Vera Mae Sillings, age 92, of Mena, Arkansas, died on Wednesday, November 4, 2020. She was born on Friday, March 2, 1928, in Floral Arkansas, the fifth of 13 children to James Sherman Tatum and Clemmie Ethel Griffis Tatum. Beloved wife of the late Gerald (Jerry) M. Sillings, she is survived by two sons, Mark Sillings of Sierra Madre, California, and Ted Sillings of Ellicott City, Maryland; four brothers, Bud (William) Tatum, Keith Tatum, Mike Tatum, and Stanley Tatum; and two sisters, Arlene Tatum Benedict, and Joan Tatum Henry; several nephews and nieces and a host of other relatives and friends. Vera was preceded in death by her parents, her husband Jerry, sister Lucille Tatum Deaner, sister Selma Tatum Califana, brother James Sherman Tatum Jr., sister Celesta Tatum Bogert, sister Anna Lee Singleton, and sister Shirley Tatum Avery.
When Vera was seven, the Tatum family moved to Vamoosa, Oklahoma where she and her siblings grew up helping their parents with the farm, especially during harvest time. By today’s standards it was a hard life during what were the depths of the Great Depression, but it was one that forged strong lifetime bonds with her brothers and sisters. Also, Vera was a very bright curious girl who enjoyed her schooling even though it required walking many miles between home and school each day.
One of her first jobs after graduating from high school was as a waitress in a small cafe in Seminole OK. But after visiting her older sisters living in Washington, DC, she decided to stay rather than return home. She soon found a job working as a clerk at the FBI. It was during this time that she was attending a Baptist church in DC where she met her future husband, Jerry, a WWII naval veteran. Apparently, he was smitten from the very first moment he saw her, but Vera required a bit more persuasion. Twice he asked her out and twice she turned him down. After the second rejection, one of her sister’s warned her that if she were at all interested, she had better say “yes” the next time, because he certainly won’t ask again if she should reject him a third time. Fortunately, he did ask one more time, she said yes, and they were happily married in October of 1949. Upon the announcement of their wedding, she received a congratulatory note from J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime director of the FBI.
During the early years of their marriage they lived in DC but soon moved to Brandywine, Maryland where they had bought property upon which to build a home and raise a family. After a few years during which she was focused on being a loving mom, she became a teacher’s aide within the Prince George’s County public school system. This was work that she enjoyed for many years, until she and her husband, Jerry moved to Mena, Arkansas in the early 80’s to retire. There they built a log home with a view from their back porch of the Ouachita Mountains and a new life with new friends, and where they were also within driving distance of many of her brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces living in nearby Oklahoma.
Vera was a devout Christian who for many years attended the First Baptist Church of Mena and later Christ Community Fellowship. She sang beautifully in the church choir, worked diligently on the bereavement committee, and throughout all her years her Faith always guided her life. At the same time, Vera had a sharp wit, which she used to good effect to the surprise and delight of friends and family and most recently the nurses and staff at Peachtree Assisted Living and Rich Mountain Nursing. Vera cherished her family and friends and was a loving mother, wife, sister, aunt, and friend and will be missed by all who knew her.
Cremation arrangements entrusted to Bowser Family Funeral Home of Mena, Arkansas. A service is planned for Spring 2021.