even "Uncle Brother"), Dot, and Bob, then lived with their maternal grandparents in Etta, a tiny community between Oxford and New Albany.

Education was important to the family — many relatives were teachers — and her Grandaddy Hubert Finley Baker enrolled Mary and Dot in school in Oxford instead of in the poorer county school. The family was offended when the University High principal decreed that the girls would have to repeat a grade because they would be behind students at University High, then the best high school in the state. Within two weeks, the principal realized the girls needed to be promoted two grades ahead. Mary, 14, and Dot, 12, lived by themselves in an Oxford apartment, returning home on weekends. Mary thrived and graduated at the top of her class.

Mary briefly attended the University of Mississippi but the family had sold all their timber land at Depression-era prices to pay for her mother’s cancer treatment. There was not enough money for her to continue her education so she took a job as a lab assistant and sometime receptionist at the hospital for 40 cents an hour. There she met Jim Gilbert Hendrick, a medical student who became her beloved husband in 1942. When Jim went to Italy to serve as an Army doctor, Mary was left in Oxford to give birth to her first child, Janet, who first met her dad when he returned when she was two years old.

Following a stint in Memphis where Jim completed his training as a pediatrician, the couple moved in 1949 to Jackson where they lived for over fifty years. A decade after her husband’s sudden death in 2001, Mary relocated to The Blake in Ridgeland. She had always loved talking on the phone, and her daughter Becky, who lived far away (and hated talking on the phone) called her daily just to chat.

Mary was known for her generosity, hospitality, energy, outspokenness, intelligence (to the end, she could beat anyone at Scrabble) and for her famous sweet-potato casserole. She and Jim may be most remembered for their civil rights activism, born of their deep religious faith.

A longtime member of Calvary Baptist Church, Mary became a founding member of Northminster Baptist Church in 1967, rejoining Calvary in 1999 while remaining active in both “open door” congregations. Describing herself as a theological liberal, she spent decades quietly working to ensure racial equality and social justice. Her activities included positions on the Human Relations Council, three terms on the Antipoverty Relations Council, selection as the sole white female in a diverse group of citizens vying for ownership of WLBT’s television license, involvement in biracial dinner clubs and sewing groups, and helping establish Head Start in Jackson and Hinds County. Into her eighties she continued as a reading tutor to elementary students in three Jackson public schools. More privately, during the Freedom Summer, she made sandwiches which she took to Freedom Riders imprisoned in makeshift cells at the MS State Fairgrounds. Over many decades she welcomed numerous foreign college students of many cultures, races and religions into the Hendrick home to share family holidays and vacations.

During the last week of her life, a hospice nurse asked, "Miss Mary, what shall I tell your daughters today?" She opened her eyes and said, "Just lie to them" and laughed.
Mary is survived by daughters Janet Hendrick Clark (John), of Ridgeland; Rebecca (Becky) Ferrell Hendrick (Ray Parish) of Tucson, AZ; Ann Hendrick (Jim Kopernak) of Jackson; five grandchildren; 11 nieces and nephews; and a “great”- generation spread throughout the country. She was preceded in death by her three siblings (Baker Ferrell, Dorothy Polen, Robert Ferrell) and, most recently, by her grandson Ethan Baker Clark.

Donations in her memory may be made to His Heart Ministry, an inner-city ministry to the children, youth, and families of the West Park neighborhood of Jackson. His Heart is a ministry of Calvary Baptist Church, 1300 West Capitol St., Jackson, MS 39203 or online at hisheartforjackson.com.

A memorial service celebrating her long and influential life will be live-streamed Friday, June 5, at 1 p.m. Central Time. You can view the service by going to northminsterbaptist.live in your web browser (Internet). Northminster is not open for the service because of the COVID pandemic.

To send flowers in memory of Mary Rebecca Ferrell Hendrick, visit the Tribute Store.

Cemetery Details

Location

Northminster Baptist Church Columbarium Final Resting Place

3955 Ridgewood Rd
Jackson, MS 39211

3955 Ridgewood Rd Jackson 39211 MS
United States
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