Merle Harrison Jeffares died Sunday, Sept. 1, at Brookdale Senior Living, Meridian. She was 97.
Born Jan. 16, 1922, in Chicora (Wayne County), MS, she was the only child of Willie Jane Mozingo and Charles Mack Harrison.
A native Mississippian, Merle grew up in Meridian and graduated from Meridian High School in 1939. She earned a bachelor’s degree in history and business from Mississippi State College for Women.
Merle met the love of her life, Robert M. Jeffares, Jr., while he was working at Marks Rothenburg. She had gone to buy a tied for a different fellow. They married June 20, 1943, after both had graduated college. The honeymoon, Merle said, lasted the rest of their years together.
They moved to St. Louis, MO, where he was an aeronautical engineer. After Robert returned from the Navy in World War II, the couple started a family: first Lynda Sue, then Carol Anne, and finally a son, Robert Harrison Jeffares.
She was a stay-at-home mom until the children were old enough to go to school. Merle then began her teaching career at Ferguson Junior High School, Ferguson, Mo., a job she held until she retired in 1977.
The couple returned to their native Mississippi in 1978, this time residing in Gulfport. Robert died in 1999, after 55 years of marriage. A few years later Merle bought a new home in Meridian and returned to her roots.
Merle was a member of Central United Methodist Church and active in church life throughout her life. She was an avid gardener and belonged to numerous garden clubs in both Gulfport and St. Louis, where she was a state judge for the Federation of Garden Clubs. She was also a member of the Philanthropic Education Organization, which recognized her for her long-time support of PEO and its charities. She was also a creative person and seamstress, making most of her clothes, as well as her children’s. Merle loved to travel and experience new adventures and traveled extensively throughout the U.S. and foreign countries. She was also an avid Mississippi State fan.
Merle loved her family and chocolate (not necessarily in that order.) She is survived by her three loving children and their spouses: Lynda Niehaus, Chesterfield, MO; Carol Hedman (Dan), San Antonio, FL; and Robert “Bob” Jeffares (Beth), Meridian. She also has five grandchildren: Bryan Niehaus (Jessica), Clayton, MO; Stephanie Brandt (Adam), Chesterfield; Robert “Bo” Jeffares (Kimberly), Tupelo, MS; Christopher Jeffares, Ashland, OR; and Harrison Hunter Hedman, (Brooke, fiancée), San Antonio, FL. She is also blessed with eight great-grandchildren who loved their “GiGi:” Durham, Burton, Grier, and Newport Brandt, all of Chesterfield; Gannon and Flynn Niehaus, of Clayton; Elizabeth Lea and Ann Paslay Jeffares, of Tupelo. She is also survived by two sisters-in-law: Caroline Jeffares, Atlanta; and Rosalind Jeffares, Meridian.
Visitation will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 4, followed by a celebration of life at 11 a.m., both at Stephens Funeral Home, Meridian. Burial will follow at Magnolia Cemetery, Meridian. Dr. Raymon Leake will officiate. www.stephensfunerals.com