North MS obituary

Zelma Lee Rye Whitehead, 100

September 25, 1919 - May 9, 2020

Funeral Home Link

Nettleton – Zelma Lee Rye Whitehead was blessed with 100 years, 7 months and 15 days in her earthly pilgrimage. She died peacefully at her residence in Nettleton on Saturday afternoon, May 9, 2020 after living an independent, practical but profound life.  Born in Bexar, AL on September 25, 1919 to the late Zoma Rye and Lula Duke Rye, “Miss” Zelma Lee, as she was affectionately called by most, moved to Nettleton as a 7th grader and graduated from Nettleton High School in l939.  She married Henry Neal Whitehead in l944 and the two, as business partners, operated H. N. Whitehead Furniture Store in Nettleton.  Mr. Whitehead died on May 9, 1961, exactly 59 years ago to the day.  Being an astute business lady, Miss Zelma Lee continued to operate the furniture store until l987 when she decided to retire.  She was a longtime fixture of respect in Nettleton and devoted countless hours as one of its greatest cheerleaders. In 2005, the Nettleton Chamber of Commerce honored her with their Lifetime of Distinction Award.  A faithful, loyal and the oldest member at her death of the Nettleton United Methodist Church, she held practically every office in the Church over her lifetime of service to God and Methodism.  For over 30 years, she made the communion bread.  Known far and wide for her pound cakes, “Miss” Zelma Lee was a master cook and a lover of her home and yard being selected “Yard of the Month” many times over the years.  She delighted in her fellowship with her Church friends as well as all the people of Nettleton.  She cut a wide path and her footprints will remain for generations to come.

A Graveside service celebrating her life will be held today, Monday, May 11, 2020 at 2:00 p.m. at Nettleton Cemetery with her pastor, Rev. Cecil Locke officiating assisted by Bro. Jerry Estes.   Burial will follow in the Rye/Whitehead family plot afterwards.  A private family visitation will take place from Noon-1 PM in the Sanctuary of the Nettleton United Methodist Church.  Friends are encouraged to send memorials to her beloved Nettleton United Methodist Church, 160 Verona Avenue, Nettleton, MS 38858.  Holland Funeral Directors is honored to be serving their friends.

Survivors include her daughter, Kay Whitehead of Belden and Nettleton; numerous nieces and nephews including Ray Grubbs (Debra) of Ridgeland and their son, Michael of Charlottesville, VA  and other relatives and friends.  She was preceded in death by her parents, Zoma and Lula Rye, her sister she adored, Connie Rye Grubbs,  brother-in-law, Percy Grubbs, three step brothers, Henry H. “Red” Rye, Zoma Gray Rye and James C. “Jimmy” Rye and two step sisters, Gladys Tucker Hester and Fay Tucker McMurry.

The family wishes to thank Kindred Hospice and Linda Estes Hood for their loving care of Zelma.  Condolences may be e mailed to

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