Pastors' Memoirs

Mary Katherine Pulliam, 1916-2002

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  Mary K. Pulliam was born April 30, 1916, in Gauley Bridge, West Virginia. She graduated from Fayetteville High School where she was valedictorian, cheerleader, lifeguard, and a basketball team guard. She attended Berea College in Kentucky where she was May Queen, star of the basketball team, a member of the yearbook staff, and a piano major. She graduated and became Fayette County, West Virginia’s only female sheriff’s deputy and tax auditor. She soon married Curtis Lyle Pulliam, whom she had met at Berea College, and became a full-time mother of four, part-time piano teacher, active PTA leader, teacher of folk and square dance, and tireless Methodist church volunteer. Her husband’s job took them to Roanoke, Virginia; Rutland, Vermont; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

  It was in Milwaukee that her husband suddenly died in 1962, and Mary K. was left a young widow with four children between the ages of 17 and 10. She was offered and decided to take a job in her old church in Roanoke, Huntington Court Methodist. The job was as Director of Christian Education, and it was offered to Mary K. with two understandings: 1) that she would acquire the necessary education for the job as she worked, and 2) if any one of her children needed her while she was at work, she would be there for that child. So she moved her family back to Roanoke from Milwaukee, and began a new phase of her life. She began working a full-time and then-some job, and managed at the same time to fulfill the requirements for the education that the job demanded. True to her commitment, she became certified as an Associate in Christian Education through Scarritt College in Nashville, Tennessee.

  She became a Consecrated Lay Worker in the early 1970s, and was consecrated in 1977 as a Diaconal Minister. She served at Huntington Court and Raleigh Court United Methodist churches in Roanoke, Blacksburg United Methodist Church, and First United Methodist Church in Charlottesville. She was recognized as a leader by her peers and was instrumental in the growth of her profession. She chaired the Virginia Conference Board of Diaconal Ministry, and served as President of the Virginia Conference Christian Educators Fellowship. She also served as a board member of the national Christian Educators Fellowship. Through the years, she served as a mentor to many who experienced a call to ministry.

  In 1973, Mary K. was named Mother of the Year for the state of Virginia. She was honored in a ceremony in Richmond, Virginia, by then-governor Linwood Holton. Governor Holton shared with the audience many of Mary K.’s accomplishments in her professional life, and then talked about the success that she had raising four children alone. Her children like to say that she was the Mother of Every Year, and that it was nice that she was at least recognized for it once.

  When Mary K. retired, she enjoyed family and friends, traveling, playing tennis and bridge, cheering on the Virginia Tech Hokies, continued church work, and serving as treasurer for the District Ministerial Association, and on the Virginia Conference Board of Ordained Ministry.

  Mary K. Pulliam died Thursday, Dec. 5, 2002, at her home in Roanoke after a short battle with cancer. She was honored in a Roanoke Times article dated 12/31/02 titled, "We Remember — Notable Southwest Virginians who died in 2002." She loved her family, her friends, and the United Methodist Church. We are all better for having had her in our lives, and we thank God for her rich, full life, and boundless energy.

— Jane Riddle, daughter



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