Wilma Jean Atkins Browder

Wilma Jean Atkins Browder departed a life of devotion and compassion on August 5 in Malakoff, Texas. She was born in Falls County in 1926, the sixth of eight children of Birtie Sewell and Robert Atkins. When she was twelve, the family moved to Coldspring, where Wilma excelled as a student, graduating as the valedictorian of her high school class, and where she met her future husband, John Craig Browder. Craig served in the U.S. Army during World War II, while Wilma moved to Houston, where she attended business school and found employment in the war effort, working for an officer who oversaw fuel distribution to area airports.

She and Craig married in 1947. They made their home in Houston, where they raised four daughters. While the girls were little, Wilma was a stay-at-home mom, volunteering at schools and staying very active in ministry efforts at church. In 1968, she was recruited by Pastor Ralph Langley to take the newly created staff position of “Church Missionary” at Willow Meadows Baptist Church. She worked with Dr. Langley to create much of the outreach program of the congregation. Several years later, she was a member of the first group of women ordained as deacons at Willow Meadows. She worked tirelessly to serve others in the church and help people all over Houston. She was a proud member of the Southern Baptist Alliance, a voracious reader, and a highly competitive worker of crossword puzzles, often racing Craig to see who could be the first to finish the puzzle.

In retirement, Wilma and Craig moved back to Coldspring, where they built a home that always offered a warm welcome, a pot of hot coffee, and plenty of good conversation. She served for a time as a staff member at the First Baptist Church of Coldspring, joined a book club, and studied painting. Craig died in 2006, and Wilma moved to Athens in 2011, to enter an assisted-living facility in Athens.

Wilma is survived by her daughters and their husbands—Gwen Richardson (Jesse), Sally Browder (David Stricklin), Jeanine Roquet (Paul), and Peggy Collins (Phil)—ten grandchildren, eleven great-grandchildren, her sister Billie Atkins Trapp, sister-in-law Sally Bowyer Browder Atkins, vast numbers of nieces and nephews, and a great cloud of witnesses to a lifetime of faithful service, caretaking, and simply doing what needed to be done in every instance. The family wants to offer a special note of thanks to the staff at Cedar ¬Lake Nursing Home in Malakoff, TX and Genesis Hospice Care workers in Athens, TX, who provided Wilma with an exemplary level of care and helped fill her time of ending with grace and peace.

Visitation will be held on Sunday, August 11, from 6-8 pm at Pace-Stancil Funeral Home of Coldspring. Following a private burial, a memorial service will be held at First Baptist Church of Coldspring at 11:00 am on Monday, August 12.

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