Dr . Ila Metrel WellsJune 1, 1916 ~ November 18, 2017 (age 101)
DR . ILA (ANDREWS) WELLS
June 1, 1916 ~ November 18, 2017 (age 101)
A Life Remembered…
Ila Metrel Andrews, the third child of Gaston Herbert Andrews, Sr. and Catherine Elizabeth (Bright) Andrews, was born June 1, 1916 in Bolivar, Hardeman County, Tennessee. At the age of six, Ila’s mother died. She was raised by her father, her paternal grandmother Lula Andrews (Mama Lou) and by her paternal great grandmother Martha Norment Hill. Ila grew up in a loving nourishing home during the Great Depression.
Her funeral service was held on Saturday November 25, 2017 at 1:00 pm at Greater Springfield MB Church-Bolivar, TN with Pastor Robert Parham in charge. Dixie Funeral Home www.dixiefuneralhome.com was in charge of the professional service.
Ila’s love for learning was evident in her early years. Early on she attended a one classroom school here in Hardeman County. Prior to entering middle school, Ila persuaded her father to allow her to move to Bloomington, IL with her Aunt Darthula and Uncle Kenneth Miller to continue her education. Ila completed middle school and high school in Bloomington graduating with honors in 1934. She moved back home and enrolled in Lane College graduating with a two year AB degree in 1936. Following her graduation from Lane, Ila began her teaching career in the small rural ‘Colored Only’ schools of Hardeman County. She attended Saturday classes at Lane College along with her sister in law Rural and received her BS degree in 1953. Ila went on to receive her Master’s degree from Tennessee A&I State University in 1960.
After earning her Master’s degree, Ila began working at Bolivar Industrial School. She later served as advisor to the first graduating class. Ila taught in the Hardeman County school system for 25 years from 1936 to 1961. In 1961, Dr. Herbert White (one of the founders of Allen-White High School) recruited Ila to join his staff in the English Department at Mississippi Vocational College (later Mississippi Valley State University). In 1969, Ila received her PhD from Northern Illinois University becoming the first African American to receive a doctoral degree from that university. She taught at ‘The Valley’ from 1961 to 1985 serving as the Dean of the Arts and Science department.
Dr. Wells retired for the first time after 48 years in the classroom in 1985 but the retirement was short-lived. Rust College (Holly Springs, MS) convinced Ila that her life’s work wasn’t complete and she spent the next sixteen years teaching English there. Her teaching career spanned 64 years! Ila had an affinity for and was accepted and loved by all students. She was affectionately called ‘Doc’ by all who knew her, many of her students would call and visit her up until the week before she passed away.
Although her love of teaching gave her the opportunity to travel extensively, she remained true to her roots in Bolivar. When Ila retired from Rust College in 2001, she moved back to Bolivar where she assumed an active role in her church and community. Ila dedicated her life to Christ at an early age and joined Greater Springfield Missionary Baptist Church where she remained a devoted member until her death. She affiliated with the Deacon and Trustee Wives Auxiliary and was dutiful in making the announcements during the Sunday morning worship service. She held offices in the local Civitan Club for many years, was a member of the Hardeman County Arts Council, and a board member of the County Election Commission. Ila’s selfless service continued to be a significant role model to family, students, and the community.
Dr. Wells was married to Gola Wendell Wells who preceded her in death. Her siblings, Donald, Ruth, Jimmie, and Gaston Jr. all preceded her in death. She leaves to cherish her memory one sister Nancy Clemons, East St. Louis, IL; a niece, Ruby Elizabeth (Douglas) Pleasure, Pacifica, CA; a nephew, Gaston Jeffrey (JoEtta) Andrews, Montgomery, AL; four grandnieces, Marcie (Rodney) Ivy, Okolona, MS; Melissa Andrews, Antioch, TN; Melody Andrews, Woodbridge, VA; Michelle Andrews, Nashville, TN; four grandnephews, Nicholas (Sarah) Pleasure, Wilsonville, OR; Rev. Peris Lester, Memphis, TN; Todd Clemons; Corky Lester; great grand nieces and nephews Donovan, Jamilla, Royce Ivy; Michael Pleasure; and the McKinnie/ Cook family, other relatives, friends, and a loving church family.