Melissa Harvey Dockery of Little Rock, was born in 1955, to Mary Stansel Harvey and Edwin “Buddy” Harvey and grew up in the small Mississippi Delta town of Ruleville. She died on May 24 of complications from esophageal cancer. Melissa bravely lived her time with cancer as she lived her life: strong, self assured, involved, and always with a sense of humor.
Melissa was the fourth child of her parents, the “baby” of a somewhat nontraditional, southern family. As a child, Melissa was a “doll” with red hair and ringlets. In the often unintentionally cruel, not to mention politically incorrect, way of children, her siblings assured her that she had to be adopted since after all, she was the only one with red hair.
Growing up, Melissa loved reading, history, family dinners, and going to the library, The Horace Stansel Memorial Library, named after her grandfather. Melissa had an enviable creative streak at a young age. Before she could even reach the kitchen counter, she was cooking, along with cross stitching and sewing; in college she had a loom and weaved beautiful wall hangings and place mats. She even had a gallery showing. Movies and live theatre were also a big part of Melissa’s life, as was everything about Christmas. Nonetheless, she chose science as her professional calling. One could say she was both left and right brained, the yin and the yang, the scientific and the artistic.
The Harvey children grew up living with their parents and their maternal grandmother, Dovie Pearl High Stansel, who had a significant impact on Melissa. After her mother, Melissa’s grandmother was probably the most influential person in Melissa’s young life. Her grandmother had served in the state legislature in the 1930s (a feat for a woman at the time), raised two daughters called the “Science Stansel Sisters” by their college alma mater, and “Gran Pearl” had a strong influence on little Melissa.
Melissa went to public schools in Ruleville, and after high school, she entered nursing school at the medical center in Jackson, Mississippi. She lasted a week. If nothing else, Melissa Harvey Dockery was always decisive. Knowing that dietetics was a field in which she had a strong interest (her mother whom she admired deeply was a Registered Dietitian), Melissa entered the dietetics program at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, which was known for its dietetics curriculum. She graduated in 1976.
Armed with her BS Degree in Food Science, Food Systems Administration, and Nutrition, along with her Registered Dietitian certification, and with the decision made that she would go to medical school, Melissa immediately enrolled in Millsaps College in Jackson to take a few courses needed for entry to medical school. Melissa was to follow in the footsteps of her great grandfather, Dr. John High, and her aunt, Dr. Virginia Stansel Tolbert.
She took the MCAT in the spring and was accepted to the University of Mississippi School of Medicine in the fall of 1977. She worked as a Registered Dietitian at the Mississippi State Psychiatric Hospital and Baptist Medical Center before starting medical school in the fall of 1978.
Melissa’s love of dogs began “seriously” as a college freshman when her boyfriend from high school gave her a Peek a Poo for Christmas. She named her Eunice. In 1981 in her third year of medical school, Melissa was walking Eunice when Eunice quite prophetically jumped into the car of a neighbor, one Al Dockery. The introduction took. Melissa and Al married in June 1981 in the Chapel of the Episcopal Cathedral in Jackson, Mississippi.
Together Melissa and Al went to UT Knoxville for Melissa’s residency in family practice medicine from 1982-1985. On a lovely fall day in 1984, the second love of Melissa’s life was born, Dovie High Dockery. Melissa expressed this special time as one of overwhelming love. Dovie was perfect, everything Melissa wanted, a red headed daughter.
Upon completion of her residency in 1985, the family moved to West Point, Mississippi, where Melissa set up a private family practice office, also doing a little emergency medicine. She discovered that she loved ER work. With encouragement from her brother, Stansel Harvey, who is a hospital administrator, the family moved to Benton, Arkansas, in 1990, where she was an ER Physician at Saline Memorial Hospital until the time of her illness. Melissa’s ER colleagues and friends were overwhelmingly supportive during her time with cancer, and it meant a lot to her.
Melissa had many interests throughout her life, but travel was always at the top. In this, she took after her grandmother. Melissa and her sister Edwina Harvey, only two years apart in age, traveled a lot together, particularly before marriages. A Eurail pass took them to France to visit their cousin Martha Stansel, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland. They crossed the United States visiting many sites from coast to coast, and loved traveling across Canada. Melissa even did a radiology block in England when she was in medical school.
As a family, Melissa, Al and Dovie enjoyed ski trips to Colorado and British Columbia; visiting London and Scotland during Dovie’s junior year at TCU; and enjoying Disney World and other travels. For twenty years the family rented an ocean front house in Santa Rosa or Sea Grove Beach in Florida, a tradition in which Melissa delighted every year.
Of her travels, Melissa was particularly taken with Machu Picchu in Peru. It spoke to her. When Melissa was diagnosed with both breast and esophageal cancer, she hoped for a round the world National Geographic trip; there was so much of this grand world left to see. So, the tickets were secured and plans made, but sadly, it would not become a reality.
Religion was an important part of Melissa’s life, beginning with her parents and the Ruleville Methodist Church as a child. She attended several Episcopal churches in her adult years, but at the time of her death had returned to the United Methodist Church. Melissa was a charter member of the Generations of Wisdom Sunday School Class at the Pulaski Heights UMC, and worked in the food pantry and served on the Stewardship Committee and the Finance Committee of the church.
Melissa was a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians and a member of the American College of Emergency Physicians. She was a strong supporter of Planned Parenthood and contributed to hunger and homeless organizations over the years.
Melissa Harvey Dockery is survived by her husband, Al Dockery of Little Rock, and their incredible daughter, Dovie High Dockery, of New York City. She is also survived by her three siblings and their families: Molly Harvey Bogen of Dallas, TX and her two sons, Joseph Stansel Bogen and his wife Alexis Angell of New York City and Caleb Watts Bogen of Austin, TX; Stansel Harvey and his wife Lisa Davis Harvey of Greenville, MS and their son, Benjamin Harvey of Little Rock; and Edwina Harvey of Baton Rouge, LA and her son, Max Harvey Fritze of Lafayette, LA. She is also survived by her beloved dogs, Phoebe, Fiona and Glynis.
Melissa and her family would like to express their heartfelt appreciation to Dr. Mariann Harrington and her associates at Little Rock Oncology and Hematology and to all the staff at Arkansas Hospice.
A memorial service will be 1 p.m., Friday, June 1 at the Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church, 4823 Woodlawn Dr., Little Rock. To honor and celebrate Melissa’s life, she would like for gifts in lieu of flowers be sent to Heifer International, 1 World Ave., Little Rock, AR 72202; Care Animal Rescue, PO Box 7604, Little Rock, AR 72217; or Pulaski Heights UMC, 4823 Woodlawn Dr., Little Rock, AR 72205. Online guest register www.ARcremation.com