As we retrace the footprints of our mother, Raye Evelyn Smith Stigger, we can only give thanks to God for the many lives she touched and enriched along her life’s journey. During her eighty-six years, six months and twenty-seven days of life, she was blessed to enjoy many of God’s blessings as a child, wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin, niece and dear friend.
Joining the other unique individuals of the Silent Generation cohort, Raye Evelyn began her life’s journey on Saturday, August 5,1933, as the first child of the thirteen children born to her late parents, Cleo Smith and Willie B. Strode Smith, in Crockett’s Bluff, Arkansas.
Raye Evelyn confessed her hope in Christ and was baptized at an early age. The roots of her faith were grounded in the Saint Olive Missionary Baptist Church located at the DeWitt Loop in rural DeWitt, Arkansas. After moving to Chicago, she became a member of Providence Missionary Baptist Church located on Chicago’s Westside. Upon her return to Arkansas, she reunited with St. Olive M. B. Church where she remained a faithful member until her death.
Raye Evelyn received her early education at Immanuel Elementary School and graduated in May of 1952 from Immanuel High School in Almyra, Arkansas. From 1952-1954, she matriculated at Arkansas AM&N College (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Arkansas). In 1976, through the College Without Walls Program, Raye Evelyn received a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies at Northeastern University in Chicago. In 1978, she went on to receive her Masters in Early Childhood Development from the University of Illinois at Champaign.
In 1954, Raye Evelyn moved to Chicago where she met and married her husband of fifty-one years, Landers Stigger. To this union eight children were born - Kenneth, Calvin, Jacqueline, Sandra, Cheryl, Marsha, Raymond and Catrena. She was preceded in death by her husband, Landers; sons, Calvin and Raymond; daughter, Jacqueline; step-son, Landers, Jr., and grandson, Kendric. She invested her time and resources to nurture, raise and foster love in her family. She was a devoted and loving wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother.
While living in Chicago, Raye Evelyn worked for several years at Victor Herbert Elementary School as a social worker, for the Chicago Public Schools as a Title 1 Regional Coordinator, and at the Chicago City Park District. In 1978, she and her family relocated to Arkansas. Here she began working as a judicial probation and truant officer for Arkansas County. She also worked for many years as a private contracted caregiver for Mr. Emmitt Shields and several other elderly patients throughout the area of Arkansas County. During her entire adult life, while working these jobs and raising her own family, she opened the doors of her home and provided a home and care to family members and friends who were in need. It was her benevolent nature to give to all who were in need. Her home was known by all to be welcoming to family, friends, and friends of family.
On Sunday, March 1, 2020, surrounded by her loved ones, Raye Evelyn slipped into the Lord’s embrace at Baptist Health Medical Center in Stuttgart, Arkansas. Though her passing leaves a void in the lives of those who loved her, she will always be remembered.
Raye Evelyn leaves to forever cherish her memory: five loving children, Kenneth (Arecia) and Marsha of Stuttgart, Arkansas, Sandra and Cheryl of Fayetteville, Arkansas, and Catrena of Chicago, Illinois; two brothers, Maurice and Roy Smith of Chicago, Illinois; four sisters, Odella Smith of Casscoe, Arkansas, Marion Diann Hayes of Chicago, Illinois, Carolyn McCoy of Almyra, Arkansas, and Janice Streeter of Pine Bluff, Arkansas; grandchildren, Lakita Cato, Michelle Brown, Jevon Stigger, Antoneisha Stigger (Daniel Poole, Sr.), Anthony Stigger, Vernon Stigger Frankie), Megan Johnson (Jimmy Curry), Takeira Sims, Kenetra Shivers, Mandrill Stigger, Jacqueline Phillips, Kendrea Stigger, Kenneth Stigger, Jr.; special God grandson, Robert Peters (Lynn); and 18 great-grandchildren. She also leaves one paternal aunt, Cardalene Smith of Chicago, Illinois; three sister-in-laws, Lois Bunn, Mary Stigger and Faye Smith; four brother-in-laws, Eddie Smith, Percy Hayes, Jr., A.C. McCoy and Eddy Streeter; a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.
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