William Rowan Barron II ’64

Dr. William Rowan Barron II, beloved husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, minister, and friend, entered the Church Triumphant on June 16, 2024, completing a life of rich blessing and purpose. The second son of N. Gonzales and Ruby Hutton Barron, he was born in Columbia, South Carolina, on November 18, 1942, while his father served overseas as a Chaplain in World War II. Bill became Head of Staff at Sequoyah Hills Presbyterian Church in 1981, after serving as Assistant Minister at First Presbyterian Church in Sanford, Florida, and Minister at St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church in Titusville, Florida, and First Presbyterian Church in Marianna, Florida. He retired in 2008, and was named Pastor Emeritus at Sequoyah Hills in 2009.

A child of the manse, he called three states and five places home. His beloved father (“Da”) was his signature role model and a primary influence in Bill’s call to ministry. Bill was an Eagle Scout, President of the Student Council, and delegate to Alabama Boys State. He had a lifelong love of sports and games, fed in part by the challenge, camaraderie, and competition, whether playing, coaching, or watching.
In high school he wrote a weekly column for the local paper called “Sportingly Yours,” which always ended with a life lesson. As a young minister, he became involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes; a connection that influenced his son’s becoming a coach. Through the years according to one who watched him on the softball field, at the billiards or ping-pong tables, and on the golf course, he was a “natural athlete with world class hand-eye coordination and brilliant strategy.” A lifelong borderline fanatic Georgia fan, he also relished watching the Vols and Braves. Probably his favorite spectator sports showcased his children and grandchildren.

He graduated from Davidson College (Class of 1964), and received his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from Columbia Theological Seminary, where he later served on the Board of Trustees. The Presbyterian Church was in his DNA.

So was storytelling. He guided his children and congregations by example and story, believing as Henri Nouwen did that story “…creates space. We can dwell in a story, walk around, find our own place.” His sermons created space for people, including himself, to “find their own place.”

His practical, relatable message always linked Scripture and the real world, and his theology was consistent: we are saved by grace. Bill’s heart for ministry was equal parts preacher and pastor. He thrived on relationships—with individuals, congregations, the larger denomination, other denominations, and other religions.

After retiring in 2008, he served a congregation in crisis as interim, shepherding members whose families who had been in that church for generations. He also organized and led an interdenominational program called “Ministry of the Laity,” bringing people together for eight weeks of study in the fall and the spring. He later worked with Muslim leaders to bring Muslims and Christians together in a series of community events where speakers from both faiths told their stories and engaged in open dialogue, always around a shared meal.

Bill loved travel, especially when it included his children and later his grandchildren. In the summer of 1982, Bill exchanged pulpits and homes with a minister in Scotland. Before that immersion experience, the entire family spent several weeks traveling in Europe. That seed no doubt later inspired his children’s international study and work-related travel. His children have now instilled that spirit in their children.
Bill’s yen for exotic destinations backfired when he bought into Telly Savalis’s convincing late-night television endorsement of a “fun for the whole family” cruise to the Bahamas. The series of disasters did, however, become everyone’s favorite vacation story and gets better and better with each reenactment.

Bill met Eleanor Warr, the love of his life, on a blind date his senior year at Davidson College. They married three years later. Their love story spanned sixty years, four generations, and four pastorates. For their 50th anniversary, he pulled off the ultimate surprise; and when Eleanor turned around in the church of her childhood where they were married and saw a sanctuary filled with people she loved, she said, “This must be what heaven looks like.”

Bill was creative, funny, and smart. He loved to sing along with Elvis, lead pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and tell stories to children. He thrived on an audience and cherished one-on-one conversations. He was at home with the privileged and underprivileged, with prisoners, the devout, and the atheist. He lived with clarity, authenticity, and love.

Bill is survived by.his wife Eleanor Barron, his son Richard Barron (Maureen), his daughter Meg Christian (John), and his son Walt Barron (Katy); grandchildren Gill and Kate Christian, Lane, Rae, and Billy Barron, and Ruby and Dot Barron; sisters Lucie Eggleston (Bob) and Sally LaBadie; and sister-in-law Sibylle Barron; and many nieces and nephews. .

