Cover photo for Sara Willie "Rhee" Evans Nelson's Obituary
Sara Willie "Rhee" Evans Nelson Profile Photo
1936 Rhee 2023

Sara Willie "Rhee" Evans Nelson

April 3, 1936 — November 28, 2023

Formerly of Concord, NC

Rhee Nelson, beloved mom, “Mama”, sister, aunt and friend, joined the Heavenly Choir on November 28, 2023. 

A Celebration of Rhee’s life will be held at 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 16th, 2024 at First Presbyterian Church, 70 Union St. N, Concord, NC., followed by a receiving of friends in Davis Hall. Please make any memorials to the First Presbyterian Music Program.

Rhee’s extraordinary life began April 3, 1936, when she was born to Allie Elizabeth Fowler Evans and James Harvey Evans at their 6-room farmhouse in Irwinville, Georgia. Her father was a widower with 5 young children when he met and married her mother. Lovingly her daddy called her the first child of his second “litter”. From the beginning, she never doubted how much she was loved with five older half-siblings to dote on her and spoil her. In the next 11 years, 5 more siblings would join the Evans Clan to love and have “fun” on the farm with her.

No doubt Rhee’s life was a product of the people, the times and the circumstances she was born into – middle of the depression, farm life, large family, strong faith, Church and death. Living on a 300-acre farm provided plenty of food (and cotton) with lots of hard work but she and her younger siblings also managed to work in some playtime with each other, their pets, their farm animals and lots of “tom foolery” between brothers and sisters. She attended first through tenth grade at Irwinville Grade School. In the Spring of 1947, her mother noticed a small lump on her leg that a local doctor thought was just a cyst but the cyst continued to grow and became very painful so o she went to Emory University Hospital in September 1947 for examination, was diagnosed with incurable cancer of the morrow of the bone and started radiation therapy. By December 1947 the doctors said the rest was in God’s hands. Her dad wanted what would probably be her mom’s last Christmas to be as magical as possible for her mother so he invited the entire family to their house to celebrate. With her mom’s guidance she, her dad and older siblings prepared all the traditional foods and celebrated Christmas with no gifts but lots of love and laughter from both sides of the family. Two days after Christmas her mother went into a coma and died on January 4th 1948 – 3 months before Rhee turned 12. In many ways her childhood also died that January day. Her mother kept saying “take care of my babies” Being the oldest of the 6 at home she felt her mother was talking to her so she jumped in to help her father by cooking and doing as much as she could to help her father keep the family together. Four years later her father was also diagnosed with cancer, probably starting in the kidneys but the cancer was throughout his body and inoperable by the time he started feeling ill. On May 12, 1952, her father passed away peacefully, leaving her as the “head of the family” at the age of 16. Rhee and her 5 siblings were able to stay together on the farm through the end of that school year. At that time her younger siblings each went to live with an older half-sibling since most of them still lived in Georgia and would be able to see each other. Being the oldest she went to live in Miami, Florida with her mother’s baby sister’s family - Aunt Sara, Uncle Red and cousin Annie who was a year younger than her and became more of a sister than a cousin.  After moving to Miami, she attended eleventh and twelfth grade and graduated from Miami Edison.

Rhee adapted fairly quickly to life in Miami and enjoyed all the city had to offer. She joined Grace Missionary Baptist Church where Aunt Sara and family attended. Not long after she joined, she met Bob Edwards. Bob was from Norene, TN. He joined the Navy during the Korean Conflict after graduating from Lebanon High School and one year attending Middle Tennessee State University. One of his Navy buddies was from Miami and a member of Grace Baptist. Bob would go home on leave with him and attend church with his buddy, meeting Rhee on one of those visits. He kept coming back to see “the most beautiful woman in the world. “After Rhee graduated, they were married and she moved to Key West. Their daughter, Debbie, was born in October at the Key West Naval Hospital. After Bob’s end of active service, they moved to Miami. In 1959 they brought their son, Dale, born on Rhee’s birthday April 3rd, to a house in Hialeah they had bought.

Rhee’s childhood events, memories and upbringing were manifested throughout her adult life. Being a loving mother came easy to Rhee after helping raise 5 siblings when her mother died. She was very involved in their schools and outside activities.  She was room mother, PTA president and Brownie troop leader while living in Hialeah. Church continued to be a large part of her life. Rhee was very active at Grace Baptist. She taught Sunday School, was leader of Vacation Bible School several summers and sang in the choir the entire time she was a member. Summers were spent vacationing with the family in the Keys, days spent at the local beaches and visits from her brothers, sisters and in-laws. She went “all out” during their visits and on holidays – the beginning of her being the ultimate “Hostess with the Mostest” – a fantastic cook who always had an abundance of food for her family and friends and loved decorating for all special occasions. Once Dale started school, Rhee worked part-time as a dental assistant to fill the hours and have extra money for Santa come Christmas.

