Mary Sue Shelby McAlister

Born on February 10, 1919

Departed on October 1, 2019 and resided in Nashville, TN

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On October 1, Mary Sue passed away at her home of 65 years. She lived a full life of 36,759 days. She was a kind and loving person who treated everyone with respect. Her passing leaves a loss in the hearts of many friends and family.

She was born and raised in Shady Grove (Duck River), Hickman County, Tennessee, and graduated Hickman County High School class of 1938, where she was a star center on the Bulldogs’ basketball team.

Later in life she remarked that from her center position on the court she was never allowed to shoot the ball, so at age 80 she began shooting hoops on a backyard goal and continued until she was over 90 years old.

Mary Sue graduated from Andrew Jackson Business College in Nashville and worked at Castner-Knott Company, Singer Sewing Machines Industrial Division, and retired from Vanderbilt University English Department in 1987.

She was a proud supporter of Vanderbilt athletics and at age 99 attended the 2018 Commodores 38-13 victory over the Vols and she continued attending Vanderbilt basketball and baseball games well after her 100th birthday. She celebrated the 2014 College World Series Championship with Mr. C. on her 96th birthday.

Mary Sue loved Christmas and as a craftsman she added dozens of home-made stitchery and ceramic keepsake items to hers and others’ decorations. She cross-stitched multiple Christmas ornaments every year for 39 years. She completed her 2019 Christmas ornaments in January, never to be behind in her tasks. She handmade Christmas stockings for each member of the family and at age 99 she completed a hand-sewn and hand-beaded tree skirt which was awarded a ribbon in the Tennessee State Fair. She filled her house with joy and love at Christmas and enjoyed entertaining guests.

Mary Sue was a strong-willed woman and a role- model for many. Those much younger often remarked that she would be wheeling us around in the nursing home when we got old. We thought that she would out-live us all.

She was a member of Hillsboro Church of Christ. Her favorite hymns were “Amazing Grace”, “Old Rugged Cross”, “How Great Thou Art”, “Holy, Holy, Holy”.
She is predeceased by her husband, Edward Leon McAlister, parents Annie Sue Totty and Anderson Brown Shelby and siblings Sam Walker Shelby, Polkie Josephine Thurman, Martha Elizabeth Alderson, David Brown Shelby, and Thomas Monroe Shelby. She is survived by daughter, Marilyn McAlister (Stacy Stewart), and son, Robert Michael McAlister, and grandson, Matthew Stewart.

Memorials may be sent to Stand Cemetery Perpetual Care, c/o Mike McAlister, 111 Page Road, Nashville, TN 37205-4421.

There were many adjectives which described Mary Sue:
Color: Pink
TV: “Antiques Road Show”, “Rachel Maddow Show”, “Last of the Summer Wine”, any sport
Car: Red Convertible (her dream car)
Favorite Vacations: Great Britain, Turkey, Greece, Hawaii, anywhere with her children
Flower: Rose
Author: Daniel Steel, Mary Higgins Clark

Was 5th generation Hickman County, Tennessee. Ancestral families Shelby, Totty, Bond, Thornton, Easley, Weatherly, Coleman, Alderson, Harrington, Blair, Morgan, Duncan, Alexander, Smith, Gowan, Bearden

