Obituary – William J. Little, Sr.

Published 5:40 pm Wednesday, April 10, 2024

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William J. Little, Sr., known as “Mr. Billy,” died at his home on April 6 at the age of 94. Mr. Billy was the son of William Ray Little and Jewel Cross Little and was born at home on March 6, 1930 in Oakey Streak Community in South Butler County. He was one of six children that survived infancy. As was common during that era, he worked with his siblings on the family farm. Among his tasks was steering a plow behind a mule, but did so barefooted, which he often described later in life as being very painful. For the remainder of his life, he always asked any barefooted person, “Where are your shoes?” because he could never grasp why anyone who could afford a pair of shoes would not wear them.

Mr. Billy attended Auburn for two years and then enlisted in the Air Force in 1951. He was stationed at the Greenville, Mississippi Air Force Base for pilot training. At an on-base afternoon “Tea Dance,” he met Sarah Lee Valencino, and they married later that year. They had three children, Christy, Bill and Sam, and lived a happy life in Greenville, Mississippi. After his retirement in 1995, Mr. Billy began spending more time at the family homestead in Oakey Streak, where he enjoyed maintaining his land. In 2003, Sarah Lee died. With a broken heart and a need to fill the void, Mr. Billy began spending more time in Oakey Streak. 

In 2004, at an Oakey Streak Methodist Church Homecoming, Mr. Billy ran into Helen Parker, a long-time widow who was actually Mr. Billy’s first grade girlfriend. Mr. Billy and Helen fell in love and were married at Oakey Streak Methodist Church in 2005, when they were both 75 years old. After their marriage, Mr. Billy moved back to Butler County. He and Helen enjoyed attending church and Saturday night hymn singings at various churches in Butler and Crenshaw Counties, as well as helping any neighbors in need of any manner of assistance. They had a large garden they loved to tend and ate fresh vegetables year long. 

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Mr. Billy became quite a legend in the Oakey Streak and Pigeon Creek Communities. Even when he was in his late 80’s, he continued to work the land and could often be seen alone on his property on a ladder with a chainsaw or digging post holes by hand. In the summer heat, he continuously cut grass at the old family homestead, at Helen’s house and at the church and cemetery at Oakey Streak Methodist Church. He took great pride in the beauty of the lands he maintained. Helen died in October 2022, but Mr. Billy persevered and stayed active until his mind and health began rapidly declining after Thanksgiving of 2023.

Much to everyone’s dismay, Mr. Billy could outpace and outwork people many decades younger. Shortly before he turned 90, he complained to his son Bill that he thought he “might be losing some upper body strength.” He said he had unloaded some fertilizer from his truck and had become somewhat tired. When questioned as to how much fertilizer he had unloaded, he said: “It was only twenty 50 pound bags, but it had been raining and they were a little wet and hard to hold.”

Services will be held at Dunklin Funeral Home on Saturday, April 13 at 1:30 p.m., after which a celebration will occur at the home of his great nephew, James Little and wife, Jill Marlar, and their daughter Ruby Little, located at 206 East Commerce Street, Greenville. Interment will be in Greenville, Mississippi. 

The family expresses its deepest appreciation to the entire Oakey Streak and Pigeon Creek Communities for their care and friendship during Helen and Mr. Billy’s latter years. A special thank you is extended to Carol Sallie, who took care of Helen and Mr. Billy as she would her own parents. The family is also thankful to Edward Owens, who kept a watchful eye on Mr. Billy as Mr. Billy persevered with his labor upon the land with same vigor as if he were still behind that mule and plow in the 1940’s.

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