Mary Shull Powell
8/3/1923 - 12/29/2020

Mary G. Powell peacefully completed her earthly journey at her residence at Briarcliff Health Center in Greenville, Texas on December 29, 2020 at the age of 97.  Mary Shull Green was born on August 3, 1923 to Herbert Roy and Anne Shull Green in their home on Jones Street in Greenville.  At nine weeks of age her life and the life of her mother would change forever with the sudden loss of her father to shock during an otherwise routine surgery.  With the help of her maternal grandmother, Ethel (Kittie) Beall Shull, a new household was formed along with her first cousin, William (Bill) Foman, which would carry their upbringing with love and dignity throughout the years of the Great Depression. 


As a member of the GHS class of 1941, Mary was raised with a unique double age class, including both 7 and 6 year old first graders that would later prepare a large final graduating class prior to the beginning of the US involvement in World War II.  Upon graduation, her journey would take her to Texas Women’s University where she would graduate in three years with a degree in mathematics.  While home during the summer of 1943, she was introduced through a home dinner engagement to Army Air Force Lt. Robert (Bob) Leslie Cole of Syracuse, New York who was stationed at Majors Field in Greenville as part of his flight training.  Bob and Mary continued to date that summer of 1943, but then she returned to college in Denton, while Bob went on to Ellington Field in Houston for advanced training as a bomber pilot.


As Bob continued his training on his way to the war in Europe and his base in Italy, Mary completed her senior year at TWU.  She was ultimately hired as a civil engineering draftsman for Exxon Petroleum Company in Houston, Texas after graduation in the spring of 1944.  During that time, her correspondence with Bob came to an abrupt halt when his B-24 bomber was shot down over the Balkan mountain region of Nazi occupied Yugoslavia, now the nation of Serbia.  His experience under the protection of the Chetnik soldiers led by General Draza Mihailovich along with the generous hospitality and sacrifice of the Serbian villagers lasted from June 6 (D-day) until August 9, of 1944, when the first airmen in the region were rescued through operation Halyard.  This part of WWII history was classified for 50 years and remained largely unknown until recently.


Soon after the rescue, Bob proposed to Mary and they were married in Greenville on November 27, 1944 in her mother’s home on Jones Street.  After the war, they spent a brief time in Syracuse, then back to Greenville, then on to Denton, Texas where Bob was hired to work for Texas Telephone Company.  They were later transferred to Sherman, Texas from 1954 – 1961 and then to San Angelo, Texas where Bob worked for General Telephone Company of the Southwest.  While in San Angelo, Mary worked as a real estate broker, and later as a math teacher.  Bob preceded her in death in 1971 at the young age of 49 after a battle with lung cancer, leaving Mary and their three sons.


Three years later, in June of 1974, she then married Clyde Powell, Jr. who had dated Mary in high school thirty-four years earlier.  Clyde was also a WWII veteran having served in the Coastguard and a lifelong resident of Greenville.  Their marriage offered her the opportunity to return to her hometown and renew her lifelong friendships with so many classmates and other friends.  She continued to teach in the Greenville public schools until her retirement in 1980, when she worked with Clyde in the building business with Woodvine Townhomes, Inc. and then with PoCo Housing, a builder of custom patio homes.  During this time, she authored and published Mathco Educational Materials to share with teachers in the field after her years specializing in helping and motivating students with practical math skills.  After Clyde’s death in 1990, Mary returned to teaching as an adjunct instructor of Algebra and Developmental Math for Paris Junior College in Greenville, where she had the privilege of mentoring young adults, many of whom kept up with her in the community after entering careers in their desired fields.


In 2004, she completed and published an account of her first husband’s experience in WWII entitled “Bob’s Story”.  When the larger story of “The Forgotten 500” was published in Gregory Freeman’s book in 2007, she contacted the author and then shared the otherwise untold experience of her late husband, and the ring given to him by the Chetnik general himself.  Mary used the opportunity to tell this personal part of the story with presentations throughout the community and inspired her sons’ to take the opportunity to share the story in Serbia on the 75th anniversary of the Halyard operation in September of 2019.


Mrs. Powell was an active member of Kavanaugh United Methodist Church, serving as chair of the official board and the board of trustees.  As a descendant of one of the founding members of the congregation, she also had the honor of serving as chair of the 52 week 100th year celebration of the church.   Some of her other community endeavors included active membership in the General Edward Bulkley chapter of the DAR, and the Junior Pallas Club.   In her spare time, she enjoyed traveling and playing bridge with many wonderful lifelong friends.  Those bonds and activities gave her great comfort and sustenance during times of her friends’ needs as well as her own.  In her last years, she enjoyed special lunches in her sons’ homes and going out in Greenville, often followed by a ride around town where she could reminisce about her home, her ancestry, and historic and meaningful locations throughout the town and county.


Mrs. Powell was preceded in death by her cousin William (Bill) Foman of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, cousin Helen Ruth Sanders Sheley of Greenville, her late husband Robert (Bob) Leslie Cole, and her late husband Clyde Powell, Jr.  Mrs. Powell is survived by her three sons and their families: Gary Cole and his wife, Evelyn of Royse City, her two sons and their wives Hollis and Lindsey Goode, and Luke and Lisa Goode; Mark Cole and his wife, Sharon of Campbell, their daughter Christina Wilson and husband Lonnie, and their son Robert (Bobby) Cole; Les Cole and his wife, Becky of Rockwall, their daughter Katie Renner and husband Richard, and their son, Landon Cole and wife Jaclyn.  She also leaves six great grandchildren, whom she loved and enjoyed in her late years.  Her sons and grandsons will serve as pallbearers. Mrs. Powell’s long life as a member of Greenville’s Greatest Generation has served as a reminder that challenging times can still bring joy when lifelong friends stay connected.


The family wishes to thank Kavanaugh United Methodist Church for giving her great dignity and love through her Sunday school and service opportunities, as well as the staff at Briarcliff Health Center for their professional, yet kind, loving care during the past four years when she was no longer able to attend her church.  A memorial service will be on Tuesday, January 5, 2021 in the Kavanaugh sanctuary at 2:00 PM with Pastor John Kay presiding, following a private burial at East Mount Cemetery.  In lieu of flowers, friends may honor her life with memorials given to Kavanaugh United Methodist Church, 2516 Park Street in Greenville, Texas 75401. Coker-Mathews Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.


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