Willie Jean Tidwell Gatlin was conceived and born out of the love between Wylie and Christine Anderson Tidwell on October 5, 1934 in Okolona, Arkansas.
Willie Jean was raised in Okolona by loving and nurturing parents who instilled in her the values of hard work and humility. She grew up during the time of segregation and was a graduate of the Simmons High School in Okolona, Arkansas.
She accepted Christ as a young lady and united with the First Baptist Church in Okolona. Willie Jean met Sam Edward Gatlin and they were united in Holy Matrimony in 1953. They were blessed with nine healthy children. She was a part of the generation that counted motherhood as a virtue because a mother knew the difference between a house and a home. So her golden accomplishment in life was to make a loving home that would produce a tapestry of memories for which her family would forever cherish and relish.
Willie Jean was the epitome of daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, homemaker, friend, aunt, matriarch, mentor, neighbor, counselor, confidante and servant. Her doors were always open for food, fun and fellowship. She loved to cook “soul food” and her home was often the place to gather for a great meal and tons of laughter.
She never met a stranger and possessed a very quiet but powerful spirit. As her health began to fail she moved to Little Rock, Arkansas where she passed into the Lord’s embrace on Sunday, August 16, 2015. She is now added to His great and blessed family in the world beyond our vision - a place not made by human hands, but a place we call Heaven.
Because love is far greater than death, her love will continue to live in the heart of her beloved children: Luster Gatlin of Flint, MI, Sammy Gatlin of Arkadelphia, Rev. Charles (Angie) Gatlin of Little Rock, AR, Johnny Gatlin of Little Rock, Dennis (Sherri) Gatlin of Los Angeles, CA, Diane (Wayne) Haislip of Newport, AR, Patsy Gatlin of Arkadelphia, Bert Gatlin of Little Rock, AR, and Donald Gatlin of Arkadelphia; twenty-three grandchildren, seventeen great-grandchildren; two sisters, Estelle Alexander of Fort Worth, TX, and Priscilla (Sonny) Hale of Okolona, AR; four brothers, Wylie (Betty) Tidwell, Jr., of Los Angeles, CA; L. T. Tidwell, Henry Tidwell and Donald Tidwell all of Flint, MI. She was preceded in death by her parents, Wylie and Christine Tidwell and one sister, Louise Jones. She also leaves a cadre of nieces, nephews, and other relatives; a string of friends and the First Baptist Church family. Her gifts of encouragement and support will forever live in the hearts of all of the lives she touched and those who knew her.
A celebration of her life will be held at First Baptist Church in Okolona on Saturday, August 29, 2015 at 1:00 p.m. with Rev. Rufus Hatley, officiating. Interment will be at St. Clair Cemetery in Burtsell, Arkansas.
Public visitation will be Friday from 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. The family will receive friends on Friday, August 28, 2015 from 5:30-7:00 p.m. at Evangelistic Baptist Church, 902 Atkinson Street, North Little Rock, AR 72217. In lieu of flowers memorials may be made to Evangelistic Baptist Church in her honor.