Obituary: Jean Stephens


On Feb. 23, 2021, Mary “Jean” Stephens left her worldly body for a new, beautiful, pain-free Heavenly body and to be with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Jean was born Jan. 16, 1933, in Dubuque, Iowa to a young, unwed mother and given up for adoption, where her parents, James and Mary Williams adopted her from the orphanage at the age of three.  Jean lived with her parents and adopted brother, James in Nashua, Iowa until they moved to Banner, Arkansas in 1942.

She attended Concord Public Schools where she graduated high school.  After graduation, she moved about the US working in various places and becoming one of the first women to participate in dirt track car racing where she gained public notoriety by spending a lot of time in the winner’s circle.

Later she moved to Huntington Park, CA where she met and married Grady (Steve) Stephens and gave birth to their daughter Cammie in 1961.  After her divorce in 1963, she moved back to Banner, Arkansas to raise her daughter and care for her aging parents.

After several months of unemployment, she secured a position at the Glove Factory in Heber Springs, AR.  Then a couple of years later, she began work at Batesville Manufacturing Company as a machinist where she retired in 1998.  The company was then known as GenCorp.

Outside of work, Jean led a very busy life with her daughter, raising show horses and cattle on the family farm.  She participated and volunteered in her daughter’s school and social activities as much as possible.  Jean was an active member of IAM Local 2248, where she held numerous officer positions and was instrumental in trying to make where she worked a better place for all employees by being involved in contract negotiations and other union activities.  She enjoyed the Arkansas political scene where she volunteered on numerous statewide and national campaigns.

After her retirement in 1998 from GenCorp, she continued to work on the family farm and traveled across the globe with friends.  She worked for a short time for a local surgeon in Batesville.  She volunteered at the Promise Land Horse Camp For the Disabled, hospice and continued to be active with her church family at Mt. Zion Baptist Church.  She was also chosen, several years in a row, to be a part of the Silver Hair Legislature, which highlights important issues for the senior population of Arkansas.

Due to declining health, Jean moved to Kansas in 2019 to be closer to Cammie and her family.

Jean leaves behind a strong legacy of faith in Christ, being independent with a “get the job done, but have fun doing it” attitude, a sarcastic sense of humor, and quick wit.

She was preceded in death by her parents, James and Mary Williams, and her brother James.  She is survived by her daughter, Cammie (Lynden) Landholm of Topeka, Kansas; her granddaughter, Mackenzie (Mike) O’Neill and two great-grandsons, Max and John O’Neill of Minneapolis, Minnesota; family in Iowa and Nebraska and a multitude of friends locally and abroad.

She was truly one of a kind and will be missed by all who knew and loved her.

Funeral services will be Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021, at 2:00 p.m. at the Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Banner.  Burial will follow in the Concord Cemetery arrangements by Qualls Batesville Funeral Service.

Visitation will be from 1:00 p.m. until service time at the church.

In Lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to  Humane Society of Independence County, 5 Environmental Drive, Batesville, AR  72501.

Leave a Reply