Conway

Strand Notebook | Stephens received Horry Electric’s ‘Rural Lady of the Year’ Award

Helen Stephens
Helen Stephens

Helen Stephens received Horry Electric Cooperative’s 2016 “Rural Lady of the Year” award at a luncheon in Conway on March 4.

The Leo G. Knauff Leadership Award was presented to her by retired Clemson Extension agent Bruce Johnson. She also received an award from the S.C. House of Representatives and the Senate, which was presented by representatives Kevin Hardee and Mike Ryhal, and Senator Greg Hembree.

Helen Stephens grew up on a farm in the Maple community, a daughter of Willie and Grace Jordan, and graduated from Conway High School in 1965. She said she can’t tell anyone the first time she met Billy Stephens, the man she married, because he also grew up in the Maple community and their parents were friends, so they always knew each other. Billy died in December of 2013. In addition to farming, he worked over 50 years at Altman Tractor Company. With him away from home most days, she was in charge. “He left me to kind of watch over things,” she said.

I’m just thankful every day for health and family, and I give all the glory to God. He has blessed me so much, so I hope I can continue to do what he would have me do. I’m thankful for being so blessed.

Helen Stephens

Billy and Helen have three children; Kristi, Nancy and Jonathan. Kristi married Gene Bratcher and they have a daughter, Anna. Nancy married Scott Mikres and they have two daughters, Kaylee and Kirby. Jonathan and his wife, Melissa, have a baby girl, Isla Grace. All of them live in the Conway area, and that is a wonderful thing, Helen said.

Horry Electric Cooperative has honored a Rural Lady of the Year annually since 1979. The award is always kept secret from the recipient until her history is being read and her family enters the room to sit with her, as Helen’s family did.

Helen Stephens said that receiving the award “surely brought back a lot of memories about farming.” She and Billy farmed tobacco and other crops, and she always had a huge garden. Although she hasn’t farmed for a while, she said she appreciates farmers and has always felt that they are the “backbone of Horry County.”

During the winters in the late 80s, she trained to be a practical nurse, and later worked in a medical office. In the 90s, she and her sister, Mary Clewis, opened Curtains-N-Things on Third Avenue in Conway. Mary retired, and Helen is now partners with Angie Johnson, a daughter of Mary and her husband, Leroy Clewis.

“I think it’s important to work as long as you can and to be a contributor as long as you can,” Helen said.

I’m just thankful every day for health and family, and I give all the glory to God. He has blessed me so much, so I hope I can continue to do what he would have me do. I’m thankful for being so blessed.

Helen Stephens

She has been an active member of Maple Baptist Church most of her life and has served in many capacities. She and church member, Peggy Jones, cook a meal there every Wednesday night for the congregation. She cooks sometimes for a Myrtle Beach homeless shelter, hosts a monthly meeting of a Woman’s Missionary Union group at her home and works with students in the Good News Club at Kingston Elementary School.

“I’m just thankful every day for health and family, and I give all the glory to God. He has blessed me so much, so I hope I can continue to do what he would have me do. I’m thankful for being so blessed,” she said.

Peggy Mishoe, pegmish@sccoast.net, 365-3885.

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