Jessie Ferguson “Cissy” Knoll Thomas left this earthly life and the many people who loved her on Wednesday, October 21, 2020 at Dermott, Arkansas at age 99. Her death came as a release after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. Cissy was born in Clarendon, Arkansas on April 29, 1921 to the late Jessie Miller Ferguson and Sidney Walter Ferguson. Besides her parents, Cissy was preceded in death by her first husband, Joseph F. Knoll and two daughters, infant Barbara Ann Knoll and Frances “Franny” Knoll Waltman, her second husband Wiley Avery and in her later years, her husband, Dr. H. W. Thomas. She was also preceded in death by her siblings, Zola, Verna, Lena, Lillie, S.W., Willie Andrew, and Robert (Ram).
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Cissy graduated from Clarendon High School and was living in Stuttgart, Arkansas where she met and fell in love with Joe Knoll. They married 8 weeks later and lived in Almyra, Arkansas, in the “weaning house” next door to Joe’s parents, George and Metta Knoll, pursuing rice farming with his dad. In 1948, they moved with his parents to Jerome, Arkansas buying land previously used by the government as part of the Japanese Internment Camp housing area for officers during World War II. There were several officer housing units on the property and Cissy, using her talent for decorating, turned one of them into a cozy home for their family. In 1953, one of the homes was moved to Dermott and remodeled so the family divided their time between homes. Cissy became a widow when Joe became ill and died at age 47. Cissy attributed her success during those trying years to her loving father in law, “Pap-paw” Knoll and her dear friend, Anita Lephiew Dennington and Anita’s daughter and son-in-law Janet and Swan B.(Rusty) Moss who brought to her support and enormous joy and laughter.
In her later years, she and Dr. H.W. Thomas married and made their home primarily in Dermott and a few years in Starkville, Ms. She became his devoted companion and best friend for 25 years. They loved to travel early in their marriage. Pictures of Cissy sitting on a camel and Cissy and Dr. Thomas climbing out of a small bush plane in Alaska captured some of their memories. Their favorite travel was attending family weddings, graduations and special events involving their children and grandchildren. Later in life when Cissy was in her eighties, she sacrificially cared for Dr. Thomas during his declining years of health, becoming his constant and loving caregiver his last 38 months of life. Cissy was blessed with Mary Shaw from Dermott to help her during that time.
Cissy will be remembered as a remarkable lady who had an abundant amount of energy. She found great joy in being a mother to her children and grandchildren. She was always concerned for their safety and well being. She encouraged her children to succeed beyond their fears. Wherever she lived, her home was a place of love, warmth, beauty, and hospitality. She was a true servant of mankind. The minute you entered her home, she would ask what she could offer or do to make you comfortable. Animals loved her and they flocked to her when she was near. She was a member of the Dermott Methodist Church, the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution), Colonial Dames of XVII Century and Americans of Royal Descent,
Cissy is survived by one daughter, Libby Knoll Gill and husband, Jerry of Starkville, Ms and a son-in-law Martin “Bo” R. Waltman, Jr. of Black Creek, Ga. She is also survived by three grandchildren: Martin R. Waltman, III (Teresa) of West Bend, Wisconsin, Marcel (Scott) Sparks of Black Creek, Ga. and Bradley Knoll Gill (Tina) of Starkville, Ms. along with seven great grandchildren and one great, great granddaughter. She is also survived by one stepdaughter: Jill Avery Cazort of Florida, two stepsons: Wallace Allan Thomas and wife Carolyn of Hot Springs, Ar. and David Ronald Thomas and wife Carolyn of Hattiesburg, Ms. and four step grandchildren: Tanya Cooper (Allen), Candice Pfaff (Scott), Brad Thomas (Jodi) and Greg Thomas (Mary Anna) and six step great grandchildren.
A private graveside service was held Friday afternoon, October 23, 2020 at the Almyra Cemetery where she is interred next to her husband Joe Knoll. The family takes comfort in knowing Jesus Christ was her beacon and strength throughout her life. The family is grateful for all the love and care so many people gave to her during her life. Memorials may be made to Almyra Cemetery Association, P. O. Box 15, Almyra, Arkansas 72003.
If you have a fond memory of Cissy, have a tall glass of ice tea or a cold Coca Cola in her honor and say a blessed goodbye.