Photo caption: Gloria Jean Shelton And Russell Shelton
My sister [Chicago Crusader Entertainment Editor Elaine Hegwood Bowen], Gloria Jean Hegwood Shelton, passed away recently, after an aggressive illness, and I wanted to write just a short profile to celebrate her life. Gloria was my bonus sister, what folks back in the day would call a half-sister. But there was nothing half about the way all our siblings viewed each other.
Gloria was born in Shaw, Mississippi, and she died on January 31, at the age of 74 in Bolivar, Tennessee. Gloria graduated from McEvans High School in Shaw; afterward she moved to Fayetteville, Tennessee. She married Russell Shelton, and in the late 80s, they moved to Bolivar.
In her early profession, Gloria was a secretary for the Tennessee Department of Health before becoming a licensed cosmetologist and running a successful beauty salon in Bolivar—accentuating her more than 30 years as a cosmetologist.
As we didn’t grow up in the home together, visits to Chicago would find Gloria often staying with us in our Englewood home, as she also visited other relatives in the South Shore area.
I have a faint memory of Gloria taking me to see James Brown when I was a young teen—at the Regal Theater. It was just LOUD. I do remember falling on the sidewalk in front of our home, and Gloria urging me to get up and “try again, until you get it right.” As well, there was a young man who lived down the street who back in the day tried to acquaint himself with Gloria. But we steered her away for that unsavory association.
And when I would visit Tennessee, Gloria and Russell were so gracious and welcoming. They raised cattle, and that it was awesome to look out the window and see the cows.
Russell offered such great remarks about his adoring wife:
“My wife was an angel on this earth, and everybody loved Gloria Jean. She was an ambassador for the Lord, and she lived it every day. This community that we live in, everybody knew her. They might not have known me, but they knew her. Her daily walk was to help someone. That’s the way she lived.” And finally, as the obituary notes, Gloria adored Russell: “The ketchup to my French fries, the cream to my coffee and the Tylenol to my headache.”
Gloria’s son, Anthony Hegwood Shelton, is still hurting, but God will see him through.
“My mother’s love for me was unconditional, and unselfish although she had to share that same love with others. That special bond that she formed with me was unwavering from birth until this present moment. She taught me life lessons that I will never forget. She said be kind, treat others the way you want to be treated and God will bless you and those after you. Seems like my mother prepared me for many life lessons, however. the pain I feel now that she’s gone wasn’t one of them. A mother’s love is strong and unbeatable. Love you, Mom.”
Gloria’s granddaughter, Dornedria Cross Joseph (Ne-Ne), offered these remarks:
“I’m so glad to know that I had a God-fearing and praying grandmother! God is so good. She taught me everything I know; how to cook, how to dress, how to be a lady! She always told me to be nice to people, even if they weren’t nice to me. I love her, and I’m happy to know that I was with her every step of the way during her journey.”
Some online tributes also spoke of Gloria’s goodness.
Essie Walker wrote:
“Gloria was the same since I met her in the eighties. She always encouraged me to push buttons for greater success. The beauty shop was her platform to inspire, encourage, and bring out the best in others. To know her was to love her.”
Mrs. Sandra D. H. Hunt, TSUNAA Majestic Midsouth Region Vice President offered these thoughts:
“With sincere sympathy, I extend condolences to this family, specifically to Mr. Russell Shelton in the loss of your wife and to the children in the loss of their mother on behalf of the Executive Board and Chapter Presidents of the Tennessee State University National Alumni Association Majestic Midsouth Region. You and the family are in our thoughts and prayers.”
Gloria was committed to education, whether for herself or in advocating for others, as heralded by Carolyn Beverly:
“Gloria was an ambassador for education. Her determination in getting Hardeman County residents enrolled in education will forever have a positive impact. Her light will continue to shine.”
Church members spoke of her goodness, and Pastor William D. Young brought the eulogy from Proverbs 31, saying that although the chapter speaks of a Virtuous Woman, Gloria was a Glorious Woman.
She was a faithful member of Campbell Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Bolivar, Tennessee, where she took pride while serving as Chairperson on the Mother’s Board, and Harvest Day committee. For 20 years, Gloria hosted the Women’s Conference at her church each May around Mother’s Day.
Gloria was the oldest of eleven sisters and two brothers. She leaves to cherish fond memories her husband of 45 years, Russell; one daughter and three sons; a stepmother, 16 grandchildren, 25 great grandchildren, and a host of other relatives and friends.
Services were held on February 11 in Tennessee.
Submitted By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J.