FAYETTEVILLE, ARK. - Lennie Opal Stilley Cantwell Bartholomew, passed away peacefully on June 20, 2007, in Fayetteville
"My appearance into this world came on a cold, blustery day, March 21, 1916, the first day of spring. I don't know if the weather was a portent of the stormy, eventful life I would lead, or that birth on the first day of spring was an assurance that my heart would remain forever young. "
Opal Cantwell Bartholomew, loving wife, mother, grandmother, poet, writer and artist penned these words in a memoir of her life.Opal was born in Kennett, the child of Thomas Kention Stilley and Lula Belle Jackson Stilley. She grew up in southeast Missouri, and graduated from Sikeston High School. On July 21, 1933, she married Richard Henly Cantwell, a farmer and schoolteacher, from Matthews, Missouri.
Richard and Opal lived happily in Dorena for most of their married life, where they raised their eight children. Opal thought of those years at the "house on the mound", as the happiest days of her life. She had a special affection for life in the country. She often wrote about strolls along fence rows heavy with dewberry vines and apricots. She felt a powerful connection to the cotton fields, and the men in her life that farmed them. She wrote: I recall the smell of the dew-wet cotton fields and the warm, sweaty smell of the horses as they pulled the heavy cotton on the dirt road. Farmers are always jovial during harvest. It was exciting to be there with Papa, being introduced as his little cotton-top. I felt very proud.
Opal enjoyed preparing large meals, playing the piano, and spending time with family and friends. She was passionate about reading and loved writing, and was active in the Dorena community and school. After moving to East Prairie, she worked with several organizations that benefited the school and community, served as a volunteer for the Welcome Wagon and did volitional prison outreach. After Richard's death in 1964, Opal moved with her youngest children to Arkansas, where she spent much of her remaining years.
In Arkansas, Opal was delighted to fulfill a life-long dream of attending college. She studied English literature and writing at Arkansas State University, in Jonesboro.
In 1979, Opal married Anthony J. "Bart" Bartholomew of Rogers. Together Bart and Opal became very active in the arts and crafts community. Opal was a wonderful folk-art painter, and Bart, a skilled carpenter. They produced and sold items for county fairs, and art festivals throughout the region. They lived in Arkansas until shortly before his death in 1991.
Opal's greatest pleasure in life was, without question, her large family. She was an amazing mother and "Gram" to her 112's member clan. She looked forward each year to the annual Cantwell family gathering near her Arkansas home for a weekend celebration with hayrack rides, music, laughter, good food and story telling.
She is preceded in death by her parents, and her husbands, Richard Cantwell and Bart Bartholomew.
She is survived by one sibling, Hamilton (Hank) Stilley. Her siblings, Mary, Myrtle, Reatha, Tom, Edna, Edith, Ada, Odes and Dick preceded her in death. She is survived by seven children and their spouses; Monda and Jim Davis of Lowndesboro, Ala., Jack and Ellen Cantwell of Portland, Ore., Carole and Ted Brown of East Prairie, John and Julie Cantwell of Santa Fe, N.M., Buck and Jan Cantwell of Eugene, Ore., Paul and Jan Cantwell of The Woodlands, Texas, and Christy and Glenn Cantwell of Elkins, Ark.
She was preceded in death by her son, Richard (Dick) Cantwell and daughter-
in-law, Glenda Hinkle Cantwell.
Opal had 33 grandchildren, 53 great-grandchildren, 14 great-great grandchildren, with four great-great grandchildren on the way.
She was preceded in death by one grandchild, Brent Davis, and two great-
grandchildren, Joli and Adam Davis, all of Wetumpka, Ala.
The family is planning a private graveside memorial service in East Prairie on July 1. Opal was a life-long member of the Church of Christ.
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The family has asked that any memorial gifts be sent to:
Opal Bartholomew Memorial:
North Street Church of Christ
764 West North Street
Fayetteville, Arkansas 72701. Donations will benefit the Paragould Children's Home. Paid obituary