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Lives We Have Lost: Natchez woman kept friends, family well fed

NATCHEZ — In life, Pearlie Mae Williams, 78, was happy as long as she knew others around her were fed, healthy and happy, too, family members said.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Williams, who was born and raised in Natchez, would cook dinner for her whole family — and some adopted family — every Sunday and on every holiday.

She died April 10 after approximately one week in the hospital at Vicksburg, where she was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Her daughter, Gwen Williams-Jones, said Merit Health Natchez’s ICU rooms were full at the time. Before Williams was placed in ICU, doctors did not immediately know what was making her sick, Williams-Jones said.

“It happened so suddenly,” Williams-Jones said, adding Williams’ only symptom was aches and pains.

Williams left behind five children, 12 grandchildren and a lot of great-grandchildren.

“Losing our mom has been the hardest experience of our life,” Williams-Jones said. “We love and miss her so much. We know that she is in Heaven and we will forever hold her memories close to our heart until we meet again.”

Williams-Jones said her mother was also God-fearing and loved reading her Bible. Williams was a member of Pilgrim Baptist Church.

Williams was retired from Diamond International in Natchez, a fiber-manufacturing corporation that was housed in what is the von Drehle paper company today.

Cooking was one of Williams’ greatest talents, family members said.

Upon her retirement, Williams and two of her sisters started the 3-Sisters Café and Catering, which they used to operate on Morgantown Road in Natchez, Williams-Jones said.

“I think she was the golden mother and grandmother,” Williams-Jones said. “She was there for everyone and for her sisters and brothers. She did for everyone and cooked for everyone.”

Williams’ granddaughters, Brittanie Harris and Nondrea Williams, said some of their grandmother’s specialties were cornbread dressing, red beans and greens.

“I used to call her every day to find out what she was cooking and went to her house on my lunch break,” Harris said.  “She made the best red beans which she made for all of the kids. She could cook just about everything — any type of soul food.”

Nondrea said the circular drive outside her grandmother’s house would be packed with cars when Pearlie Mae cooked — and she made sure everyone there ate and took some home.

“She was a sweet and loving people person,” Nondrea said. “When she cooked, she cooked for everybody in the neighborhood.”

Nondrea said her grandmother also wanted to keep all of her great-grandchildren close and wanted to be the primary babysitter.

Whenever one of Pearlie Mae’s loved ones became sick or had to go to the hospital, she never let them go alone, Nondrea said.

“I have three kids and she was in the delivery room all three times,” Nondrea said.

“The hardest part of her getting COVID-19 was not being able to see her. … Any time the rest of us got sick or went to the hospital, she would always be there for us.”

Williams-Jones said her mother’s love and care was extended to everyone.

“We all would say that she missed her call of being a nurse because she was always there for everyone when they were sick. She just loved everyone, strangers and friends,” Williams-Jones said.

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series highlighting the lives of those members of the Miss-Lou community who fell victim to COVID-19 and lost their lives, or whose death was hastened because of the virus. If your loved one passed away after suffering from the COVID-19 virus, we would like to write about their life and your loss. Please contact Scott Hawkins at 601-445-3540 or email him at Scott.Hawkins@natchezdemocrat.com.

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