Used Bobby Pins faithfully to “tame” her hair
Loved Whitt’s BBQ, pulled pork only with mild sauce
Loved to eat at Cheese Cake Factory, Ted’s, J Alexander’s, and Dalts
Always requested a “go-box” almost immediately after ordering a meal
Was a good cook
Rarely liked anything that she cooked
Liked to try new recipes
Liked to swap recipes
Always followed the recipe
Made scrambled eggs like no one else
Loved corn light bread
Made great corn light bread
Made fabulous fudge cake (no one else could make it from her recipe)
Sat by the oven door while the fudge cake was cooking to insure perfection
Loved discounts
Made fabulous coconut pie
Made fabulous chocolate pie
Loved butter pecan ice cream the best
Pushed food on her family w/love (or is it reverse?)
Hands Off! Feet
Loved to shop
Loved to shop for the perfect pair of shoes
Wore an almost impossible to find size 9-AAAA shoe
Loved to look at nice clothes
Loved to buy nice clothes
Loved to wear nice clothes
Loved to shop, period
Wore a perfect size 10
Not fond of dogs
Not fond of cats
Not fond of pets
Not fond of children, except for her own
Enjoyed making counted cross stitch art
Loved Christmas
Made a cross-stitched Christmas ornament each year for her children since 1981
Liked to make Christmas gifts
Finished making Christmas gifts by Summer
When ready to sew she said “I am going to get the machine out”
Was a good seamstress
Sewed many of her children’s clothes
Sewed several quilts
Did not have a favorite Christmas song
Loved Vandy sports
Enjoyed beating u.t. in any sport
Covered her mouth when laughing hard
Hard to get her to smile for a photo
Hated opening canned biscuits (the “explosion”, you know)
Liked to attract and watch hummingbirds (except when they fight)
Loved ceramics
Loved the ladies in her ceramics group
Kept cars for a long time
Never liked her hair
Rarely liked the way her hair was “fixed”
Loved to work in the yard
Loved to mow the grass
Mowed the grass well into her 80’s
Liked to pull weeds
Did not like housework
Always had a freezer(s) packed with food
Always wanted to learn to play the fiddle (honest, I heard her tell someone)
A lifelong Democrat
A closet liberal
Always washed her hands in warm water
Always watched the TV news starting at 4 p.m.
Always read the newspaper
Always read the sports section of the newspaper first
Liked the newspaper sections to be in order
Kept the newspaper sections in order
Expected the newspaper to be handed to her with the sections in order
Liked reading the “Ticked Off” section in the “West Side News”
Was an excellent driver
Liked to drive with her seat back to maximum (she called it “straight legged”)
Was recruited from Shady Grove School to play basketball at Hickman County HS
Always played the Center position in basketball when the court was in 3 divisions
Always wanted to shoot the basketball in high school
Never got to shoot the basketball in high school
Was a very good basketball shot at age 90
Fouled out (according to her) in about every basketball game that she played
Liked to second-guess officiating in sports
Always said “Well, I’m going to get our wonderful mail” when heading to the mailbox
Liked about anything that Vince Gill sang
Favorite expression “You’ve got another thought coming”
Favorite expression “I am gonna jerk a knot in your tail” (if you don’t straighten up)
Always rolled the toilet paper from the back
Liked a car with “a good heater”
Rarely napped
Loved her flannel pajamas in the Winter
Loved her flannel sheets in the Winter
Loved glitter on about everything
Was a faithful church goer or TV sermon (Dr. Stanley) watcher
Read her Bible daily
Was a lifelong member of the Church of Christ
Always accused of possessing “radar”, an innate ability to hear and detect what is going on in other parts of the house
Moved quickly around the house at “warp” speed, usually hard to see her
Did not like Halloween
Was scared of trick-or-treaters
Would always bend over to pick up a “lost” penny
Believed that a found heads-up penny was good luck
Would pass her found good luck penny to someone she loved
Was right-handed
Had good hand writing
Raised two left-handed children
Loved hosting her grandson in Summer at “Camp Nana”
Rode her first roller coaster (Space Mountain) when she was 70
Before leaving home she was famous for saying “Off, Off, Off, Off, Off” (referring to the four eyes and oven on the stove)
Always enjoyed Bea Arthur’s feminist character “Maude” on TV
Volunteered at Council on Aging in her 90’s
Volunteered helping deliver Meals on Wheels in her 90’s
Volunteered at age 100 with Nashville Diaper Connection
Was a perfect 10 as a Mother
Was a perfect 10 as a grandmother
Was a perfect 10 as a friend
Was a perfect 10 even in the size clothes she wore
Was a perfect 10

**Below are just a few of Mary Sue's recipes.



3/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
2 eggs
1 Tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons vanilla

Mix sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt in top of double boiler. Add milk slowly and stir and cook over the fire until boiling point is reached. Place over hot water and cool 20 minutes stirring occasionally. Add well beaten egg yolks and butter and stir for 2 minutes. Remove from stove and add vanilla (add other optional ingredients, see below). Cool and turn into a cooked pastry shell.


¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
4 egg whites
8 Tablespoons sugar

I put cream of tartar in my egg whites, beat very stiff. Add 2 Tablespoons of sugar for each egg white. Spread meringue to the edge of crust to prevent shrinking. Bake until meringue is brown.


