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Wilena Higginbotham Stark passed away Wednesday morning, May 31, 2017, at Hospice Ministries in Ridgeland, Mississippi. She was born in 1923 in the Methodist parsonage in Louise, Mississippi, the daughter of the Rev. C.Y. and Fannie Sarah Whittington Higginbotham. Wilena grew up in a number of towns where her father served as minister for the Mississippi Methodist Conference. She graduated from Johns High School in Rankin County in 1940.
After completing studies at Clark Business School in Jackson, she was employed by the Mississippi Forestry Commission for ten years as Secretary to the State Forester. It was here that she met Meredith Osborn (Mike) Stark, a Forestry graduate of Louisiana State University and a native of Bunkie, Louisiana, and Gulfport, Mississippi. Wilena and Mike were married in September 1945 at Galloway United Methodist Church in Jackson. After four years as a district forester for the state Mike was employed with International Paper Company, while Wilena remained at the Forestry Commission. They moved to Lexington, Mississippi, in 1952 to establish Stark Timber Company.
During her 41 years in Lexington, Wilena (Wil) was active in the First United Methodist Church, serving as president of the United Methodist Women, as a member of the church’s Administrative Board, as chairman of various committees and as a Sunday school and vacation Bible school teacher. She was also a member of the Lexington Garden Club and the Lucky 12 Club. In addition to helping her husband in his business throughout the years, she was a caring wife, mother, aunt and grandmother and a talented hostess and homemaker. Her children remember fondly her seafood gumbo, shrimp creole, beef and pork roasts, delicious pound cake and fresh vegetables from Mike’s garden.
Wil and Mike enjoyed traveling and she continued to do so after his death in 1986. She especially liked visiting the National Parks and several Elderhostels, including two weeks in Austria. Upon returning to Jackson in 1993 Wilena joined St. Luke’s United Methodist Church where she was active in the United Methodist Women, Wednesday for Adults and an adult bible study class. She spent her last years at The Orchard retirement home in Ridgeland, where she renewed friendships with prior acquaintances from around Mississippi and made many new friends, played bridge, enjoyed music performances and bingo and other activities and read on her iPad.
Mike and Wil were blessed with three children, Rebecca Stark (David Sachs) of Manhattan, Kansas, John Meredith Stark (Christy) of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates and Katherine Landrum (Larry) of Florence, Mississippi. “Mama Wil” was grandmother to Benjamin Stark-Sachs and Jonathan Stark-Sachs of Manhattan, Kansas and Ann Stewart-Sachs of Stockholm, Sweden. Additional survivors include Christy’s children and grandchildren in Tennessee, Texas, and Colorado; Larry’s children and grandchildren in Washington and Idaho; her older brother John (Evelyn) Higginbotham of Brandon; younger siblings Sarah Halford of Meadville, Cole (Clara) Higginbotham, Jr., of Pearl, and Ralph (Kay) Higginbotham of Clinton; and her Higginbotham and Stark family nieces and nephews in Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, New York, New Jersey and Maine. She was preceded in death by her husband M.O. Stark and her brother-in-law Wayne Halford of Meadville.
A funeral service was held on Saturday, June 3, at 2:00 p.m. at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, 621 Duling Avenue, Jackson, Mississippi, in the Fondren neighborhood. A graveside service was held at 3:00 p.m. the following day, Sunday, June 4, at Odd Fellows Cemetery in Starkville, Mississippi.
Parkway Funeral Home in Ridgeland, Mississippi, was in charge of arrangements. The family is thankful for the wonderful service provided by Wilena’s many caregivers at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, The Orchard, Sta-Home Health, St. Joseph Hospice outpatient care, and Hospice Ministries. Memorials may be sent to St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Jackson or to a charity of your choice.

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