He was pre-deceased by his parents Ruby Hutton Barron and N. Gonzales Barron and brother Dr. F. Hutton Barron.

The Service of Witness to the Resurrection will be at 2:00 pm Saturday, June 22nd, in the sanctuary of Sequoyah Hills Presbyterian Church. A reception will follow in Barron Hall.

Memorials may be made to Tennessee Memory Disorders Foundation, 1400 Dowell Springs Blvd., Suite 340, Knoxville, TN 37909. (tmdf.org) or Sequoyah Hills Presbyterian Church.

LaCrystal Jeanne Jackson ’98

LaCrystal Jeanne’ Jackson was born on June 21, 1976, to Jo Ellen Jackson and the late Eric Jackson in Chester, South Carolina. Our dearly departed, affectionately known as “Crystal,” ascended to Heaven on Wednesday, June 5, 2024.

LaCrystal was educated in the Fairfield County School System, graduating from Fairfield Central High School in 1994. She then pursued higher education, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Davidson College in North Carolina. LaCrystal was extremely bright, driven and had a passion for learning. Her thirst for knowledge and dedication to personal and professional growth led her to obtain a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of South Carolina and a certificate in Nonprofit Management from Duke University, all while maintaining a full-time job and raising her boys. Further demonstrating her commitment to excellence, LaCrystal completed the Project Management Fundamentals course at Midlands Technical College and achieved her Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification. She was also a proud graduate of the esteemed Riley Institute Diversity Leaders Initiative at Furman University.

LaCrystal was a hardworking woman who devoted countless hours to every role she held. Her dedication and brilliance allowed her to excel as a project manager, proposal/grant writer, consultant, and strategist. Her passion for learning and her drive to make a difference in every endeavor she undertook will be remembered and cherished by all who had the privilege to work alongside her.

LaCrystal’s legacy of hard work, dedication, and love will continue to inspire those who knew her. She will be deeply missed by her family, friends, and colleagues.

The Joy of the Journey

LaCrystal was a benevolent, charismatic, and loving person whose wardrobe was as colorful as she was. A social butterfly with an infectious laugh, she had an amazing ability to make everyone feel comfortable in her presence. Gifted in building meaningful relationships, her friends and social network included people from all different walks of life. She mastered making connections, whether for jobs, resources, or people, touching lives worldwide. To her family, friends, and communities, LaCrystal was every woman—a superwoman.

LaCrystal’s love for servant leadership shined brightly through her numerous volunteer roles, including serving on the board of Goodwill Industries of the Upstate/Midlands South Carolina, the Midlands Fatherhood Coalition, and Vice President of Administration of the South Carolina PMI Midlands Chapter. LaCrystal also developed a passion for politics, providing tireless support, volunteer management, and impeccable execution for successful local campaigns. She believed in getting involved in opportunities that uplifted people and bettered the community.

In the Spring of 2018, LaCrystal “the Decoder” Jackson joyfully became a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (Columbia Alumnae Chapter). Devoted to the organization’s principles of scholarship, public service, and sisterhood, she wore her crimson and cream with pride.

LaCrystal loved the Lord and was a prayer warrior, worshiper, and a woman of great faith. Grateful for God’s faithfulness and compassion, she walked out her faith by always giving to and helping others—being the hands and feet of Christ. She organized prayer calls and devotions to support friends and colleagues through various life challenges, including the weekly Workplace Wednesday Motivation for working professionals and Hannah’s Prayer Wall for those desiring children. Her special calling to minister to single mothers led her to provide guidance, resources, and babysitting. LaCrystal was a champion for women, supporting several women’s ministries throughout the state, helping others set bold life goals, and developing strategies to achieve them, all while fervently praying for their success.

