Obituary: Martha Jean Huggins Shirrell

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Martha Jean Huggins Shirrell, 82, of Little Rock, died April 20, 2020, preceded by husband Jimmy Graton Shirrell and parents Julius Edmond and Ida Pearl James Huggins.

Survivors are son Franklin Shirrell and his wife Annette (Little Rock), and grandchildren Stuart Shirrell (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Molly Shirrell (Little Rock), and Lauren Shirrell (Iowa City, Iowa). She was born and raised in Batesville, graduating from Batesville High School and Lyon College, where she later served as Alumni Association President.

An educator in the Cord-Charlotte, Batesville, and Little Rock school districts, she was one of the first teachers to participate in a state-sponsored pilot program for Multicultural Reading and Thinking (McRat) to develop students’ critical thinking abilities and cultural awareness through direct instruction and practical application. She retired from classroom teaching in 2000 and served at the state level to promote reading skills throughout its school districts, and as President of the Arkansas Reading Association.

She often said that she ”never worked a day in her life”, having found and passionately lived out her unique purpose. She was a lifelong Methodist church member, serving in numerous leadership roles; The P.E.O. Sisterhood; Delta Kappa Gamma; and numerous book clubs.

One of the most gratifying opportunities in her later years was leading the formation of the Christians Facing Cancer support group at White’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Southlake, Texas. Over the past ten years, the group has continued to serve cancer patients, their families, and friends by providing spiritual, emotional, and educational support from clergy and a variety of guest speakers from the medical profession.

A private graveside service for the family will be held Saturday, April 25, 2020, at Oaklawn Cemetery in Batesville, with details for a virtual Celebration of Life service forthcoming.

Memorials can be made to Batesville Public Library, 267 E. Main Street, Batesville, AR 72501; Christians Facing Cancer Support Group, White’s Chapel United Methodist Church, 185 S. White Chapel Blvd., Southlake, Texas 76092; or a charity of choice.

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