A Tribute to Mildred Nicholson Bell
Last week, at age 108 ½, Mildred Nicholson Bell peacefully passed away. As a lifetime resident of Pitman and beloved resident of United Methodist Communities at Pitman, Mildred proudly described herself as a “Pitmanite through and through.” Born on July 31, 1906, her family lived in a Grandview Avenue home with gas lanterns and an outhouse. Years later they installed electricity and indoor plumbing.
Mildred had many wonderful memories about growing up in Pitman such as attending the annual New Year’s Day Mummer Parade in nearby Philadelphia and Missionary Society functions. Her family belonged to the local Baptist church.
During the early 1920s Pitman did not have its own high school. Students took a train into Glassboro. She recalled that a group of local boys followed and annoyed the girls as they walked from the train station to the school — among these her future husband Ralph. After graduating, Mildred worked as a secretary in the Pitman Public Schools.
Mildred and Ralph married in 1928. They became active members of the Pitman United Methodist Church; Mildred joined the Order of the Eastern Star Pitman Chapter #57. Later, the couple welcomed a son and a daughter. For the most part, Mildred was a stay-at-home mom, and an active volunteer. Ralph advanced from salesman to vice president at Hardwick & Magee, from which he retired. For many years, Mildred and Ralph spent summers in Ocean City, New Jersey and winters in Florida. Throughout 64 years of marriage they also traveled.
Everyone at United Methodist Communities at Pitman, her home from 2004 until last week, agreed that Mildred was one of the most positive people they had ever met. With an optimistic outlook and cheerful disposition, she cherished every day. Mildred loved all her friends at United Methodist Communities at Pitman, participating in all the activities and indulging in crocheting, knitting and playing cards.
For a 106th birthday present, Pitman Mayor Russ Johnson declared July 31, 2012 as “Mildred Bell Day” in the borough. Additionally, the Gloucester County Freeholders sent a letter to United Methodist Communities at Pitman declaring the day in her honor throughout all of Gloucester County as well. Her name and birthday greeting graced the marquis of the Broadway Theater in Pitman. The following year, the Order of the Eastern Star Pitman Chapter #57 gave Mildred the Golden Token, an 85 years of service pin — the first of its kind in New Jersey and most likely within the entire Eastern Star organization.
Several years ago, Rev. Dr. Lanie B. Price, former pastor of the Pitman United Methodist Church recalled, “One day while visiting her at United Methodist Communities at Pitman she said to me, ‘You know pastor, this is the best decision we ever made. A friend I went to kindergarten with moved in last month. We’ve been having the best time together, walking in the halls, going down to dinner together. Where else could I have found this atmosphere?’ ” I said to her, “Mrs. Bell, I don’t know anywhere else you could walk down the halls and eat with your friend from kindergarten, especially at 103!”
Mildred is survived by her daughter-in-law, four grandchildren, seven great grandchildren, and three great great-grandchildren. She is already greatly missed by associates, residents and friends of United Methodist Communities at Pitman.