Her Legacy

LaCrystal’s greatest joy was her two boys, Brandon and Nicholas. A devoted mother, LaCrystal was determined to ensure that her boys had strong mentors and role models. She connected with Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Midlands Fatherhood Coalition as a passionate advocate and supporter of these organizations. She faithfully loved her family and her close friends from every facet of her life.

In addition to her father, LaCrystal was preceded in death by her brother, Leroy Coad, Jr.

LaCrystal leaves to cherish and forever hold her timeless memories to her two beautiful children, Brandon A. Jackson and Nicholas D. Jackson; mother, Jo Ellen Jackson; two sisters, Patrice Darlene (John) Sanders and Octavia Pearson; one aunt, Hattie Mae Thompson; great aunt, Mattie Fae Johnson; six nephews, Johnathan Sanders, Leroy “Trey” Coad III, Raymonte Pearson, Katarious Pearson, Samal Pearson, and SaDavien Pearson; three nieces, Dollecia Brianna Coad, Shontavia Pearson, and Amirah Pearson; goddaughter, Tiyanna Woodard; special friend, Keithan McGowan; bonus brother, Dr. Shakeem Lane; bonus sister, Shonda Irby (Mark) Coe; special sister, Alana Odom (Derrick) Williams; special father figure, Heyward Bannister; and a host of close relatives and dear friends.

Jesse Bernard Sims, Jr. ’69

Lt. Cmdr (Ret) Jesse Bernard Sims, Jr., 79, of Chattanooga passed away after a valiant battle with cancer.

He was born in Denver, Colorado to the late Jesse Bernard Sims, Sr. and Geraldine “Donnie” Sims on March 14, 1945. He was a graduate of McCallie School, Class of 1963. He lettered in several sports while at McCallie and still holds the record along with Abner Oldham for the fastest mile. Upon graduation he moved to North Carolina where he graduated from Davidson College with a degree in Literature. Jesse also went to the University of Tennessee Knoxville where he worked towards his Masters degree in Early Childhood Education. Jesse was a proud veteran of the USMC and the Naval Reserves. He achieved the rank of Lt. Commander and retired after 20 years of service in the Naval Reserves.

Jesse was a true Southern gentleman. He never met a stranger. When he and his wife were dining in a restaurant in Washington D.C., his wife excused herself to go to the powder room and, on her return, the entertainer had joined them for dinner.

He loved information. He wanted to know about everything. One of his sons stated, “my dad is a walking encyclopedia; unfortunately, he is a talking one too”. He hated technology: no computer, email or Facebook for him. Oh, but Google, he loved it as it was his information central, which led to obtaining a cell phone and an iPad.

Jesse did love to tell stories one of his favorites was how a bunch of his McCallie classmates took a raft trip down the Tennessee River to go to New Orleans. Unfortunately, they had to abandon the raft and return home before reaching New Orleans. This however did not stop his love for travel. His travels led him to a long and enduring friendship with an Englishman who could not believe he was speaking with an American who could quote a Latin poem

Jesse loved theatre, music, and all of the arts but dancing was his favorite. Jesse would jump up in any location and start buck dancing. This led to a friend dubbing him the “Dancing Fool.”

Jesse loved his church. He was a Bible scholar, a Lay Leader at his church First Centenary UMC. He also taught Sunday School there and volunteered as a tutor in the Centenary Program. He loved children and animals.

Jesse loved helping people the Hospice social worker used to live in his neighborhood picking up trash as he walked his dogs.

Jesse truly let his light shine in the world. The night he passed away, a fire fly with his light blinking flew around the room.

He will be missed by his wife, family and many wonderful friends who have supported him through his battle with cancer.

He was preceded in death by his aforementioned parents.

Left behind to cherish Jesse’s memory are his wife of 34 years, Cyndee Sims, his sons, Andrew and Daniel Sims, his brothers, Paul (Suzanne) Sims and Donald Sims, a sister, Maxine (Dan) McNutt, brother-in-law, Charlie McGuire, several nieces and nephews, his fur-babies, Maximus, Piper and Garnet and many dear friends.

