Front page: Son pays tribute to mother of 18 children

By Ellis Stewart

GLADEWATER, Texas--When Nannie Marline Boyce died on Mothers' Day this year, she left behind 90 years of memories that included raising a family of 18 children.

Some of them were stepchildren, but only five. She and her husband, Marshall, who died in 1970, had 13 of them together, from the 1930s until twins Sherry and Terry came along in 1954.

Mrs. Boyce, a member of the Worldwide Church of God, was living in a nursing home in Dallas, Texas, when she died on May 11.

Another of her children, Bob, an Ambassador College graduate and a former WCG elder, preached her funeral at Croley Funeral Home in Gladewater. Mrs. Boyce was interred where scores of WCG and former WCG members are buried, in Gladewater Memorial Park, between Gladewater and Big Sandy.

Before a roomful of family and friends at the funeral home, Mr. Boyce reflected on his mother's 90 years.

Mrs. Boyce was born in 1912, eight years after the Wright brothers' first airplane flight, as Nannie Marline Setliff in Eldorado, Okla.

As a teenager she learned to dance during the Roaring Twenties. She married at age 19 in 1931, during the Depression.

"I don't know what Dad said to her, but that had to be a great sales job," said her son. "You see, Dad was 40 years old, had just lost his [first] wife to breast cancer, and was trying to raise five kids while living on a neighboring farm. Somehow he convinced Mom, and they were married in 1931."

In the '40s Mrs. Boyce saw three sons go off to World War II, another to Korea in 1951 and one to the Vietnam War in the '60s.

By 1954, when she had twins Sherry and Terry, a boy and girl, she had 13 children of her own, plus five stepchildren from her husband's previous marriage.

Mr. Boyce cited Proverbs 31 to explain what a "choice lady" his mother was.

"She gave us unconditional love," he said.

It's been said that a mother is a woman who decorates her life with babies. She was certainly that, according to son Bob.

"When she was not having babies, she always served us three meals a day, and many times she also worked in the field" on the family farm. "She made quilts for all of us. She was always caring for her husband and family."

In 1949 Mrs. Boyce became interested in religion, her son said, and had a "desire" to know what the Bible said about life and "why we're here on planet earth."

After much study of her Bible, two elders of the Radio Church of God--Herman Hoeh and Roderick Meredith--baptized her in Olustee, Okla., in 1953.

Mr. Boyce recalled an incident that illustrated his mother's zeal for her newfound faith.

Mr. Boyce said that because of her generosity, which included faithful tithing to her church, "she was one of the most blessed, even greater than J. Paul Getty."

For many years Mrs. Boyce lived in Big Sandy and attended Sabbath services on the campus of Ambassador College.

She lost her husband, Marshall, in 1970 after 39 years of marriage.

Her son mentioned other blessings from God his mother enjoyed in her life:

o Her social-security payments lasted for 40 years, until her death.

o She was widely traveled, to Feast of Tabernacles sites and to visit relatives.

o While she was living on widows' row (a reference to the Hillcrest Manor housing development in Big Sandy), she went to work at Annie's Tea Room in Big Sandy and was able to save up $10,000, which enabled her to pay for her own funeral.

o Mrs. Boyce did not have to live in a nursing home (until the last few months of her life).

After leaving Big Sandy in 1987, Mrs. Boyce lived with her son, M.A., and his wife, Helen, in Longview. For most of the past 10 years she lived with her daughter Joye in Dallas.

"If anyone mentioned Mom needed shoes or a dress," said her son Bob, "she usually wound up with 10. She was not only blessed spiritually, but you should have seen her closet."

During the funeral, which was punctuated by four gospel recordings of Elvis Presley and his backup quartet, Mr. Boyce said that "death is not the end."

Quoting Scripture, he presented a view of God's plan for mankind, showing God is producing "a family" and has made a way for those "called now" to be the "firstfruits" of his family.

Referring to his mother again, he quoted from Proverbs 31: "And her sons and daughters shall rise up and honor her, and that's why we are here today."

Mrs. Boyce is survived by three daughters, Opal Janes of Wellington, Texas, Joye Altman of Dallas and Sherry Boyce of Longview; eight sons, M.A., Jerry, Danny and Terry Boyce, all of Longview, Bob Boyce of Bullard, Texas, Paul Boyce of Gladewater, Garland Boyce of Maryville, Tenn., and Marion Boyce of Amarillo, Texas; one stepson, Raymond Boyce of Seagraves, Texas; one stepdaughter, Marie Hanna of Brownwood, Texas; 59 grandchildren; 92 great-grandchildren; 21 great-great-grandchildren; one brother, Hurbert Setliff of Plainview, Texas; two sisters, Cloie Stephens of Amarillo and Doris Dabb of Florida; and many nieces and nephews.

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