Annie Bell Richardson Lewis

Published 7:00 pm Sunday, May 5, 2013

Annie Bell Richardson Lewis was born May 1, 1918 in Lincoln County, the oldest child of Marzell and Lizzie Whitworth Richardson. She grew up in Brookhaven with her siblings, Margarett Louise, Edith Elizabeth, Monzola, Marzell Jr. and Omie Richardson.

She graduated from Alexander High School, completed the Lincoln County Teacher Training Program and taught for several years in Lincoln County. She was also a skilled seamstress and worked in alterations at Gulley’s men store on Cherokee Street in downtown Brookhaven. While working at Gulley’s, she met James Calvin Lewis from McComb, who was a general contractor working on a building across the street.

Annie Bell later married James Calvin Lewis and joined him in Wheaton, Ill., where he had moved and started a construction business. She immediately became a vital part of the operational aspect of the business. It was here that they contracted and constructed their first home.

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After several years of marriage and having no children, they decided to adopt their son, Michael James Lewis. This wonderful blessing provided personal fulfillment for Annie Bell and sparked a spirit of ambition for greater involvement in life. So, she decided to go back to school to become an interior/exterior designer. With this additional training, her role in the business increased as she began assisting with blueprints and the total aspect of constructing buildings.

Annie Bell’s husband, who was dedicated to helping people, decided to come back to Mississippi to continue to share with those in his home area. He had a vision of improving the housing conditions of Brookhaven. After much thought and planning, they decided to move back to Brookhaven to see if they could make that vision become a reality. They bought a parcel of land of pecan tress off Washington Street and built a housing development, which is called Peco Village, located between Mullins School and the old site of Eva Harris School. Their home was the first house in the development. Ann was the sole designer, and the home was constructed by her husband. The house was located on the corner of Dissa Street, which was named for a niece who lives in Illinois. The street, Lewis Drive, in Peco Village refers to Mr. and Mrs. James Calvin Lewis.

After several years in Brookhaven with a lull in the construction business, the Lewis family moved back to Illinois, where they revitalized the business there; and Michael finished high school and went to the University of Illinois.

In the middle of numerous contracts, Annie Bell’s husband had a fatal massive heart attack. The death was a heartbreaking shock to her, but her strength, courage and business skills helped her carry on. In fact, she completed all of the jobs that had been contracted, including Twelfth Street Train Station in Chicago.

Two years later, her son, Michael, graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in electrical engineering. He accepted a job in the Silicon Valley, San Jose, Calif., and carried his mother with him. After several years, Michael married, and Annie Bell moved back to Brookhaven to live with her sister, Edith Richardson, who had returned from Beaumont, Texas and had built a home on the Harris Street family home site.

Upon returning to Brookhaven, Annie Bell renewed her membership with St. James Church under the leadership of the Rev. Percy Dixon, where she worshiped and worked with various church ministries. She had worked with the League of Voters in Illinois; so, she continued to work at the polls in Brookhaven. She also worked with AARP. Her community involvements and her gardening kept her busy for about 20 years. She became ill with Alzheimer’s and had to be admitted to Haven Hall Health Care Center, where she stayed about a year and a half.

By this time, her son, Michael, who was a broker and real estate investor, had moved to Austin, Texas to grow his business. He decided that is was time for him to come and get his mother so that he could care for her. She lived a peaceful and comfortable life in Regency Village Care Center in Austin, Texas, with her wonderful son visiting her every day.

Annie Bell Richardson lost her fight with Alzheimer’s on May 1, 2013.

She is survived by her son, Michael James and wife, Julie, of Austin, Texas; her siblings, Edith Elizabeth Richardson, of Brookhaven, Marzell Richardson Jr. and wife, Beverly June, of Joliet, Ill., and Omie Robinson, of San Jose, Calif.; nephews and nieces, the Honorable Marzell Richardson III, Joseph Richardson, Mardissa Brown, of Joliet, Ill., Doug Robinson, of San Jose, Calif., and Margaret Anne Neal, of Dallas; and many relatives and friends.

Funeral services are 11 a.m. on Monday, May 6, at St. James M.B. Church, with burial in Carver Heights Cemetery. The Rev. Larry Jointer will officiate. R.E. Tyler Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

Visitation is Monday from 10 until 11 a.m. at the church.