Wanda Crow was a beloved grandmother, compassionate mother, caring wife, devoted daughter, dutiful sister, and faithful friend. And for countless others in and outside of Gurdon, Arkansas — Wanda’s home from the day she greeted the world October 23, 1935 — she was a source of unconditional love. And her love was felt with every home-cooked meal, heartwarming hug, joyful joke and sunny smile.
The boundless love Wanda gave to others was matched only by her love for the Lord, who called her home on the afternoon of December 28th, 2022. As Wanda passed peacefully in her sleep, she left her earthly home in the same way she lived — surrounded by the family she fought for with unshakable faith, and protected every day with the power of prayer.
Wanda’s 87 years of unrelenting love for her family, community and the Lord wasn’t just her legacy. It was her birthright — a holy inheritance stretching past her god-fearing parents, Nathanial Charles and Annie Grisgby Charles, to her family’s first arrival in Gurdon more than 130 years ago.
When Wanda’s grandparents, Elias Charles and Luisa Wingate, moved to Arkansas in the late 1800s, they knew Gurdon wouldn’t feel like home until God lived there, too. So they founded a church — one of the first forged in the burgeoning railroad town, mere decades after slavery’s end.
For Elias and Luisa, exercising their newfound freedom meant building fellowship through faith — faith strong enough to stack bricks and lay lumber until Christians across Gurdon congregated in God’s name. But as Wanda’s grandparents laid their church’s foundation — praying as they planted stones in soil like mustard seeds — they didn’t know how their faith would grow across generations.
As the 8th and youngest child of god-fearing parents — Nathanial Charles and Annie Grisby Charles — Wanda fortified her faith at an early age. While she excelled in math among other subjects, Wanda’s first love was reading. And her favorite book was the Bible. Even in her adolescence, she could be found with her head buried in her Bible’s weathered pages, some dangling from its creased spine, others wearing smudged ink and scribbled notes with pride.
Wanda graduated from Henry Bell High school in May of 1954 — the year before she married her husband of 44 years, L. Mack Crow of Okolona, Arkansas, who passed away in 1999. Together, they raised their 3 children, Darlene, Michael and Joe Keith who passed away in 2011.
Wanda and Mack made a wonderful team – he for his hardwork and dedication to providing for his family and her for her ability to introduce her family to new and exciting things. Wanda was committed to putting her faith into action, whether she was balancing the demands of helping her hardworking husband, raising their three children, working as a healthcare provider, or saving lives as an EMT, she remained committed to serving others, just as Jesus did.
Wanda remained a fastidious student of Jesus’ teachings, and she knew that, if she wanted to live like Jesus, she had to be a teacher with a heart of compassion and empathy. She loved children, and for many years, worked with the Save the Children Organization. For more than 20 years she worked as a Foster Grandparent in the Gurdon Primary School. She created a ministry that she named GRACE, which stood for God Remembers All Children Everywhere. Through the efforts of her ministry, she enthusiastically created and hand delivered gift packets to the elderly who lived in the nursing home and never had a visitor.
Even as a tallier for a major paper company in Clark County, she led a movement to empower employees by organizing a local Union — an act that, for a Black woman in the South in the 60s and 70s, could pose a risk to her safety.
But if you asked Wanda if she was afraid to speak up against injustice, she’d smile with a confident stare, and remind you of her armor — God’s armor. Then, without breaking eye contact, she’d pull her well-worn bible from her bag, open to Psalm 91 verse 4, and let God speak through her “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.”
God’s armor was the reason she walked in faith — not fear. It was the reason that, when men used fear to subdue Black women into silence, her voice grew louder.
Wanda spoke in sermons, and prayed in poetry. And just as God’s truth was her shield, her voice was his weapon. Sometimes it boomed with the passionate rush of a waterfall. Other times, it whispered with the slow rhythm of a river bed. Either way, her voice flowed like water, and gave life all the same.
That’s why, as a member of New Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Gurdon for more than 6 decades, she was called to use her voice to strengthen her community. In addition to serving as Church Clerk all that time, she demonstrated a number of talents. Whether she was starting service with a warm welcome, or delivering a powerful resolution, or simply announcing the latest happenings across the community, from the moment she opened her mouth, each member of the congregation could be seen sliding to the edge of their seats, straightening their backs, lifting their chins and widening their eyes.
Wanda didn’t just make a crowd hang on to her every word. She made them never want to let go — especially when she turned a sermon or story into a song.
As a member of her church’s choir, A-Division, Zionettes, and Heavenly Stars, she was often selected for solos. Her angelic voice was a reminder of the old adage: “to sing is to pray twice.”
Everyone who had the pleasure of meeting her, remembers her as a tall elegant woman whose stunning outward appearance mirrored her beautiful heart genuinely filled with love and kindness, keen wisdom and an ability to inspire others which can never be forgotten.
Wanda was preceded in death by her parents, Nathaniel and Annie (Grigsby) Charles; her beloved husband, L. Mack Crow; her youngest son, Joe Keith Crow; son-in-love, Albert McWilliams Jr.; grandson, LaKavis D. Crow; and seven brothers and sisters.
A lifetime of love and memories will be felt by her daughter, Darlene McWilliams of Plainfield, N.J.; son and daughter-in-love, Michael A. and Deborah Crow of Gurdon; daughter in-love, Carolyn Crow-Watson of Hot Springs; grandson, Travonn Crow of Little Rock; granddaughter, Ebonee Cole (Calvin) of Buffalo, N.Y.; granddaughter, Annie Ndumele (Uche) of New Rochelle, N.Y.; granddaughter, Allison McWilliams of E. Windsor, N.J., A.T. McWilliams III of Brooklyn, N.Y.; Adam McWilliams of Jersey City, N.J., Avery McWilliams of Brooklyn, N.Y.; 10 great-grandchildren; a great-great-granddaughter; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins and beloved friends.
Active pallbearers will be Travonne Crow, Avery Macklyn McWilliams, Adam Garrett McWilliams, Albert Thomas McWilliams, Courtlon Christopher Crow, Cameron De’Juan Crow and Uche D. Ndumele. Honorary pallbearers will be Michael Anthony Crow, Dan Green, Anthony “Tony” Charles, Derrick Holloway, Brian Ross, Larry Hughes, Charles Anderson, Jimmy Lee Anderson, Jimmy Hawthorne and Ruben Maxwell.
Public visitation will be from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday, January 7, at Williams Funeral Home. A celebration of her life will be shared at 1 p.m. Sunday, January 8, at Mt. Canaan Baptist Church with Rev. Johnny Harris officiating and Rev. Rufus Hatley, eulogist. Interment will be at Rose Hedge Cemetery.