One of Word&Way’s saints — longtime staffer Mary Dee Enloe — died Oct. 29 at her home in Jefferson City after a brief illness. She was 80.
Mary Dee came to work for the Missouri Baptist Convention’s Executive Board staff back in 1959 and retired in 2000 at year’s end. At the time of her retirement, she had served Word&Way for 30 years, most with the title “assistant to the editor.”
Ross Edwards was the editor when Mary Dee joined what we sometimes refer to as the Word&Way family. In 1975, Bob Terry, the associate editor of Kentucky’s Western Recorder, was called to lead Word&Way. He and Mary Dee worked together for the next 20 years, then he departed to become editor of The Alabama Baptist, a position he still holds.
Many of Bob’s editor colleagues in other states came to appreciate Mary Dee through his description of working alongside her. She was a hard worker, a diligent proofreader, a fierce advocate of Word&Way and she functioned in Bob’s place when he was traveling or otherwise unavailable. As far as Bob was concerned, she was the top of the line in administrative assistants and kept the growing operation rolling smoothly. When a constituent phoned the office, Mary Dee’s was very often the first voice they would hear.
When I was being considered as a possible successor to Bob in Missouri, I talked with Mary Dee. I trusted what she had to say about Word&Way and the state convention. In fact, she was one of a handful of people in the entire Baptist Building whom, everyone said, knew more about the state convention than anyone else. They were correct. She took pride in being an efficient and effective servant of Baptists in Missouri.
When I joined the staff, I relied upon Mary Dee for my orientation to MBC life and to Word&Way. She knew who Word&Way’s supporters and allies had been as well as its critics. She had information the rest of the staff and I needed to do our best as representatives of Word&Way and as servants of Show-Me Baptists ourselves.
As much as anyone else, Mary Dee nurtured the rest of the Word&Way staff, too. After all, she had raised a daughter, Carol, and three sons — Ken, Keith and Kelly. She encouraged each of us in our work, provided a listening ear and gave wise counsel when family or other personal needs cropped up in our lives.
To all of us, she was a true friend.
Mary Dee and her husband, Frank, both exemplified hospitality. I arrived in Jefferson City about three months ahead of my public-educator wife and my son. I still remember Easter Sunday 1996 when Mary Dee insisted I join the Enloe clan for Easter dinner after morning worship at First Baptist Church in Jefferson City rather than be alone. It was an opportunity to get acquainted with more Enloes, including grandchildren, and to experience firsthand one of Frank and Mary Dee’s greatest legacies — their family.
Having followed a 20-year editor to Word&Way, I am guessing that Mary Dee likely fielded some “what-can-we-expect-from-this-new guy?” calls as I began my work. I venture she was the one to field such queries because she was held in such high esteem. And, honest as she always was, I suspect she said something like, “Well, get to know him” or “Give him a chance” or “He seems like he might be a good fit for us here in Missouri.” Or maybe, “Bob Terry says he is alright.”
My guess is that, on occasion, she had paved the way both for my immediate predecessor and for me. “Newbies” in any role are wise to acknowledge their need to rely on trusted and well-known colleagues as they try to make their own way and receive a fair hearing in the process. If Mary Dee reassured any of our skeptical constituents about me, she did not make a big deal about it to me.
I learned quickly that Mary Dee was indeed a prized asset to Word&Way, to our entire staff and especially to me. I will always be indebted to her.
In recent years, I have been privileged to be in the same Sunday School department as Mary Dee and Frank. I alternate teaching with Frank and Richard Rucker, both of them very fine Bible teachers. It has been a particular blessing to have weekly contact with Mary Dee. With her passing, I especially appreciate this opportunity. Today, heaven is a little richer because of her recent arrival.
Mary Dee’s family and friends are happy for her as she takes her place in heaven but sad that she is no longer with us here. Keep her family and all who miss her in your prayers.
Bill Webb is editor of Word&Way.