November 12, 1914 ~ December 21, 2016
Odessa Marie Corney Tennell North began her journey in Dallas, Texas as the third of seven children born to the Reverend Jack and Gertrude Lane Corney. Nurtured in this active family of three brothers and three sisters, Odessa embraced traditional values grounded in Judeo-Christian ethics, integrity, compassion, generosity and service. As she internalized these values, they shaped her attitude toward her educational and personal goals. Enthusiastic about a college education, she planned to attend Wiley College in Marshall, Texas. The Great Depression and the economic challenges for families put those plans on hold. Following her high school graduation, Odessa married Isaac "Ike" Tennell and gave birth to Harold James Tennell. The untimely and unexpected death of Ike Tennell compelled Odessa to pursue her professional skills as a young widow and now single parent. At age 22, she operated a Millinery shop in Dallas, Texas. She determined to improve her skills by attending McDowell School of Design in New York City. This experience began the first of her four careers as an entrepreneur, Nurse's Aide, Registered Nurse, and Sales Representative. Following the end of World War II, her youngest sister, Esther joined her in New York. After a little while together in New York, Odessa returned to Dallas and was advised that the climate of San Antonio would better suit her challenges with a chronic asthmatic condition.
In San Antonio, Odessa met and married Hal C. North, a man she admired and respected for his devout Christian commitment. This beloved couple blended their two families as widow and widower and journeyed down a path of Christian service, neighborhood sharing, extended family friendships, committed civic involvement and ministry in the rearing of Harold James, Carol Ann, Edwin Kenneth, Deborah Lynn and Hal's developing grandchildren of John Sr. and Estelle Campbell, adult married daughter of Hal's widowhood. Inspired by their Mom's piano playing and singing and their Daddy's bible reading and praying, the home of the North family found open doors for Odessa's nieces [Beverly and Pam] and neighborhood children with music, sports and church related activities abounding. Each of the North children sang, played instruments, and some played sports.
Critical to the way she lived, Odessa insisted upon excellence for her career and family life. In this way, she determined to once again improve her personal skills this time in the field of nursing. Though she served as a Nurse's Aide at Robert B. Green Memorial Hospital, she seemed restless. On one occasion she asked what needed to happen to be in charge of nursing. The answer peeked her interest in becoming a Registered Nurse. She conferred with her husband, looked her college bound son, Harold, in the eyes and stated that at 44 years old, she would join him in classes at San Antonio College in pursuit of her Registered Nurse credentials. She completed her program at 48 as she continued to work, rear children, and sustain multiple friendships.
As a Registered Nurse at Brooke Army Medical Center's Beach Pavilion, Odessa soared winning commendations from the Department of the Army for outstanding service as a civilian nurse. Her final goal remained to become an RN in the Cardiology unit. After several attempts to secure the position, Odessa lamented with her Military Nurse-in-Charge that she was being confronted with opposition. Apparently this nurse so respected Odessa that she contacted human resources and demanded that the matter be settled immediately. Alas, Odessa received her well-earned promotion and retired from BAMC totally fulfilled. Over her years at BAMC, she enjoyed bringing soldiers home for dinner and sending them off to afternoon musicals at the local churches.
Though she worked tirelessly to care for her patients over the years, retirement found her once again restless for new challenges. Her son, Edwin Kenneth had found a career in sales. Curious about her own sales abilities, she became a Sales Counselor with Meadow Lawn Memorial Park in 1981. Because she loved fierce and friendly competition, she challenged Edwin Kenneth to a sales face off advising him that she could outsell him in just a year. The joy of such Mother-son work fun resulted in both of their careers reaching new heights.
Odessa finally yielded to the counsel of her children to conclude all of her formal working years and relax in the love of the Lord's work alone. This found her concentrating all of her energies in the role of Sunday School Superintendent at East St. Paul United Methodist Church transporting children to church regularly, investing in their Christian education, and inspiring their holistic development as growing boys and girls. She insisted that her adult children support her in preparing musicals, teas, and other fund raising activities to generate scholarship monies for needy students. Her deepest longing, until her health failed her, remained to find creative means for serving and meeting unmet needs of others.
Finally, Odessa modeled, along with her husband, the joy of a marriage of some thirty-five years before his death, a parenting partnership that taught through precept and example the Judeo-Christian ethics, unrelenting compassion for the under-served, selfless service, and devoted love for family and friends. Her many friendships brought countless hours of joy to the North household, not the least of which was her time with our extended family friends: the Levi Julius and Rae Adel Jackson family.
The legacy that she leaves warms the hearts of her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and friends. A life of substance characterizes the earthly journey of Odessa Marie North. Her children will seek to honor her legacy forevermore. She is survived by CarolAnn, Edwin Kenneth and Deborah Lynn North and Estelle Campbell her adult children. Beloved grandchildren, Toi Elaine Jefferson, the Tennell men: Ronald James, Anthony Britt, Derek Wayne, and Steven Lane and their mother, Brenda L. Boyd Tennell; and the Tennell great grandchildren; youngest grandson Kenneth Ashley [Rebecca], the many descendants of John Sr. [deceased] and Estelle Campbell, blended families of Edwin Kenneth and Lydia Mae [deceased]: Robert Merrill, Charles Keith [Ruby] and their children; great and great, great granddaughters Jessica Jefferson, Kynslee Jefferson-Henry, and a host of nieces and nephews across the United States. Siblings who preceded her in death: Edwin, William and Richard Corney, Helen Corney Murray, Dorothy Corney White, and Esther Corney Brown and sons who preceded her in death: Damon North, Hoover North and Harold James Tennell, daughter-in-law, Rosemary Preacher Tennell, [Mother of Toi Elaine Tennell] and several grandchildren who preceded her in death: Thomas, Eugene and Larry Campbell and Johnnie Mae Campbell Rice.
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