Myrtis Aleene Tate Early went to be with her Heavenly Father on Nov. 2, after a short illness. Funeral services will be held at First Baptist Church in Sioux Falls, S.D. at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11. Graveside services, under the direction of Davis-Morris Funeral Home, will be held at Greenleaf Cemetery in Brownwood, Texas, at 4 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 16.
Aleene was born June 8, 1912, in Water Valley, Texas, to Eula Lee Elizabeth Smith Tate and Thomas Lake Tate and moved to Brownwood as a young child with her family. She graduated from Brownwood High School and Howard Payne College and continued her education, doing graduate work in music, and earning her Master’s Degree from HPC. On a recent trip to Brownwood, Texas, for her sister Anna Sue Black’s funeral, Aleene was reminded of the setting sun shining through the windows of First Baptist Church on the day of her marriage to Firman Anderson Early on Dec. 24, 1939.
Firman and Aleene moved to Tennessee, where Firman earned his Ph.D. at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. She served as her husband’s support while he was on faculty and Dean of the Arts faculty at Sioux Falls College for over 30 years. Their daughter, Anne Elisabeth, was born while they lived in Tennessee, and she died at age 2 as result of surgery complications. In 1944, the couple moved to Sioux Falls, S.D. The couple was blessed with three additional children, John, Jim, and Evelyn. The family lived for many years on Prairie Avenue, where a dormitory now stands and the children grew up sledding on the SFC football field. The family participated in homecoming pageants and other college activities. They frequently opened their home to foreign students at Sioux Falls College, particularly for holiday meals.
Aleene spent many years as an early childhood teacher in Sioux Falls Public schools, teaching at Jane Adams, Laura Wilder, and Eugene Field Elementary schools. It was a source of joy to her that former kindergarteners would reappear in her life and reminisce the “good old days.” Aleene frequently joined her husband when he preached at churches around South Dakota and sang solos. Her favorite way of saying goodbye to her children, friends and family members was to sing her favorite parting song, “The Lord Bless You and Keep You.”
She was a long-time member of the First Baptist Church, where she sang in the choir and served on various boards. When she attended HPC, she and her sisters sang in the HPC Tate Trio, traveling throughout Texas and surrounding states. She shared her voice talents by teaching voice lessons. She was a member of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), Community Concert Choir, Delta Kappa Gamma, and the Retired Teachers Association. She was active in educational activities, such as the South Dakota Education Association, where she chaired a Kindergarten Round Table for yearly meetings. She also served as Cub Scout den mother and worked in AAUW book sales.
She was preceded in death by her daughter, Anne Elisabeth Early, her husband, Firman, her sisters, Anna Sue Black and Eddie Lake Bunton and sister-in-law, Elisabeth Early.
She is survived by her children and families: John Firman Early of Stamford, Conn., and children Michael and Angela, James Bennett Early and wife, Jayne, of St. Paul, Minn.; and daughter, Alexandra, Evelyn Aleene Early at the American Embassy in Rabat, Morocco, and daughter, Amelia-Aleene Elisabeth Early. She is also survived by her nieces, Pat (Black) Locks and Barbara (Black) Rodgers, and nephews, Scott Bunton and Fred Bunton.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donation to the Firman A Early Scholarship fund at Sioux Falls University, First Baptist Church or to the Dow Rummel Nursing Home in Sioux Falls, S.D.