Delphia Jane (Ashley) Culpepper, 89, of Hot Springs passed away March 31, 2014.
Born Dec. 5, 1924, at Sheridan, she was the fourth of Drew Edward and Versie Jane (Appling) Ashley’s seven daughters.
“Del” was a remarkable woman. In 1943, at the height of World War II, she graduated from Sheridan High School and quickly joined her three older sisters as a munitions worker at the Arkansas Ordnance Plant (AOP) at Jacksonville, Ark.
She meticulously crafted detonators and other high-explosive components for bombs and artillery shells; earning the nickname “Speedy” from her co-workers on the production line was a point of personal pride.
During the first half of 1944, she also attended Arkansas State Teachers College (now the University of Central Arkansas) at Conway, Ark., where she began to study nursing, pledged Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority, and worked for the college’s Home Economics department. Shortly after the Allied invasion of Europe on “D-Day,” she left school to return to AOP, where she continued working full time until nearly war’s end.
On Aug. 24, 1945, she married her childhood sweetheart, Conley E. Culpepper, a freshly returned combat veteran of the 8th Army Air Force’s 100th Bomb Group. They briefly lived at Frederick, Okla., Army Air Base until T/Sgt. Culpepper was honorably discharged.
The couple moved to Monticello, Ark., so he could use his G.I. Bill benefits to attend college. As he earned his forestry degree, Del supported the couple through secretarial work at Vera Lloyd Presbyterian Home for Children, an experience she treasured.
The novelty of being one of seven daughters took an ironic twist for Del, as she had seven sons. She is survived by all of her beloved boys and five daughters-in-law: Eddie and Susan (DePriest) Culpepper of Hot Springs Village; Kent Culpepper, Jack Culpepper, Scott and Mary (Whiley) Culpepper, and Charles and Teresa (Blackwell) Culpepper, all of Hot Springs; Mark and Angela (Cook) Culpepper of Lonsdale; and C.C. “Chip” and Karen (Carter) Culpepper of Little Rock. Her sisters Dorothy Gregory and Betty Horton of Sheridan, and Shirley James of Dublin, Ga., also survive her, as does brother-in-law Clyde Sites of Sheridan.
Other survivors include her cherished 12 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild, as well as an abundance of nieces and nephews, and countless friends.
Along with her parents, she was preceded in death by her loving husband of 55 years, Conley E. Culpepper; a daughter-in-law, Jane (Witherspoon) Culpepper; a former daughter-in-law, Angela (Davis) Culpepper; three sisters, Trula McGarity, Mildred Whitaker and Joyce Sites; and five brothers-in-law, Hershel McGarity, Emmet Whitaker, Bill Gregory, Carl Horton and Ed James.
Her kindness, good humor and patience were her trademarks. And although she was naturally reserved, Del loved words. She was a voracious reader, dabbled at poetry, and mastered a vocabulary that she used with precision. She was also an accomplished singer and joyously performed with her sisters, children, grandchildren, and extended family, as well as at church gatherings and for other organizations. She needed little prompting to sing almost anywhere.
The later cruelty of both aphasia and Alzheimer’s disease ultimately robbed her of spoken language, but even so, she maintained her ability to sing until very near the end. Del was a devoted, decades-long member of Owensville Baptist Church, where she served in numerous capacities, including music/choir director, Sunday School teacher, and Vacation Bible School director for nearly two decades. She was also a loyal and active member of the Order of the Eastern Star, having held many elected and appointed offices at the local, state and international levels.
Her lovely voice has been quieted for now, but will always echo in the hearts of her loved ones.
Funeral service will be held at 1:30 p.m. Friday, April 4, at Owensville Baptist Church in Saline County. A graveside service will follow at Center Grove Cemetery, near Sheridan, Grant County, Ark. The Revs. J. D. Courtney and Rick Merryman will officiate.
Pallbearers are Tony Culpepper, Ryan Culpepper, Casey Culpepper, Conley Culpepper, Curtis Winston and Nathan Mays. Honorary pallbearers are members of her Sunday School Class at Owensville and members of the Order of the Eastern Star (Whittington and Hot Springs National Park chapters). Arrangements are by Ashby Funeral Home.
Visitation will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, April 3, at the funeral home and 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Friday, April 4, before the service.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorials be directed to Owensville Baptist Church.
Online guest book at www.ashbyfuneralhome.com