In the Summer of 1967, Bob was transferred to Winston-Salem, NC with his insurance job. With her love of travel, Rhee was looking forward to living in a new town, meeting new people, exploring her new surroundings, decorating a new house and making it a home. She wasted no time in getting to know the town, neighbors, finding a church and volunteering. The family joined Ardmore Baptist Church where she quickly got involved – taught Sunday School, led VBS, was president of Women’s Missionary Union and of course a very active member of Ardmore’s choir. She was Den Mother one year and volunteered at Bolton Elementary. With Debbie and Dale both in school Rhee decided to enroll at Forsyth Tech and earned an associate degree in accounting. After receiving her AD, she went to work part time for a local accountant for a couple of years. She enjoyed being tour guide when family and out of town friends visited andand decided she would like to explore getting a part time job in the travel industry. After Debbie went off to college and Dale started high school, Rhee went to work for Piedmont Airlines part time in their reservation division – with her love of travelling this was the perfect job for her since they provided discounted travel benefits which she took full advantage of, visiting cities throughout the country while working at Piedmont. In 1975 Bob and Rhee amicably separated andfinalized their divorce in 1979. They continued sharing holidays together with their children and grandchildren through the years and remained friends until Bob’s death in 2012.   Rhee remained in Winston-Salem and continued working for Piedmont Airlines until Dale married and moved to Raleigh. Rhee was delighted to change her name in in February 1980 to Mama when her first granddaughter, Jennifer was born. She visited as often as she could before moving to Atlanta in 1983 to continue working in the travel industry. In October 1989, 2 months earlier than expected, Rhee was blessed with the arrival of her second granddaughter, Samantha. No one could stop her from coming to Raleigh to help Sheila and Dale when they brought tiny Samantha home. In 1991 she married Richard “Dick” Schneidt who she had met in 1987 after moving to Atlanta. They were married at Peachtree Presbyterian Church which Rhee joined when she moved to Atlanta in 1985. Dick joined Peachtree not long after they met but told her he would not be joining the choir with her since he could not sing a lick. They both were very active in the Seekers Class while members at Peachtree. Dick owned a commercial construction company and Rhee joined him in the company adding a spatial design division -maybe “designing” her playhouses in Irwinville as a child was an omen. Rhee was able to continue her love of travel since Dick had several international clients in Europe and Australia that they visited for work and would add a little free time for sightseeing on those trips. In March 2000 Dick died unexpectedly while on a fishing trip in the Keys with his son. Rhee tried for four years to keep the business going but it was not meant to be. In 2004 she decided to move back to North Carolina to be closer to Debbie, Dale, their spouses and her 2 precious granddaughters. Rhee started calling Concord, NC home in June 2004 and once again her history started repeating itself. She immediately joined First Presbyterian Church, their choir and a women’s circle. She started designing and decorating her new home along with landscaping her yard with beautiful flower gardens. She was always impeccably dressed and “stylishly primped” like her grandmother taught her. Many found out what a wonderful cook she was and how entertaining she could be.

A few years after moving to Concord, Rhee was confronted with the diagnosis of dementia. This was a turning point, a journey that would test her and her loved ones strength and resilience. Dementia/Alzheimer's is a disease that slowly takes away the memories and abilities that defines one but it could never take away the essence of who Rhee was. Celebrate the vibrant, dynamic individual Rhee was before Dementia/Alzheimer's. Rhee’s journey was not defined by how it ended but by the countless moments of joy, love, and laughter that she shared with us over a lifetime. Many of you remember how Rhee would talk about how “Heavenly” something was. Can’t you hear her now…”Don’t cry for me – it’s HEAVENLY up here!”

Rhee will be forever remembered by her daughter, Debbie Little (Buell); son, Dale Edwards (Sheila); granddaughters, Jennifer Mackethan (Crawford) and Samantha Roberts (Puddin); great-granddaughter, Lulie Mackethan; great-grandsons, Biggs Mackethan, Parker Roberts and Fin Roberts; sister, Carolyn Hodges; brothers, Wendell Evans (Pam) and Sammy Evans( (Jackie); bonus granddaughters, Beth Gaul (Jake), Paige Johnson (Ross); bonus grandson, Trey Little(Megan Lay); bonus great-granddaughters, Caroline Gaul, Emily Johnson and Sydney Johnson: and 14 nieces and nephews and their spouses. 

She was greeted in Heaven by her parents; sisters, Veta Hunt, Marjorie Henry, Velma Adams and Betty Blackwell; brothers, Winfred Evans, Don Evans and Linnie Evans; and several nieces and nephews.

 In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to First Presbyterian Church, 70 Union St. N, Concord, NC 28025.

Family and friends are welcome to submit online condolences at www.mundenfuneralhome.net

Arrangements by Munden Funeral Home and Crematory, Inc. in Morehead City, N.C.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Sara Willie "Rhee" Evans Nelson, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Celebration of Life

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Starts at 3:00 pm (Eastern time)

First Presbyterian Church of Concord

70 Union St. N., Concord, NC 28025

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Visitation Following

Saturday, March 16, 2024

First Presbyterian Church of Concord - Davis Hall

70 Union St. N., Concord, NC 28025

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