Obituary – Mary Sue Tanner

Mary Sue Tanner
January 20, 1934 – April 29, 2022

With her loving husband of 65 years holding her hand, Mary Sue Tanner of Hot Springs Village died on April 29, 2022. Sue was born on January 20, 1934 in Pine Bluff, Arkansas to the late P.A. and Lois Marie Smith. Following a childhood surrounded by friends, loving aunts and uncles, her brother and a myriad of cousins, she trekked to Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas. She combined her keen intellect and innate curiosity with developing lifelong relationships, including with her future husband, George A. Tanner.

Following their marriage on July 8, 1956, Sue and George relocated to Durham, North Carolina while George pursued his master’s in divinity. She solidified her commitment to the Wesleyan Tradition of doing all the good you can, in all the ways you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can in her role as the bride of a Methodist minister.

In addition to being a loving, supportive spouse and mother to two adoring sons, Sue was an early childhood public school educator in the many communities she and George lived and served. She taught in Durham, North Carolina; Magnolia, Arkansas; Eugene, Oregon; Pine Bluff, Arkansas; Lake Village, Arkansas; Camden, Arkansas; and Dumas, Arkansas.

Although always an educator, Sue ended her role as a classroom teacher and turned her considerable energies toward a life of volunteer service. She was actively involved with United Methodist Women, Community Concerts, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), Garland County Master Gardeners, and especially empowering other women through the P.E.O. Sisterhood. Sue enjoyed being a member of the Hot Springs Village Women’s Tennis Team and promoting locally sourced foods. Reading to the young cherubim at the North Garland County Head Start Program near the Cedar Mountain Boys and Girls Club was a weekly delight for Sue and a further demonstration of her love for all God’s children.

An avid traveler with a willing companion, George and Sue were able to visit every continent with the exception of Antarctica, but she did get within a stone’s throw of seeing emperor penguins in the wild. Most importantly, Sue built and sustained lifelong relationships with friends who have added life to her years and years to her life.

She is survived by her husband, George A. Tanner; son, Gary Tanner (Denise); son, Scott Tanner (Connie) and brother-in-law, Jim Tanner (Marilynn). The family would like to extend their thanks and admiration to the angels with Village Home Care, Greenwood Manor, and Mt. Carmel who have surrounded George and Sue with amazing nurturant care during this chapter in their lives.

A celebration of Sue’s life will be held at 2:00 p.m. Friday, June 3 at Village United Methodist Church in Hot Springs Village, Arkansas. In lieu of flowers, the family asks you to consider memorials in Sue’s memory to Hendrix College and Village United Methodist Church.

Obituary – Johnnie Merle McDowell

Johnnie Merle McDowell
Aug 5, 1933 – Apr 29, 2022

Johnnie Merle McDowell passed away on April 29, 2022, surrounded by her family. Born on August 5, 1933, in Yell County, Johnnie’s family moved to West Helena when she was a young girl, and she lived there until she moved to Little Rock to be closer to her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Thurman Robert “Bobby” McDowell was taken with Johnnie’s beauty, and they married on January 27, 1951. She and Bobby raised their three children in a happy and loving home with Johnnie loving them unconditionally and caring for them as the consummate homemaker. She was able to live independently until two days after Easter of this year, maintaining the same immaculate home, yard, and her beautiful appearance.

Bobby and her son, Rob, predeceased her, as did her parents, Otis Benton Watson and Grace Howell Watson, and six of her siblings: Earl Watson, Inez Cook, Neva Harden, Ida Matthews, Geraldene Von Kanel, and Nina England. She is survived by two other sisters, Betty Chambers and Lois Madonia.  She is also survived by her daughters, Debbie Dillier (Larry) of Bentonville and Patty Waddell (Bill) of Little Rock, and her daughter-in-love, Robyn McDowell of Gurdon. Cherishing her memory as their Mamaw are her grandchildren, Allison Wood, Elizabeth Robinson, Jessie Teegarden, Grace Waddell, Anna Waddell and Trent McDowell, and her great-grandchildren, Lawson Wood, John David Wood, Fisher Robinson, Lilly Robinson, Stella Robinson, and Georgia Teegarden. She delighted in each of them and they were her pride and joy. 

The family will hold a private memorial service. Memorials may be made to Highland Valley United Methodist Church, 15524 Chenal Parkway, Little Rock, AR 72211. The family extends its heartfelt gratitude to the staff in the ICU South Unit of Baptist Health for their tender care and support during Johnnie’s last days.

What the Love of God Does

I’m giving the welcome and praying in a little while to open the Arkansas Annual Conference Literacy Summit 2022. This event is sponsored by our outstanding ministry, 200,000 More Reasons, and is part of the larger work of United Methodists in Arkansas to help children who are mired in poverty experience a new kind of life. The reason we do it – and the reason we reach out in so many ways to those who are struggling – is really quite simple. Jesus loves us so much that he left his rightful place with God to become one of us and enter into our sin, suffering and struggles. In other words, it’s what the love of God does. And those of us who have experienced the fullness of that love long for others to experience it. Not just with words or ideas, but in real ways in real life that really make a difference. 


Today is the last day of our week-long Zoom Council of Bishops Spring meeting. Normally we would be together, but we are still living in the lingering impact of Covid. Since we are a global church, there literally are bishops from around the world on their device of choice connecting digitally to the meeting. While that means 8:00 am – 12:00 noon has been the meeting time for me, in some places it’s early morning, others late afternoon and still others night. If I’m honest, I must admit I sometimes find myself assuming everyone is meeting in the morning like me, as my colleagues may sometimes inadvertently assume I’m meeting at the same time of day as them. I’ve discovered that it’s just as easy to fall into the trap of assuming that everyone experiences being a disciple of Jesus Christ the same way I do. That’s why I’m grateful when the Holy Spirit reminds me that someone else’s location, culture, experience and history means I can receive the gift of a richer understanding of what it means to be a Jesus’ follower from others than I otherwise might have on my own.

20 Minutes

Late yesterday afternoon I had an MRI of what I call my ‘old man shoulder’. The tech positioned my body correctly – which meant I kind of felt like a pretzel, shot me into a tube and told me to remain still. Since I’m not prone to claustrophobia, I saw it as a time to relax. Except I should have known something was up when they gave me earplugs. The machine started, and 20 minutes of me being still created an image that will help my doctor diagnose what, if anything, is going on and what, if anything, needs to be done to fix it. Quiet time every day with God serves a similar purpose. It allows God to understand what’s going on in my soul so God can help me better understand what needs to be done to heal it. And that just may make that quiet time with God the most important time of my day.