Melba Blaylock was born December 11, 1921 to Wilhelmina Katherine Butschek Wright and Melvin Robert Wright in Navasota, Texas. She grew up in San Antonio and graduated from Jefferson High School. Melba worked as a clerk at the Duncan Field Air Force Base where she met the love of her life and sweetheart of 70 years, Len Blaylock from Little Rock. Len remembered she bested him at tennis, archery, and skating during their whirlwind romance of 3 months. Before he was transferred, they married and began their 20 year adventure/career in the military. They moved all over the U. S. which meant Melba had to travel many miles, set up many households, deal with numerous school enrollments, and manage and parent alone much of the time. She became adept at adapting to new environments and climates—even Alaska!
Life changed in 1959 when Len “retired” and the family moved to Nimrod, Arkansas, where they owned a store and local post office, the Nimrod Trading Post. They also purchased a farm where they raised cattle and gardened despite being novices. When Len found new careers in teaching and politics, Melba had to step up her game and assume her “Barbara Stanwyck Big Valley” persona, wrangling cattle and driving a tractor, while raising her children.
The Blaylocks believed in the 2 party system of government and became active in politics and the election of Winthrop Rockefeller as the state’s governor. It became Len’s career but they both were active in the local and state Republican party. 1972 was a particularly challenging year for them both when Len ran for governor against Dale Bumpers.
Later Melba and Len became certified foster parents for DHS and fostered several children in this challenging yet fulfilling role.
Melba’s dedication to her faith and church, Nimrod Baptist, were inspiring. It was very rare that the church doors were open without her presence and she was often one of 1st to arrive and last to leave. This was the case for at least 57 years until she was unable physically to serve in that capacity. She served as pianist for many years as well as Sunday School and Vacation Bible School teacher and “prayer warrior”.
Her family was also the beneficiary of her tenacious character, energy, and love. She raised 5 children and then enjoyed helping with a succession of grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. Though naturally shy she could be a tough disciplinarian with her kids but also a lioness when they needed her. Melba and Len’s home was usually the preferred weekend and holiday destination for the family where there were big meals, music, and fun activities with farm animals and four wheelers. A typical Sunday morning at Melba’s was waking to the aroma of a roast cooking, maybe blackberries and biscuits for breakfast, then church, lunch, farm chores, and visiting. Melba had few pretentions but she did love her lipstick and liked it red! As a result it was a common sight to see chubby cherubs sporting a bright lip-print on their cheeks.
After the grandchildren grew up and began having their own families, one of their pleasures when visiting was to enjoy the photo albums that Melba had put together through the years for each of her children and grandchildren. She even kept a community album with photos and event clippings for her friends and neighbors. It could be depended on that whenever a child received an award or achieved a milestone, that Melba and Len would share enthusiastically in that joy and that connection is sorely missed.
Another hobby of Melba’s was crocheting and she made many dozens of beautiful afghans to share with friends and family through the years.
She was preceded in death by her parents, her sister Dora Rogers, and daughter-in-law Vickie Blaylock. Survivors are four sons David Robert (Suzi) of Coolidge, Arizona; Len Everette Jr (Luanne) Maumelle; Melvin James (Mary) of London; Dale Alan of Greenbrier; Betty Louise Freeze (Mike) of Little Rock. She also leaves behind cherished nieces and nephews; 16 grandchildren; 33 great-grandchildren; and 6 great-great-grandchildren. Appreciation is felt for other special people in her life—niece Marilyn Kinsey (John); Janet Kelm, Wanda McElwee, Connie McNeal, Sandra Underwood, and Lindsey Farnum as well as numerous friends and neighbors.
Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m., Monday, December 9, 2019, at Nimrod Baptist Church. Family will receive friends there from 1 to 2 p.m. before the service. Burial will be at Nimrod Cemetery under direction of Humphrey Funeral Service.
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