Add 1 cup shredded coconut to vanilla basic recipe. Can also add coconut flavoring to custard.


Add 6 Tablespoons cocoa (Mary Sue is now using Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa and it is yummy) to this recipe or melt 2 squares of chocolate.

Mrs. Elizabeth Baker
Mrs. Lelia Baker
“The Fruit of Our Labour”, page 97
A collection of recipes by the Shady Grove Community Center
Duck River, TN 38454

4 eggs, separated
1 ½ cup sugar
1 ½ cup sweet milk
2 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 Tbsp. margarine
1 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt

Mix 1 cup sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt together in a heavy container. Put the other ½ cup sugar in iron skillet and caramelize. Add milk and beaten egg yolks to the dry ingredients. Cook until thick over medium heat, stirring constantly. Add the carmalized sugar to the custard, stirring constantly. Be very careful as this bubbles up, very hot. Mix well and add margarine and vanilla. Pour in baked pie shells and top with meringue.


¼ tsp. cream of tarter
4 egg whites
8 Tbsp. sugar

I put cream of tarter in my egg whites, beat very stiff. Add 2 Tbsp. of sugar for each egg white. Spread meringue to the edge of crust to prevent shrinking. Bake until meringue is brown.

Chocolate Crustless Pie

3/4 cup sugar
¼ cup flour
2 squares chocolate or 4 Tbls cocoa
½ cup butter, melted
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Heat oven to 350
Grease pan with butter
Mix sugar, flour and cocoa
Add eggs one at a time, beat well then add melted butter
Pour into pan and bake 350 for about 20-25 minutes

26 Comments to Ms. Mary Sue Shelby McAlister

  1. Dick Thompson says:

    Sorry for your loss. She was a remarkable and kind lady.

  2. Dick Thompson says:

    I am sorry for your loss. She was a remarkable and true Southern Lady.

  3. Sandra Lindsey says:

    Bless you all as you grieve your loss, but heavens gain!
    You were so blessed to have a Mother who was a perfect example of a Christian Woman.
    Charles and I loved her and being with her was a blessing to us.
    She qualified as Most Beautiful in all aspects and I do appreciate her taking such good care of MawMaw Shelby.
    They were a perfect match for each other.
    She will always live in my thoughts and my heart.
    Heaven is richer because she is there.
    Love you, stay in touch!

  4. Stevie McDowell says:

    Great memories of a great lady. Loved eating ribs with her.

  5. Diana says:

    Even though I only met her once, I think I knew her through you, her son. She had a very complete and full life. With hopes for many good memories.

  6. Becky zachgo says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. She was blessed with a great son . My thoughts and prayers are with you

  7. Sam and Jane Shelby says:

    Mike, Sam and I send our condolences to you. This is the sweetest, most personal obituary we have ever seen. Loved seeing all these pictures. I am just sorry I didn’t know her better because she was obviously a most special person. Please know that we are holding you in our hearts.
    Sam and Jane Shelby

  8. Kim Sanders says:

    I will miss her at the Vandy Basketball games. She was kind and always had a smile.

  9. Kathy Curran-Goral says:

    John and I are so sorry. Praying that God will wrap you in his arms of love and healing. We know how much you loved her and how much you loved her and how much she will be missed.

  10. Pam Jordan says:

    Your mother has been on my mind for the last several weeks. I am so sorry for your loss and Heaven’s gain. Love to you my dear friend and your family. Pam Jordan

  11. Susan Culkin says:

    Mike, Doug & I feel so lucky that we got to met your mom. She was quite a lady that lived quite a life. Loved browsing all the photos. We hope that you are comforted by the outpouring of love surrounding you.

    – Susan & Doug

  12. Diana Jernigan Dugle says:

    Marilyn and Mike, what an awesome obituary.
    Love to you both for this huge loss in your life.
    She was a love!❤️

  13. Tricia Skidd says:

    What a remarkable woman and most beautiful obituary! I am praying you feel God’s love more than ever! I know your Mom went to be with the Lord with great peace in knowing she raised two remarkable children and was loved!

  14. Melissa Clough says:

    Marilyn and Mike so sorry for your loss . Reading about
    She lived a glorious and full life and I know she will be greatly missed by the two of you and many others.

