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Mrs. Willie Mae Johnson Nickleberry was born May 16, 1929, in Pittsburg, Texas to the late Leslie H. and Katie B. Curlin Johnson. She was the last of seven siblings, thus destined to pass the torch to the next generation and preserve the family legacy. Mrs. Willie Mae received her grade school and high school education from Center Point schools in Pittsburg, Texas.
While in junior high school she sparked an interest in several musical instruments; however, the piano was always her favorite. After graduating from high school, she attended Bishop College in Marshall, Texas.
Willie Mae Johnson and Alton Nickleberry were united in Holy matrimony on March 9, 1948. They were married over 52 years. After marriage, she united with BethlehemMissionary Baptist Church where she served faithfully as Pianist/Musician for over 45 years. She also served as Mission President, Vacation Bible School Director, Deaconess, Chair of Benevolent Funds, Trustee, and Speaker for several church events. They were
proud parents to five children and one nephew. She and her late husband were pillars of Bethlehem Choir. Along with the choir the traveled throughout the dusty roads of Cass County and neighboring counties sharing the gospel through music and songs. Mrs. Nickleberry served as Musician to many churches the area. She was recognized as the mother of Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church and many members affectionately called her Ms. Willie. Mrs. Nickleberry, a strong and spiritual person, was well known and respected in her community. She had a passion for assisting in her small neighborhood and left an impact on everyone she met. As the community grew, Mrs. Nickleberry saw a need for a Day Care. She enrolled in classes at Texarkana Junior College and received a Texas Child Care License. In 1977, she opened the first Child Care Center in Bethlehem community where she served as Director. As she continued to observe the needs of the community, she satisfied the requirements for Notary Public and provided notary service to many in the community and surrounding areas.
She truly loved her family and enjoyed gatherings with family and friends, quilting, gardening, canning, puzzles, reading, and shopping. She loved watching episodes of her favorite TV shows The Price is Right, Wheel of Fortune, Family Feud with Steve Harvey, and Judge Judy. Her favorite and famous saying was, “If I can help somebody, my living will not be in vain.”
On Monday, June 12, 2023, God called her home to take her rest. She is preceded in death by her husband, Alton Nickleberry; son, Emery Nickleberry; her parents, Leslie H. and Katie
B. Curlin Johnson; sisters, Gladys Reese, Catherine Palmer, Edgie Lee Peoples, Leuna Sheppard, Bobbie White and Gertha Wilson; and a brother, Leslie (L.H.) Johnson. Jr. She leaves to cherish her memories: daughters, Rachel McClendon and Lucretia Bibbs (Randolph): sons, Howard Nickleberry (Donna), Gralon Nickleberry (Faye), a special nephew, Mark Warren (Pam), who grew up in the home; granddaughters, Nicole Nickleberry, Kimberly McClendon, Brittney Durojaiye (Eric), Jasmine Bibbs, Ashley Bibbs; great-granddaughter, L’Naya Neroes; great- grandson, Elijah Durojaiye, and a special group of nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.