Reflections on the Life of Mildred “Mema” Powell
Mildred “Mema” Powell boarded her train of life on September 18, 1927 when born as one of 13 children to the union of R.C. and Ida Mustiful in Taylor, Arkansas. She grew up there and attended St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church where she accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior at an early age. Her train carried her to many stations of faith which sustained and guided her throughout her life.
Though Mema grew up in the segregated south she was always surrounded by the love of her family. Upon reaching the age to attend high school, both she and her sister, Maurice, had to move to Hope, Arkansas to live with their uncle as Taylor’s high school was segregated. In Hope, she attended Henry C. Yeager High School and graduated in 1946. Following her graduation, she moved to Pine Bluff, Arkansas where she attended Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical & Normal College now known as the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff, a historically black college. It was there that she met the love of her life Henry C. Powell, a retired WWII veteran and automotive instructor at the university.
Struck by cupid, the couple fell head over heels in love and her train of life carried her to Henry’s hometown of Kansas City, Missouri. There, Mema converted to Catholicism and got married. Their union produced two lovely children, Dr. Clark R. Powell Sr. and Jacquelyn (Jackie) R Powell. Mema knew no one but her husband in Kansas City. So, Henry introduced her to his favorite niece, Virgie Mae Hughes. They became lifelong friends, more like sisters and spent many weekends and holidays together with their families. Virgie and Mema were the original “Besties” as are their children to this day.
Anyone who knew Mema knew her to be warm, insightful, giving, and quick-witted. She maintained an open heart for others and valued family. Following the passing of her father-in-law she persuaded Henry to move his mother Cora from the Leeds area into their home. Cora became a second mother to her.
In the 40s and 50s Kansas City was a booming garment factory town. Betty Rose Suits and Coats was an upscale women’s clothing factory located at Linwood and Gillham. Mema had learned to sew by watching her mother and older sisters and saw an opportunity to contribute to the growing family expenses. With Cora’s blessing, she obtained a job at Betty Rose despite Henry objections. After working there for 40 years she was laid off because the factory closed permanently
Mema was determined not to let this set her back. Growing up in the Jim Crow south, she had to overcome many obstacles. She deeply believed education and determination were the keys to success. She brushed up on her skills by enrolling in UMKC’s Women’s Center Employment Program and quickly obtained a position at De La Salle Education Center as an office assistant. She enjoyed being employed but desired to work directly with children. Her next goal was to work for the Kansas City Public School System. She successfully secured a paraprofessional position at Attucks Elementary School. Mema hit the trifecta because she loved children, reading and teaching. She started in the classroom and was eventually promoted to Assistant Librarian where she was responsible for organizing the library, teaching children the Dewey Decimal System and conducting story time. Following her retirement from the district she launched a part-time career working for the Missouri Division of Family Services. There she continued to follow her passion by nurturing and providing love to children in foster care. She was a fierce advocate for all people, especially children.
Her train carried her many miles .Those miles included the birth of her first granddaughter in 1976 who coined the beloved name “Mema”. This name followed her for the remainder of her life and everyone from family to friends to caregivers embraced her as Mema. She was the quintessential matriarch balancing structure and guidance with love and tenderness. Some of her ride was bumpy and some of it was smooth but she was guided by faith and always turned adversity into opportunity. She was a force of love and a pillar of strength and exuded these values to everyone she met.
Mema’s train pulled into its final stop on June 9, 2021 when she exited this earthly world to join her Creator.
She was preceded in passing by the love of her life, Henry C. Powell, her first born Clark R. Powell, Sr.,PhD ., Robert Charles “RC” and Ida (Edwards) Mustiful (parents); six sisters: Earnesse Johnson, Ida Fairrella “Faye” Champion, Mrytle Roberts, Lebitha (Jank) Black, Maurice Finley, and Celestine Herron; five brothers: Charlie “Brother Boy” Mustiful, Robert C Mustiful Jr., Paul James Mustiful, CL Mustiful, Travis Mustiful, her beloved niece Virgie Mae Hughes and Judith Marie Powell, her second daughter.
She leaves to cherish her memory and celebrate her legacy, her daughter Jackie Powell, daughter-in-law, Paulette Powell of Saint Louis, Missouri, granddaughters: Cicely Enyard (Gordon) and Rachel Whitfield (Mark) both of Kansas City, Missouri; a grandson Clark R Powell II of Saint Louis, Missouri; a sister Mrs. Johnnie Belle Theus of Los Angeles, California and a host of treasured great grandchildren, nieces, nephews, friends and church family.
Memorial service will be held Saturday, June 26, 2021, 3:00pm at Lawrence A. Jones & Sons Funeral Chapel. Private Disposition. Service conducted by Lawrence A. Jones & Sons Funeral Chapel. Condolences may be shared on our website. This facility requires social distancing and face coverings indoors.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Ms. Mildred Powell, please visit our floral store.