Obituaries, February 23, 2023


Esther Lee Bartley

BALDWYN | Esther Lee Bartley, 90, died Sunday, February 19, 2023, at her son’s residence in Baldwyn. Visitation will be held Friday, February 24, 2023, from 4-6 p.m. at Agnew & Sons Funeral Home in Baldwyn. Funeral services will be held Saturday, February 25, 2023, at 11 a.m. at Mt. Nebo C.M.E. Church in Baldwyn. Agnew and Sons Funeral Home of Baldwyn is in charge of arrangements.

Jimmy Cunningham

BALDWYN | James Milton (“Jimmy”) Cunningham, born November 26, 1926, passed away Friday, February 17, 2023 at the Desoto Healthcare Center in Southaven, Miss., after an extended illness. Jimmy was born to parents, Olander (“Red”) and Evelyn Cunningham in Baldwyn and lived in Baldwyn almost his entire life. After graduating from Baldwyn High School in 1944 as Salutatorian, Jimmy entered the Navy, reporting to Camp Peary Virginia. After initial and advanced training to be a Ship’s Radio Operator, Jimmy was assigned to a ship with orders to go to China, when the war ended. Jimmy returned to Baldwyn to enter the grocery business with his father and married his high school sweetheart, Geraldine Hamblin, in December 1946. They remained married for 73 years until Geraldine’s death in 2020. Jimmy and Geraldine had three sons, Jerry Milton, born 1948, Timothy Nix, born 1956, and Michael William, born 1961. Timothy died as an infant. Jimmy served as an owner / operator of Cunningham’s Food Mart from 1946 until 1988, partnering with both his father and his brother, John Cunningham, Sr. After selling the grocery store in 1988, Jimmy returned as an employee, working at the store until 2014 (age 87) when Geraldine’s health issues forced his final retirement. Jimmy served the First Baptist Church in Baldwyn in many roles over the years, including Deacon and Deacon Chairman, Pastor Search Committee Member and Chairman, Sunday School Superintendent, Sunday School Department Leader, Choir Member, Soloist, and Interim Choir Director. Jimmy was a charter member of the Baldwyn Civitan Club and served for decades as the Secretary. Jimmy’s love for Baldwyn, his community of citizens, his family, and his friends is unsurpassed. During his declining years, when he had to leave Baldwyn to stay in care facilities near his family, he often told his sons that he was “ready to return to Baldwyn.” 

 Surviving Jimmy are his two sons, Jerry (Carolyn) in Greenville, Miss., and Mike (Joann) in Olive Branch, Miss. Also surviving Jimmy are his brother Joe (Priscilla) in Cordova, Tenn., sister-in-law Janice Hamblin in Tupelo, six grandchildren, eight great grandchildren, and a host of favorite nieces and nephews.

Jimmy is preceded in death by his wife Geraldine Cunningham, son Timothy Cunningham, parents Olander and Evelyn Cunningham, and brother John Cunningham, Sr.

Services will be held at the First Baptist Church in Baldwyn on Saturday, February 25 at 1 pm, with the Rev. Stanley Huddleston officiating. Visitation will be from 11 am until 1 pm at the First Baptist Church. Pallbearers will be the Active Deacons of the First Baptist Church. There will be no graveside service.

In lieu of flowers, please send a contribution to the First Baptist Church in Baldwyn.

Tracy Fondren

GUNTOWN | Spencer Tracy “Moose” Fondren passed away on Friday, February 17, 2023 as the result of an auto accident. He worked for Lee County 2nd district. He also helped May Farms. He loved driving his truck, working and spending time with family and friends.

Services were held Sunday, February 19, 2023 at Waters Funeral Home with Bro. Chad Higgins and Doug Dickey officiating. Burial will be in the Camp Creek cemetery.

He is survived by his mother and step-father, Shelby Hardin & Jimmy of Guntown; his daughter Chelcie Fondren of Guntown; his soul-mate of more than two years, Kathy Holder; a sister, Shea Franks of Mantachie; two brothers, Greg Fondren of Guntown and Chad Fondren of Iowa; a grandchild Farrah Pearson.

He was preceded in death by his father Charles Fondren, Grandparents, Luther and Pearl Davis and Blufie and S. V. Fondren and a close friend Ronnie Blassingame.

Pallbearers were Terry Dickey, Doug Dickey, Curt White, Craig White, Kevin White, Bob Bryson, Jeff White and Richard White. Honorarypallbearers were the Lee County Road Dept. Co-workers.

Martha Mahler

BALDWYN | Martha Jean “Mot” Mahler, 76, passed away on Saturday, February 18, 2023 at her home. She was born on September 17, 1946 to Luther Lloyd Ricks and Geneva Athelee Crabb Ricks. She enjoyed cooking playing games, playing cards and eating Mexican food. Martha never met a stranger and was a member of East Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church.

Funeral services will be held at Waters Funeral Home on Saturday, February 25, 2023 at 4:30 P.M. with Bro. Rex Bullock and Bro. Anthony Copeland officiating. Burial will be in Prentiss Memorial Gardens.

