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Mavis Clemmons Derden

Mavis Clemmons Derden, 89, passed away surrounded by her family at Baptist Hospital on Feb. 18, 2019, from complications of a stroke. She was born Oct. 24, 1929, in Pickens County, Alabama, to Elvin Elijah and Ada Woolbright Clemmons. In addition to her parents, she was predeceased by her husband of 48 years, James William “Bill” Derden, her son, James William “Jimmy” Derden, Jr., and her sisters, Gladys Clemmons McGahey and Hilda Clemmons Bruner.

Mama met the love of her life — our daddy — when she was 15, and they were married when she was barely 17 and he 18, right before he shipped off to Germany for the Occupation. She finished high school while he was gone, and when he returned, he went to college on the G.I. Bill while she had three children in 2 ½ years, typing his papers and supporting his education all the while. She was a very typical 1950s stay-at-home mom: homeroom mother, scout leader, Sunday school teacher, author of the church bulletin, chief cook and bottle washer, seamstress extraordinaire, household accountant, chauffeur, and all-around gatekeeper for everyone in the family.

Eventually, with all three children in college, she decided it was her turn at higher education, so she enrolled in Hinds Junior College when she was 42. She went on to complete both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English at Mississippi College by the age of 50, writing her thesis on the role of nature in King Lear. She often noted that she did not have any grandchildren when she started college, and she had seven when she finished. After graduation, she taught English at the Vicksburg Campus of Hinds for 17 years as a “full-time adjunct” instructor. She was also one of Hinds’ first dual-enrollment instructors, teaching composition and literature classes for several years to students from St. Aloysius High School who were concurrently enrolled at Hinds.

When our daddy died unexpectedly when Mama was not quite 65, she made the brave decision to move from Vicksburg back to Columbus, closer to her son and to her two sisters living in Tuscaloosa. Thus, she began a new chapter of her life, which included travel to the U.K. twice and around the United States with her friends and family. She took creative writing classes at Mississippi University for Women and continuing education classes in painting, antique shopping, American drama, and Shakespeare, to name a few. Along the way, she lost her two sisters and our brother, so again, she started a new chapter, moving to Clinton to be closer to her daughters. She loved “junkin’” with us, looking for books or treasures to decorate her home. The week before her hospitalization, she bought a new sack full of books and was already working her way through them. Always curious and eager to stretch her imagination and her knowledge, she was never one to sit idly by while the world moved past her. Her strength of character, her indominable spirit, and her unwavering love and support for her family and friends are traits that her family cherish, admire, and attempt to emulate. Mama/Nanny/Aunt Mavis will be missed by all who knew her.

She leaves to cherish her memory her daughters Beverly Derden Fatherree (Ben) and Melissa Derden Black (Harry), her grandchildren Amy Derden Smith (John), Kelly Derden Myers (Lee), Sara Derden Dismuke (Trent), Heather Farris Bennett (Russell), Catherine Farris Peterson (Brandon), Emily Black, and William Black (Katie), 13 great-grandchildren, her daughter-in-law Cassie Ivey Derden, and numerous nieces and nephews.

Visitation will be from 5-7 Thursday, Feb. 21, at Wright and Ferguson Funeral Home in Clinton, and from 12-2 Friday, Feb. 22, at Gunter & Peel Funeral Home in Columbus, with the funeral service to follow. Interment will be in Beersheba Cumberland Presbyterian Church cemetery in the New Hope community.

If you would like to remember Mama, please consider making a donation in her name to the Bill Derden Memorial Scholarship at Hinds Community College, P.O. Box 1100, Raymond, MS 39154, or the cemetery fund at Beersheba Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1736 Beersheba Road, Columbus, MS 39702.

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