A Celebration of Jesse’s life will be held on Friday June 7, 2024 at 11:00 am at First Centenary United Methodist Church with Dr. Will Lauderback and Pastor Barry Kidwell officiating. The family will receive friends prior to the service beginning at 9:30 am. Jesse will be laid to rest on Monday June 10, 2024 at 10:30 am in the Chattanooga National Cemetery with full military honors.

In lieu of flowers memorial contributions in Jesse’s memory can be made to The Centenary and/or to The Mustard Tree in care of First Centenary UMC.

Debra Ann Elleman Mlsna ’86

It is with profound sorrow that we announce the passing of the amazing Dr. Debra Ann Mlsna, a cherished member of the Mississippi State University (MSU) community and a distinguished scholar and teacher in the field of chemistry. Deb passed away peacefully in her sleep surrounded by her family after a long battle with breast cancer. She leaves behind a legacy of academic excellence, dedicated mentorship, and an unwavering commitment to student success.

Born to Charlotte Ann Moyers (1930–2024) and Thomas Smith Elleman (1931–2010), Deb was raised in a loving family alongside her siblings, Bruce Elleman Ph.D. and Dr. Rebecca Hodge CVM. In 1989, she married the love of her life, Todd Mlsna, in Austin, Texas. Through all the joys, pains, struggles, and triumphs in life their relationship was constant and loving and easy and joyous. Their union brought forth three talented children: Hannah Mlsna (1994), Matthew Mlsna (1996), and Jake Mlsna (1998) (married to Annie Mlsna). The bonds of family were the foundation of Deb’s life, and her love and devotion to her husband and children were unwavering.

Dr. Mlsna’s academic journey began at Davidson College, where she earned a B.S. in Chemistry in May 1986. She continued her studies at the University of Texas at Austin, obtaining her Ph.D. in Chemistry in May 1992. At Mississippi State University, she served as an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry and as Director of General Chemistry Programs for several years. She also co-directed and founded the Randle R White PreMed Advising Office.

Before her tenure at MSU, Dr. Mlsna was a Senior Scientist at Seacoast Science Inc. in Carlsbad, CA. There, she was a key scientist on the development team for the Seacoast Science/Vernier MiniGC and authored its lab manual. She also held teaching positions as a Lecturer at Miramar College, a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Maine, and served as Assistant Director of Laboratories at Clemson University.
Deb was deeply passionate about her work, dedicating herself to teaching full-time right up until the end. Her remarkable contributions to education and research earned her numerous prestigious awards. Among these accolades were the Grisham Master Teacher Award, Mississippi State’s highest teaching honor, and the College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Professor Award, the college’s top teaching award. She also received multiple Outstanding Faculty Awards from the Department of Chemistry, the Shackouls Honors College Award for Outstanding Faculty Member, the Mississippi State Pride Faculty Awards, the “Teacher of the Week” recognition from the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Advisory Council, and the Arts and Sciences Teaching Award. Each of these honors stands as a testament to her dedication, expertise, and the profound impact she had on her students and colleagues.

Dr. Mlsna’s innovative approach to undergraduate teaching was evident in her creation of a comprehensive summer research program and the development of three highly regarded courses at MSU. One course was a study abroad program on Alternative Sources of Energy, co-taught with her husband Todd, which took students to Iceland, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden each summer, offering a global perspective on sustainable energy. Another course, Science and Cinema, intertwined scientific concepts with modern apocalyptic films, fostering critical thinking and a deeper appreciation of science and storytelling. She also designed a popular general chemistry course for pre-health students, emphasizing its applications in the medical field. Dr. Mlsna’s ability to make complex scientific principles accessible and relevant was unparalleled.

Beyond her professional accomplishments, Deb demonstrated remarkable discipline and dedication in her personal life as well. She was a second-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, recognized for her grace and strength. Her martial arts prowess led her to become a multiple-time state champion in California and culminated in her winning a national championship in 2007. This discipline and dedication in Tae Kwon Do mirrored her relentless pursuit of excellence in life.

