Mary Ellen Thaxton Christenberry, age 100, of Bay Minette, Alabama, died on January 9, 2022, at Covenant Care Hospice in Pensacola, FL. She was born July 26, 1921 in Mason, in the heart of the Texas Hill Country. She was the daughter of Lamar Thaxton and Ora Kathryn Matern Thaxton.
In 1938, Mary Ellen graduated from Mason High School. In January 1942, she received her Bachelor in Government and Economics in addition to a lifetime teaching certificate from the University of Texas in Austin, Texas. In 1976 Mary Ellen received her Master in American History from Troy State University.
While an undergraduate at UT, Mary Ellen was:
*An Orange Jacket
*A member of the Cosmopolitan Club
*Sponsor of UT foreign students
*Vice-president Texas Methodist Student Movement
*YWCA Program Planner
In the summer of 1940, Mary Ellen convened with 100 other students at the Methodist Youth Caravan Training Camp in Arcadia, Missouri. There she met Daniel K. (Chris) Christenberry among the student delegation from Alabama Polytechnic Institute (current day Auburn University). Mary Ellen and Chris were assigned to the same team and appointed to work with youth for one week in each of eight churches in the Kansas Conference of the Methodist Church. They both said, “We met in Missouri and fell in love in Kansas. By the end of that summer, we decided we would spend the rest of our lives together.”
On December 31, 1941, Mary Ellen and Chris were married at First Methodist Church in Mason, TX. After their honeymoon in Austin, Mary Ellen went back to the University of Texas to finish her final exams and after that, to teach at Allen Junior High School in Austin. Chris went back to his post with the Civilian Public Service in Marion, North Carolina. They were delighted to be closer together when Chris got assigned to the U.S.D.A. Soil and Water Conservation District in Magnolia, Arkansas and Mary Ellen went to work at the Federal Land Bank in Dallas, just 230 miles apart. Mary Ellen and Chris were finally able to live together 1-3/4 years after they married, when in September 1943, Chris was assigned to duty at Lynchburg State Colony (now Central Virginia Training Center)
During the World War II period Mary Ellen held several jobs:
*Teaching at Allen Junior High School in Austin, Texas
*The Federal Land Bank in Dallas, Texas
*Hospital director’s secretary and working on the hospital wards at Lynchburg State Colony in Virginia.
*Full time wife, mother, homemaker and carpenter.
After WWII ended, Mary Ellen & Chris moved to Newport News, Virginia where he worked as the veterinary supply agent with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) under the Marshal Plan to replenish the livestock in war torn Europe. During that time, Mary Ellen helped Chris formulate a strategy leading him to entrance into the full time ministry. While working for UNRRA, Chris began his studies at Duke University School of Divinity and accepted his first appointment in Virginia Conference of the Methodist Church. This appointment was to the South Halifax Charge, a five-church charge.
There were a lot of miles to cover on this pastoral charge. Chris needed a car at a time when cars were quite scarce. Mary Ellen wrote Henry Ford, Sr. describing their need for a simple, sturdy, reliable automobile. She outlined the make, the model, the color – moonstone gray - and a very few additional options to keep the price low. To their delighted surprise, Henry Ford, Sr. did in fact write Mary Ellen. He remarked that he read her letter with “great interest” and that a car meeting her specifications would be delivered to their local dealership. Indeed, shortly after receiving Mr. Ford’s letter, a beautiful Moonstone Gray car was delivered to the local dealership with CHRISTENBERRY written across the windshield.
In the fall of 1948, Mary Ellen, Chris and their two children moved to Efland, North Carolina, to be closer to Duke University and continue Chris’s studies. At that time he served the Orange County Charge of five Methodist churches much closer to the Duke campus.
In 1952 after seminary graduation, Mary Ellen and Chris moved to central Alabama with their four children to continue his ministry in the Alabama–West Florida Conference of what has become the United Methodist Church. Five more children were born to Mary Ellen and Chris after they moved to Alabama. In 1967, once the youngest son of their five sons and four daughters started school, Mary Ellen returned to teaching. She taught in Montgomery, Grand Bay, Mobile and Bay Minette, Alabama. Mary Ellen was named teacher of the year in 1986, she taught at Baldwin County High School in Bay Minette from 1971 until she retired in 1986. During her tenure at BCHS, Mary Ellen encouraged and actively registered more than 4000 18 year-old students to vote. She was made a deputy registrar by the State of Alabama in honor of and to facilitate her efforts.
Mary Ellen was a forward thinker. She bought her first computer in 1984. In the tradition of her German-Texas heritage, she was always interested in the latest technological advances. She put that machine to good use corresponding with family, developing, maintaining and distributing a list of contact information to her children, their children, and other contact information groupings were handled in the same manner for extended family as well. The list of her talents and abilities was long. She was an avid reader and communicator. She was an adventuresome chef, and an expert sewist creating the latest designer fashions. Her gifted touch extended into her love of the garden. The beauty she contributed to all she did elevated life. Mary Ellen lavished attention on her children, her friends and her students encouraging each to do their best. She advocated for everyone to “shoot for the moon” and advised “you can do anything, when you put your mind to it”…. both truly life-long gifts.
Mary Ellen Thaxton Christenberry was a devoted wife to one handsome man, Daniel Keener Christenberry, who in return, devoted himself to her. Together they shared a beautiful, engaged, and authentic life, rich in real, loving relationships, and blessed by God. Her physical presence in our lives will be keenly missed. She is now soaring with the eagles and the angels, and we will rejoice when we meet again.
Mary Ellen was predeceased by her husband of 72 years, Daniel Keener Christenberry. She is survived by one sister, Gertrude V. Thaxton Morris (Pat); nine children: Daniel K. Christenberry, III (Jenny Upton), Deirdre T. Christenberry, Lamar Thaxton Christenberry (Rebecca), Emily C. Douthat (Jim), Rebecca Ellen Christenberry, Mary C. Lott (Gus), D. Paul Christenberry (Amy), Samuel P. Christenberry, and Stephen K. Christenberry; fourteen grandchildren: Conrad West (Kara), Laurie Harless (Kenneth), Mark Douthat & Anna C. D. Stockman(Manny), Carol Ortiz, & Adriana Ortiz, José Daniel Ortiz, Gus Lott (Sarah Matt) & Melissa C. Lott (Francis Li), Daniel (Meredith) & Lucy Robinson (Danny), Andrew Christenberry (Ellen), Hannah & Macy Marie Christenberry.; 18 great-grandchildren: Haley & Autumn Harless, Logan, Lamar, Leif & Lincoln Lott, Morgan Li & Evelyn Douthat; Charlotte & Emily Stockman, Fletcher & Sullivan West, Olivia, Weatherford & Monroe Christenberry, Allen Robinson, Walker & Noah Christenberry and many loving nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.
Graveside services and burial will be held Thursday, January 13, 2022 at 10:30 a.m. at Bay Minette Cemetery.
The family will receive friends Thursday, January 13, 2022 from 9:00 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. at the First United Methodist Church. Please follow First United Methodist Church Covid protocol. Masks are to be worn at all times and will be available at the church.
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