A celebration of life service for Mary Francis Dawkins Flood, 91, of Leland will be at 11:00 A.M., Saturday, October 9, at Leland Presbyterian Church. She died Wednesday, September 29, at her Starkville “home” of five years, Bee Hive Homes of Mississippi. Her fighting spirit was strong, but her heart just could not win that battle. Burial of her ashes will be in Leland- Stoneville Cemetery under the direction of Boone Funeral Home, Leland.
Mary Francis Flood, the beloved daughter of Otto and Sarah Dawkins of Leland, was born in Shannon, Alabama, on December 12, 1929. Mrs. Flood moved to Leland when she was in the 7th grade, attending Leland High School until her graduation in 1948. While there, she excelled in sports, particularly basketball, making the varsity team as an 8th grader. Her stellar athletic abilities won her a basketball scholarship to Delta State; however, she chose to pursue other ambitions, many of which gained her national fame. As an LHS student, Mary Francis played the clarinet in both the school band and orchestra. She took great pride in two particular honors when her classmates voted her Best Dressed and Most Athletic in both her junior high and senior high years at LHS.
Mary Francis’s love and dedication to community, church, family, and friends manifested itself in a variety of ways. Her commitment to Leland is evident in her 25-year directorship of Leland Food Pantry at the Leland Methodist Church. The Chamber of Commerce honored her with The Leland Chamber of Commerce Community Service Award in 2014. Additionally, Mary Francis loved her church. Her faithfulness to her church resulted in an Honorary Life Membership In the Leland Presbyterian Church, an honor that she viewed as her highest accomplishment. Everyone who knows her knows of her personal mission of sending beautiful handwritten cards to those who were sick, grieving, getting married, celebrating the birth of a child, having an upcoming marriage, etc. Her beautiful handwriting was a beacon for many who needed wedding invitations or something written in calligraphy. Another community service organization in which she was active was The Junior Auxiliary, where she was also a life member. Simply put, she was a giver. She gave of herself to any and all, especially those in need. Her tender heart for those less fortunate was a defining aspect of her.
Her involvement with service and patriotic organizations does not stop with Leland. Mary Francis was an active member — many times an officer and often the chaplain — of the following hereditary and lineage organizations: The DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution), UDC (United Daughters of the Confederacy), Jamestowne Society, Huguenot’s, Colonial Dames, and National Society Daughters of the American Colonists. Many hours of extensive research – pre-Internet– in libraries and in cemeteries culminated in her elaborate documentation of her ancestors that allowed her to become actively involved in these organizations.
Mary Francis’s life is detailed in her stories of glamour and prestige. As a 17-year-old she traveled to Radio City, New York, to become a famed Rockette. Those 10 months in 1947 (February – November) provided her with rich conversations of the unique experience of kicking her legs high and even being depicted in a magazine article. Her glory days continued to Houston, Texas, where she trained as a model at John Robert Powers Modeling Agency. Her modeling expertise from there led her to a 42-year career as a beauty pageant coach. Mary Francis particularly loved coaching young ladies in college beauty reviews. Her success with these contestants resulted in many winners in the “Miss America System,” “U.S.A.”, “ Jr. Miss,” “Miss Universe,” ‘Miss Hospitality,” and many more. She loved that “my girls won in each pageant.” So numerous were her winners at the local, state, and national level that two things occurred: (1) Governor Ross Barnett gave her and her winners a reception in Jackson at the capitol in 1987, and (2) David Letterman invited her to be his guest on his show in 1987. Additionally, Mary Francis has appeared on local, state, and national tv programs. “I loved every girl I have coached,” she often remarked. However, her pageant recognition does not stop with tv media; it also has had her featured in such newspapers as The Washington Post, The Commercial Appeal, The Clarion Ledger, The Leland Progress, The Delta Democrat Times, and many others. Moreover, Mary Francis has been featured in such magazine publications as MISSISSIPPI MAGAZINE, WHO’S WHO IN PAGEANTS, SOUTHERN, ATLANTIC CITY, twice in THE DELTA MAGAZINE, THE HOSPITALITY MAGAZINE, and numerous others. The print publications — books — in which she is highlighted include THE CROWNING TOUCH, IN PURSUIT OF THE CROWN, THERE SHE IS, THE NIGHT, and her favorite one — THE HOGS ATE WILLIE. Even though she officially retired from coaching after 42 years, she did coach one more beauty in 2016-2017: Ann Elizabeth Buys, a junior from Vicksburg and an MSU student. Ann Elizabeth would come to Mary Francis’s Bee Hive home to get the “magic” that Mary Francis offers her girls. Ann Elizabeth was her last winner, winning Miss Mississippi in 2017.
The impact of Mary Francis Flood is all-inclusive, There were no strangers in her life. Any and all who met her were her new friends. Her personality and sense of humor were vast, her sparkling smile and laughter were contagious, and her generous love and kindness for others knew no limits. How she loved to tell a good joke! Everyone in her life was special and endearing to her, and her love for her family, for her church, for her friends — childhood ones and new ones—made every day of her life a good day. She leaves behind a treasure chest of those she loved.
Mary Francis Dawkins Flood is preceded in death by her parents, Otto and Sarah Dawkins, her two brothers, Harold Dawkins and Buddy (H.L.) Dawkins, beloved sister-in-laws, Becky Dawkins and Elaine Dawkins, her precious niece, Cassie Dawkins Caudill, and her wonderful husband of 67 earthly years, Bill Flood. She is survived by daughters Marcia Flood of Starkville, Bebe Flood of Leland, and a “daughter of her heart,” Cheryl Clifton Bonnette (Roger) of Leland. She also leaves behind 5 loving grandchildren: DeAnne Prewitt (Barney) of Ackerman, Jonathon Wilburn (Jenny) of Marietta, GA, Daniel Wilburn (Sarah) of Dallas, GA, Alanna McCarty of Brandon, and Alexandra Tharp of Brandon, as well as a special grandchild of her heart, Katherine Banchetti Azlin. Additionally, she is survived by 10 great-grandchildren: Will Prewitt (Autumn), Wes Prewitt, Emma Prewitt, James Wilburn, Addie Wilburn, Logan Wilburn, Chloe Wilburn, Colton McCarty, Mary Reagan McCarty, and Zane Tharp. She is also survived by 2 great-great grandchildren: Ellie Grace Prewitt and Kennedy Prewitt. Yet, her survivors do not stop with immediate family. Mary Francis is survived by a very dear and devoted nephew, Jim Dawkins( Lottie Mae) of Greenville and a favorite first cousin, Bill Dawkins (Susan) of Atlanta, GA. Additionally, Mary Francis is survived by many loving nieces and nephews as well a vast circle of friends. Among these special friends are Ellen Ann Condon Johnson, Nita Simmons, Teeny Frankel, Juanita Horton, and Bessie Virden, friends who remained close as well as involved with her, even after she left the Delta for her new home in Starkville.
The family will receive guests one hour prior to services ( 10.00 A.M.) at Leland Presbyterian Church. Memorials may be made to Leland Presbyterian Church, French Camp Academy, or to any charity of choice.