She is survived by her son, Edward Mahler (Stacey) of Baldwyn; daughter, Rhonda Mahler of Dallas, TX; sister, Linda Mahler of Baldwyn; brothers, Lloyd Ricks of Wisconsin and John Ricks (Hellen) of Wheeler; grandchildren, Danielle Phillips (Travis) of Dallas, TX, Morgan Dangerfield (Takki) of Dallas, TX, Tyler Mahler of Baldwyn, Travis Mahler of California and Mary Carrson Sandlin of Baldwyn; host of nieces and nephews including special niece, Geneva “Sissy” Hunt of Baldwyn.

She was preceded in death by her husband of 46 years, Ernest Elwood Mahler; sister, Ann Mayberry, Dean Cooper and Nicki Burns; brother, Bob Ricks.

Pallbearers will be Evan Ricks, Mark Stilwell, Ken Mahler, Karl Mahler, Jordan Kearns and Tyler Mahler. Honorary pallbearers will be Takki Dangerfield, Ken Ricks, Alan Ricks and Travis Mahler.

Visitation will be at Waters Funeral Home from 2 p.m. until service time.

In lieu of flowers the family ask that donations be the Michael J. Fox Research Foundation for Parkinson’s, P.O. Box 5014 Hagerstown, MD 21741.

James Rutherford

BALDWYN | James Leonard Rutherford, 87, passed away on Friday, February 17, 2023 at his home. He was born on October 22, 1935 to Tobe and Lily Rutherford. He was an avid gardener and farmer. He owned Rutherford Peach Orchard and grew just about anything. He loved going to auctions with his brothers and spending time with his family. He had worked for Brown Shoe Company, Plumrose (Swift), Walmart Distribution Center, and Prentiss Memorial Gardens. He was a member of Mount Olive Baptist Church where he served as a deacon for many years.

Funeral services were held at Waters Funeral Home on Sunday, February 19, 2023, with Bro. Raybon Richardson and Dr. Chester Harrison officiating. Burial was in Prentiss Memorial Gardens.

He is survived by a daughter, Rhonda Lansdell (Billy) of Baldwyn; granddaughters, Heather Hancock (Jackie) of Baldwyn and Kristi Bearden (BJ) of Baldwyn; great-grandchildren, Aubree Bearden, Abby Bearden, Savannah Hancock, Cooper Hancock and Everett Hancock; brothers, Charles Rutherford (Beverly) of Baldwyn and Freddie Rutherford (Linda) of Booneville; sister, Sharon Benjamin (Jerry) of Rienzi and a host of nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his parents, his wife, Patsy Cooper Rutherford; siblings, Elois Kelly, Doris Rutherford, Lenice Mauney, Barbara McCoy and a special brother-in-law, Leon Coker.

Pallbearers were Lanny Coker, Michael Rutherford, Josh Walden, Luke Walden, Joe Kelly, Keith Kelly and Mitchell Watson.

Robert Marion Thomas

BALDWYN | Robert Marion Thomas, 85, passed away on February 20, 2023, at NMMC. He was born July 7, 1937, to Paul and Marie (Maudlin) Thomas. Robert married Virginia ‘Gen’ Bruce Enis on December 8, 1956. He graduated from Baldwyn High school where he played football and received the All Tombigbee Conference award. After Jeff was born, Robert and Gen moved to Wisconsin for employment opportunities, where four more sons were born. They returned to Baldwyn in 1968. Robert was employed by NOBA, Inc. (which stored and sold cattle semen for artificial insemination) until he became disabled.

Robert loved his family and spending time with them. He was the primary caregiver for Joe, their son who was comatose for 8 years after an automobile accident. He enjoyed cooking, watching Ole Miss Sports, and going to the Coast. Back in the day, he was an avid coon hunter and always had a hunting story to tell.

Survivors include 3 sons Jackie Paul (Sylvia) Thomas of Baldwyn, Jim (Audrey) Thomas of Saltillo, and Jon (Kathy) Thomas of Booneville; 9 grandchildren Jeremy (Shelaine)Thomas, Justin (Mallory) Thomas, Jessica (Nick) Lavender, Julie Brook (Cary) Clark, Ashley (Drew) Deweese, Jayla (Brad) Bullard, Christian (Hannah) Thomas, Emily Thomas, and Genee-Grace (Blake) Burress; 24 great-grandchildren; 2 brothers Grover (Margaret) Thomas of Houston, TX, Jerry (Patricia) Thomas of Montgomery, AL and one sister Paula (Stephen) Tullos of Florence, MS, and a host of nieces and nephews.

Robert was preceded in death by Gen, his parents, two sons Jeff Thomas and Joe Thomas, two granddaughters Holly Thomas and Anna Lisa Stewart, and one great-grandson Jack Riley Bullard.

Pallbearers will be grandsons and grandsons-in-law.

Services will be Friday, February 24, 2023, at 2:00 p.m. at Waters Funeral Home in Baldwyn with Bro. Kelly Carmichael officiating. Visitation will be from 1:00 p.m. until services.

In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to: First Christian Church, 996 S 4th Street, Baldwyn, MS 38824; St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, 252 Danny Thomas Way, Memphis, TN 38105; or Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, 848 Adams Ave, Memphis, TN 38103.