Madge N. Duke Watkins McElwee, 94, was born at home Nov. 26, 1919, in Dumas City, Union County, Arkansas. Her first 89 years were spent in El Dorado, Arkansas, and the last five years she lived in Van Buren with her daughter and family. Madge became a beautiful “Easter Angel” in the early morning hours of Easter Sunday, April 20, 2014. Her parents were Charlie Homer Duke and Pearl Murphy Duke. The Duke and Murphy families came to Union County from Georgia and Alabama in the mid-1800s to help settle Union County.
She is survived by a daughter, Sheila Watkins Bell (Charles R. “Dick”) of Van Buren, and their son, Charles Clayton (Jennifer) Bell; a son, Kenneth Larry Watkins (Donna) of El Dorado, Larry’s daughter, Crystal Watkins (Bill Mark) Graves and their sons, Alexander Logan and John David. Madge’s first son, Henry Rowland Watkins, preceded her in death; his daughter, Linda Watkins Smith and her two daughters, Victoria and Emily also survive her. A special granddaughter, April Danielle Watkins (daughter of Larry Watkins) also preceded her in death. Eleven much loved nieces and nephews and 16 grand nephews and nieces also survive her.
Madge was the third of five children and two older living sisters, Dorrine Duke Willett Kundert (98) of El Dorado and Betty Duke Tullis (96) of Angleton, Texas, continue to live and cherish almost a century of childhood and family memories. Her parents and her younger brothers who preceded her in death were Henry Byron Duke and Thomas Duke.
Madge started school at “RoseHill,” a one-room school house at Lisbon and graduated from Myrtle Grove High School near Norphlet in 1938. She played on the school basketball team, and played rhythm guitar when her family gathered for “singings.” She moved to “town,” El Dorado, and worked during World War II to support the war effort. Madge married T. G. “Red” Watkins in 1945 with whom she had three children. She was a homemaker involved in Union County Home Demonstration clubs, PTA and her church, Marrable Hill Chapel.
Later in life, while married to James McElwee, she helped found Parkers Chapel First Baptist Church and remained very active in the church until a stroke in early 2000. She sang in the choir and loved the fellowships and Bible study classes.
She was baptized in a pond near Lisbon in 1939 after joining Ebenezer Baptist Church. She was a Christian who loved the Lord and knew her Saviour, Jesus Christ.
The word “family” was more than just a word to Madge. The time she spent cooking and preparing for family gatherings brought her so much joy. She was fierce in her love for her children, sacrificed for them throughout her life and was a warrior during the illness and death of her first born son.
To her, family also meant her neighbors; before her stroke, she took ladies to doctor appointments, bought groceries for shut-ins, called utility companies for them and called shut-ins’ families who lived far away. She treasured the elderly, and also cared for her mother for many years.
Service will be graveside at Salem Cemetery, Highway 172 off Mt. Holly Road, or west end of Morning Star Road, 11 a.m. Saturday under the direction of Young’s Funeral Directors with Rev. Eddie Anderson officiating.
Visitation will be held from 6-7 p.m. Friday, April 25, 2014, at Young’s Funeral Home.
Honorary pallbearers will be Charles Watkins, John Willett and Buford Willett.
Memorials to honor her life and family may be sent to Salem Cemetery, P. O. Box 107, Smackover, AR 71762.
An online guest registry will be available at www.youngsfuneralhome.com.