Gracie Catherine Derryberry, 93, of Lonoke, known to her family and friends as Mother, Maw, Aunt Cat, or Catherine, entered a new and better life on October 20, 2021. She was welcomed by her parents, Walter and Wilma Staggs; her husband of over 50 years, Joe Derryberry; her son, Joey Derryberry; two sons-in-law, Dwight Pettit and Charlie Mahoney; a brother, Bill Staggs; and many others who preceded her in death. Heaven immediately became much more interesting upon her arrival.
Born on February 13, 1928, Catherine was raised on a farm in Mercer, TN. She grew up chopping cotton, walking to and from school every day, and cooking supper over an open fire starting at age 9. Always one to participate in shenanigans, she and Joe eloped to Mississippi in 1942, aided by a few white lies to their parents and a little help from one of Joe’s sisters. Joe’s work took them from Tennessee, to Louisiana and Mississippi, and then to Arkansas, where they settled and raised their family. In many ways, her life was typical for a woman of her generation, centering around family, home, and church. Some of her greatest joys were walking barefooted in the yard to pick up pecans or tend to the garden that always flourished under her care. If she knew your favorite food, you could be sure she would have it ready any time you were in her home; when you left, she would always say, “Now you come back” and watch from the doorway until you were out of sight. Her grandchildren and great-grandchildren could do no wrong, and she spoiled them completely, playing dress up, going to pick apples or pumpkins, keeping ducks or getting a cat because a grandchild “needed” them, or slipping them $20 from her purse. Catherine was the family matriarch in every sense of the word. Her stubborn sass carried her through many hardships, and she was the sun around which her family revolved.
She leaves many who loved her and whom she loved fiercely: her daughters, Jessie (Samuel) High and Nancy Mahoney of Lonoke, and Vicki Pettit of Pensacola, FL; a brother, Ronnie Staggs of Jackson, TN; her grandchildren, Melissa (Kevin) Simpson of Cabot, Sammy High of Little Rock, Brian Mahoney of Sherwood, and Greg (Amanda) Pettit of Pensacola, FL; her great-grandchildren, Hannah Simpson of Little Rock, Wade Simpson of Jonesboro, Emily (Eric) Clay of Sherwood, Peyton (Mitch) Lewis of Carlisle, Paxton Hitchings of Carlisle, and Grayson and Lexa Pettit of Pensacola, FL; three great-great grandchildren; and many cousins, nieces, nephews, and friends.
Visitation will be held from 4 to 6 pm on Sunday, October 24, at Boyd Funeral Home in Lonoke. The family requests that masks be worn by those who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19. A graveside service will be held Monday, October 25, at 2 pm at Arkansas Memorial Gardens, North Little Rock.
Catherine’s family would like to thank the staff of Greystone Nursing and Rehab in Cabot for their care for her for nearly 4 years, as well the staff of Kindred Hospice who cared for her in recent months. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Catherine’s memory to the Arkansas Alzheimer’s Association at alz.org/Arkansas.