  15. Kathy Green Anderson says:

    I am SO glad I got to know your mom, Mike. What an incredibly beautiful tribute to her! You were very blessed to have her for so many years.

  16. Judy Morris says:

    Mike. Marilyn, Stacey and Matthew, you are in our prayers. We feel fortunate to have spent time with your mom/grandmother at HHI, she was a lovely and knowledgeable lady. It is probably good you did not post the fudge cake recipe as I am not sure anyone can replicate it.

  17. Jo Brummitt says:

    After reading about your Mom’s life and her story, I can see that you definitely inherited her wonderful spirit, sense of adventure, love of sports, and your giving nature.

    Many of us have been blessed by you. You are truly her son and a gift to all that know you.

  18. James Ross says:

    Humbled to have known her and honored to have served her…

  19. Steve Allen says:

    What a grand lady. I’ll miss, Mike, seeing the pics you sent of the both of you at all those Vandy games.

  20. Christine Kennard says:

    This is truly one of the most beautiful obituaries I have ever read and we had the pleasure of knowing Mary Sue. She was always so kind and thoughtful towards me and my children. It was always a joy to go to VANDY games with her and see pictures of her at the games. On several occasions she went outside the box and cooked the most fabulous Gluten Free treats which meant the world to me. In addition, she raised one the most kind and loving men I have ever met. We have been fortunate to be blessed with two of the McAlister clan in our lives. You are missed Mary Sue.

  21. J Christopher says:

    Was so saddened to hear the news that our dear, sweet Mary Sue had left us. Although she had lived a long and full life, we were not ready to let her go. She was always so sweet and kind to me, and I’ve known her for so long that she felt like family. She will be sorely missed but fondly remembered. Perhaps she and my mother are sharing stories somewhere about their boys.

  22. Brad Franvis says:

    Mike your words and photos ate a great testament to this dear lady. I wish I’d had the honor to know her. But Imm especially glad to know her son.

    Kindest regards and sincere condolences.


  23. Mary Ann Snowden says:

    Mike, this is the 1st on line obituary I’ve seen and it is just lovely. I was honored to know and work beside Mary Sue for years at ceramics. We frequently consulted one another about colors and painting techniques and while we worked, we’d talk about our mutually favorite subject…our families. She loved you all with all her heart. When we discovered that we both enjoyed doing needlework ,we’d bring in things we’d made and enjoyed ‘show and tell’ time together; she was truly gifted with a needle.Mary Sue was a gracious, loving and generous person. When my children were old enough to come to the after school ceramics class, she would always offer to help them and her kind, gentle way made her a favorite with them, especially Tessa. Mary Sue was a wonderful person and our lives were blessed to have known her. I will miss my friend…my sincerest condolences.

  24. Dora Baird-Ferrell says:

    Mike, this is the most beautiful obituary that I’ve ever seen and heard. Mary Sue was such a wonderful and special friend. I was so Blessed and Honored to have had her in my life. She was like a second mother to me. I loved her so very much and I knew that she loved me. She was such an amazing and incredible loving true Southern Lady. I will forever cherish the Christmas Cross Stitch Ornaments that she made me. I will forever keep the emails that she sent me. She will be greatly missed by everyone that knew her. You were a great son to Mary Sue. I will forever miss her and cherish her memory. Thank you for sharing her with me. I loved her so very much so many great Memories. I love you Mike my dear friend and I’m always here for you. My sincere sympathy.

  25. Mo says:

    We are so sorry for your loss. A beautiful tribute to a lovely woman. Hugs to you during this difficult time.


    Mo and Justin

  26. Ralph, Cathee and Adam Mabry says:

    Ralph, Adam and I (on a few occasions) had the privilege of sitting next to this beautiful, fine lady at the Vanderbilt Football games for approximately 8 years. She was dignified and stately always. Our family will always remember her staunch loyalty to Vanderbilt. This was the greatest obituary we’ve ever read. A great depiction and one that truly tells ‘her story’ in wonderful detail. Our sympathy to the entire family, but just know she is happy, healthy and whole on the other side.

    Our sincere thoughts and prayers,
    Ralph, Cathee and Adam Mabry

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