Lois Ashley Stephens, 89, of Bentonville died Jan, 1, 2014, at her daughter's home in Reston, Va., surrounded by her children. Born Lois Evelyn Ashley in West Plains, Mo., she was valedictorian of Swifton High School in Swifton, Ark., graduating two days after her 17th birthday. She went on to Texas State College for Women, because Texas was a wealthy state which not only gave free tuition to Texas residents, but also gave free tuition to Arkansas women because they felt sorry Arkansas didn't have a women's college of its own. Transferring to the University of Missouri after two years and turning down the offer of a school teaching job in Tuckerman, Ark., paying $300 per year, Lois graduated in January 1945 at the age of 20 with a degree in economics. Her father, who had served as an artillery lieutenant in France during the First World War, thought she should enlist in one of the armed services after graduation, calling it the opportunity of a lifetime. She looked into it, but would have had to enlist as a private, so she said to hell with that. Lois worked in several cities for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics until the fall of 1946 when she married Ray A. Stephens of Chicago to whom she had sold War Bonds and a winning smile while he was stationed for a short time at Fort Chaffee on his way to fight in India and China during the war. The couple lived nearly 30 years in Ohio where Ray was an officer with the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 18. While raising her three children, Lois returned to Kent State University, graduating with a master's in library science in 1970 (yes that school, that year). She worked for many years as a librarian for the Cuyahoga County Public Library. Leaving Ohio in the late 1970s, the couple lived for a few years in Annandale, Va., where Ray was director of research at the union's headquarters. They then retired in 1981 to Bentonville. Ray died of a heart attack in 1991. Lois was a longtime member of the Bentonville Library Board, the Democratic Women of Benton County, an active member of the First United Methodist Church, a keen investor and a sharp bridge player who used a computer to improve her game. She is survived by her children, Ann C. Stephens of Reston, Va., Paul A. Stephens of Princeton, N.J., Mark C. Stephens of Santa Rosa, Calif.; two daughters-in-law, Marie Stephens of Princeton, N.J., and Mary Alyce Stephens of Santa Rosa, Calif.; her sister, Christine Harvey of Jupiter, Fla.; three grandsons in California; and many lively nieces, nephews and cousins. A memorial service will be held Monday, Feb. 3, at 10:30 a.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Bentonville and lunch will follow.
Published January 31, 2014