Additionally, Deb was an avid traveler. In the final months of her life, she planned and enjoyed two memorable trips: a magical Christmas journey from Budapest to Germany and a vibrant family trip across Costa Rica. These journeys, which capped a lifetime of travel, reflected her adventurous spirit and her desire to create lasting memories with her loved ones. Deb’s legacy is one of passion, perseverance, and a profound love for both knowledge and life.

Dr. Debra Ann Mlsna’s memory will live on in the hearts and minds of her family, friends, colleagues, students and the countless individuals whose lives were touched by her remarkable contributions to science and education. Her legacy as a loving wife, devoted mother, and visionary teacher will continue to inspire future generations.

A private memorial service in honor of Deb’s life will take place at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family graciously requests that those who knew her find joy in life’s simple pleasures – take a leisurely walk, savor a special meal, embark on a journey, or spend quality time with loved ones. Let these moments of enjoyment be a tribute to the memory of Dr. Debra Ann Mlsna.

Below are links to a music playlist of her favorite songs that she put together in her last week, and a video featuring a collection of her children’s favorite pictures.

Link to music playlist:
open.spotify.com/playlist/4IB8fcBBwz8iXeDABL7pbM?si=5ef09024dd8541e2

Links to the pictures:
On YouTube
https://youtu.be/FFyt6yiHgl0

On Google Drive
drive.google.com/file/d/1ePDeFUTzWss3TfmDq0ldgVfIf-oSPWfX/view?usp=sharing

On Vimeo
vimeo.com/953337251?share=copy

Robert “Bob” L. Blevins, Jr. ’56

Mr. Robert “Bob” L. Blevins, Jr., 90, passed away peacefully on Friday, May 31, 2024 In Bristol, TN. Bob was born on May 8, 1934 in Bristol, VA, to the late Les and Ruth Blevins.

Bob was a graduate of Bristol Tennessee High School, attended Davidson College and graduated from the University of Tennessee. Following college, Bob volunteered for the draft spending two years in the United States Army, 8th Infantry Division as a medic. Upon his return from Germany, Bob worked at Blevins Funeral Home (founded by his father) selling the company to a lifelong family friend and co-worker, R.E. Smith. He next worked in the Readi-Mix Concrete Business for his father-in law, Pete Litton, until he chose to begin a career as a Financial Advisor with Paine Webber Jackson and Curtis in 1972.

His career as a Financial Advisor resulted in his opening of an office in Bristol, VA for Wheat First Securities in 1980 with Bob as the Branch Manager. He retired in 2022 from the same location now known as Wells Fargo Advisors.

Bob loved basketball, having played the sport while at Tennessee High School. He went on to coach Parks and Recreation basketball for each of his three sons.

As many knew him will attest, he also loved the game of tennis. After each match, he would always state, “Boy, I had the best tennis game today.” He made countless lifelong friends playing tennis.

In addition to his parents, Bob was preceded in death by his sister, Margaret Blevins; and his son, Gordon Scott Blevins.

Left to cherish his memory are his loving wife of 59 years, Joday Blevins; sons, Robert L. Blevins III (Tracie) and John Litton Blevins; granddaughters, Sarah Blevins Birdsey (Thomas) and Mary Catherine Blevins; nephew, Stephen Thomas (Karen); and a host of friends.

The family will receive friends on Wednesday, June 5, 2024 from 12 to 1:45 p.m. at State Street United Methodist Church. A Celebration of Life will follow at 2 p.m. at State Street United Methodist Church with Rev. Laura Rasor and Rev. Steve Patterson officiating.

Bob will be laid to rest at Mountain View Cemetery following the Celebration of Life.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be sent to State Street United Methodist Church.

The family would like to extend a special thank you to Bob’s caregivers; Candice Bays, Debbie Dalton, Rose England, Becky Heath, Debbie Mudd, Joy Nelson, Jennifer Price, Donna White and Tammy White.