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Elizabeth Denman

October 15, 1920 April 25, 2019
Elizabeth Denman
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Obituary for Elizabeth Denman

On April 25, 2019, due to complications from a stroke, beloved wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and amazing friend to many, Elizabeth Nell Dyess Denman of Lake Jackson, Texas, peacefully passed into the arms of her loving Lord.

She is survived by her son, Judge Ed Denman and his wife Bettye of Lake Jackson, Texas; daughter, Marajen Denman of Raleigh, North Carolina; grandchildren, Elizabeth Denman Williams and husband, Michael of Houston, Margaret Denman Beck and husband Doug of the Dominican Republic, David Denman and wife Misty of Aledo and five great-grandchildren, Stewart, Hallie and Charlie Williams, and Ben and Owen Denman.

Nell’s long and exceptional life began in Albany on October 15, 1920 when she was born to Judge Richard and Hallie Dyess and was the younger sister of William Edwin Dyess. As a student of Bobby Nail, Elizabeth Nell was a cast member of the original production of Nail’s Antic Spring which won third place in the One-Act State competition. She was also part of the Senior class’s presentation of Dr. Shackleford’s Paradise (the first Ft. Griffin Fandangle). After graduating in 1938, Nell attended John Tarleton College for two years then transferred to the University of Texas in Austin where, in the spring of 1942, she obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education with a minor in Psychology and Communication. It is there Nell met Ben Denman of Brownwood,the man she would marry and stand beside for seventy-one years until his death in 2014.

In her ninety-eight amazing years, in addition to being a supportive wife to her husband, and attending almost every ballgame her son played and every performance of which her daughter was a part, Nell wore many different “hats.” While living in Albany during WWII, she taught lower, middle and high school. During the years the family lived in Brownwood she directed a youth choir at the First Presbyterian Church, hosted an hour-long women’s radio show at WDBD and started a “love affair” with gardening. By the time the family moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1955, Nell had become such a specialist in floral design and horticulture that she was conferred asa national master flower show judge and began what would be a sixty year “career” teaching Horticulture and Flower Arranging schools. In 1961, when the family moved to Richmond, Virginia, besides serving as president of the Virginia Rose Society, Nell presented a monthly flower arrangement segment on a local TV show and compiled the Piedmont Gardening Guide for Eastern Virginia.

When the Denmans moved to Dallas in 1966, curious to learn what flowers grew best in a Dallas climate, Nell looked around for a botanical garden or arboreta for advice. Not finding either in a city as large as Dallas, led Nell, while serving as president of the Dallas North Garden Forum (an organization of 28 clubs), to cast a vision for such a garden. As a result, she joined with a small team of other committed visionaries who formed the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Society and worked tirelessly for years to establish the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. For her efforts Nell was made a Board Member Emeritus of the Society and was, along with Jim Coker, a former student of hers from Albany, awarded the first Founders Award presented by the Women’s Council of the Dallas Arboretum.

Shortly after their retirement to Lake Jackson, Texas, Nell became involved not only in gardening but in the Brazosport Center for Arts and Sciences and became a Trustee on its governing board. She was also an officer on the board of the Brazosport Symphony Orchestra and significantly contributed to the growth of the Brazosport Symphony League.

In her lifetime, Nell presided over seven different local garden clubs, serving as President of the Texas Garden Clubs, Inc., the Director of the South-Central Region of the National Garden Clubs and a board member for the National Council of State Garden Clubs, Inc.. As an instructor, she conducted scores of floral design and horticulture workshops for sixty years in eleven US states, Mexico and Brazil. Nell received numerous honors including the National Garden Clubs’ Golden Circle Award, the State Fair of Texas Award for Garden Club Woman of the Year and was commissioned an Honorary Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma. In addition, Nell wrote articles for The Lone Star Gardener, The National Gardener,TheTexas Horticulturalist and two books --A Collection of Inspirations and Installations, a programming guide for the National Garden Clubs -- and Nothing Happens by Chance, a history of the founding of the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Society and Gardens (currently in publication).

This extraordinary woman will be remembered by those who knew her well as a talented, determined, generous and energetic woman who loved and faithfully served her Lord, her family, her friends, her students, her communities and her vision to use gardens and flowers to beautify the earth and reveal the glory of God. Her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren will remember “Mama Nell” as an encouraging, giving and caring mother, grandmother and great-grandmother who is an inspiring model of a life truly well lived.

The family wishes to express a special thank you to John D. Lukacs, author of Escape from Davao and the producer of the documentary 4-4-43 for his great encouragement of Nell through all his efforts to keep the legacy of her brother, Lt. Colonel Ed Dyess alive.

At 1:30 pm on Saturday, May 4 there will be a public graveside service for Nell at the family plot in the Albany Cemetery followed by a reception at Matthews Memorial Church. In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made in Nell’s memory to either The Women’s Council of Dallas Arboretum; 25 Highland Park Village, Suite 100, #219; Dallas, Texas 75205 OR Tarleton State University, Box T – 415, Stephenville, TX 76402 for the Edwin Dyess Scholarship.

Previous Events





1:30 PM 5/4/2019 1:30:00 PM
Albany Cemetery

US 283 N
Albany, TX 76430

Albany Cemetery
US 283 N Albany 76430 TX
United States





2:00 PM 5/4/2019 2:00:00 PM
Matthews Memorial Presbyterian Church

211 S. Jacobs
Albany, TX 76430

Following the graveside service

Matthews Memorial Presbyterian Church
211 S. Jacobs Albany 76430 TX
United States

Memorial Contribution

Tarleton State University

Box T-415
Stephenville, TX 76402
Edwin Dyess Scholarship

The Women's Council of the Dallas Arboretum

25 Highland Park Village, Suite 100 #219
Dallas, TX 75205

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