The Rev. Lavelle Reynolds died at age 102 on March 4, 2017. Lavelle was the first of four children born to John Thomas Hughey and Inas Octavia Whatley Reynolds. He was born at their farmstead home in Barfield, Alabama. Before Lavelle started school, Thomas Hughey and Octavia moved their family into the nearby town of Lineville and lived in rental housing until they could build a house on property they had purchased on 2nd Avenue, which was close to downtown and to Lineville schools. Thomas Hughey had lent a farmer money and the farmer unable to pay his rent because his crops had failed. The farmer insisted that Thomas Hughey take his plowhorse for payment. Thomas Hughey refused but the farmer insisted. Having no way place to keep the mules in town, the family moved back to the Bafield farm in order to keep the mules and put them to use to provide for the family. Young Lavelle, the oldest child, was held out of school when he was old enough for first grade and again the next year in order to help with farm chores. Lavelle would tell this story but then proudly say, “But once I started school, I was double promoted and caught up with my class.”
The family eventually finished their house in Lineville and moved there permanently. The house still stands across from Clay County Coop. In addition to farming, Lavelle began working with his father at the Lineville Gin and Fertilizer Company soon after he graduated from Lineville High School. The gin and fertilizer company became a franchise dealer of a relatively new technology, John Deere tractors, which was about to change farming more than anybody knew. Lavelle went to tractor school in Chamblee, Georgia and Des Moines, Iowa, and at the company headquarters in Moline, Illinois.
He trained to become the chief mechanic and continued in that role for the life of the Lineville Gin and Fertilizer. He became one of the very best John Deere mechanics in the region. No one was able to fine tune magnetos to fire hotter than Lavelle Reynolds. Lavelle continued to help his father on the Lineville farm his father bought in the 1930s just outside town and work a 50 hour week at the tractor shop. When there was not enough repair work to fill his hours, he would unload train car loads of fertilizer and sand or transfer 500 pound cotton bales from the gin to the warehouse on handtrucks.
Lavelle was single until age 31. On March 3, 1946 he married Imogene Bean, the youngest daughter of Preacher Pembleton and his wife Sally Bean. Imogene had gone with her father in his A-Model Ford all over Clay and Randolph Counties where he was pastor to as many as nine Congregational Christian churches at a time. She was known for organizing and running dynamic Vacation Bible Schools in all the churches her father served. When she and Lavelle married, Lavelle not only attended Sunday school and church but they helped lead the youth group in the Lineville First Methodist Church where Lavelle became a Lay Leader. He had a lot of help from Imogene. Having Imogene by his side helped Lavelle hear God’s call to the ministry. Lavelle became a licensed Methodist preacher in 1957. He served circuits of churches for most of his ministerial career, a total of 24 congregations in Clay, Randolph, Tallapoosa, Coosa, and Chambers Counties. For almost twenty years, Lavelle was a part-time pastor. He still worked 50 hour weeks at Lineville Gin and Fertilizer, completed junior college and did his ministerial studies at night, farmed on Saturday afternoons and summer weekday evenings, (while enlisting his sons and daughters to help with the farm and garden work), and preached and visited on Sundays. When the Lineville Gin and Fertilizer closed for good in the early 1970s, Lavelle and another mechanic bought the inventory, gained the John Deere franchise, and opened the Equipment Service Company.
In 1976, he sold his share of the tractor business so he and Imogene could serve churches full-time. He had earlier completed his ministerial studies to become an Ordained Deacon in 1968 and in 1978, following two years of full-time service, he was received as an Associate Member of the North Alabama Conference. He retired from the North Alabama Conference in 1984 but served churches in retirement until the late 1990s. After Daddy retired, my brother Rod (Roderick) and I revived our interest in the John Deere tractors Daddy had worked on full time for over 35 years. Rod had one of Daddy’s John Deere A tractors and had partially restored it. I bought a 1956 model 420 John Deere and had Daddy help restore it.
From 2000-2004, he would go with us to Moultrie, GA each October for the Sunbelt Agricultural Expo where my brother and I hauled our tractors for the antique tractor display and parade. Lavelle quickly became known as the John Deere two-cylinder expert there. Antique tractor owners came to our tent to ask Daddy questions. Many times he made critical diagnoses or adjustments on their engines. Once a representative from John Deere Corporation asked him to come look at an old B model tractor that had a problem. Daddy diagnosed an electrical shortage and made their vintage tractor run like a sewing machine. He found a John Deere A in a junk yard near my brother’s home in 2003 and restored it to mint condition. I have it on my farm today.
There are a couple stories from Daddy’s farm work and from his ministry that stand out to me. He did custom farm work prior to and during WW2. He used his John Deere tractor and tiller plow to turn many of the hillside terraces in and around Lineville. Once while plowing with his John Deere B, the rear tire climbed a stump he failed to see and flipped the tractor. Daddy jumped clear of it, got up and turned off the gas to kill the engine, and while his adrenaline was flowing, he rocked the tractor back on all 4 tires and continued plowing. Lavelle is remembered by hundreds of poeple in the churches he served as a loving and attentive pastor and for his strong and sincere prayers that often went into great detail in both describing the need someone had and the scripture that attested to God’s ability to answer that prayer and meet that need. Daddy was pastor to a family that lost children and their parents in a traffic accident. He met them at the hospital and stood by them through the months of recovery and grief that followed. Almost fifty years afterwards, the father in the family would tell me how helpful Daddy was to his family.
Imogene died in 1992 from injuries sustained in an auto collision. It occurred while Daddy and Mother were on the way home from a funeral where they went to support a family that had started attending the church Daddy served and had lost a loved one. Daddy married Eurla Langley in 1993. She died in 2002. He married Edna Smith in 2004 and she died in 2007. From November 2006 until October 2011, Lavelle lived at Ava Hills Assisted Living in Wedowee. While there, he had multiple falls fracturing his back and creating spinal stenonsis. He lost so much strength in his legs in late 2011 that he was hospitalized and then admitted to Lineville Health and Rehab for physical therapy.
The spinal stenosis was so severe he never regained his ability to walk. He adjusted, however, and was able to get around the nursing home in his wheel chair as well as anyone. He soon found his role as the preacher and had a ministry of praying for both patients, staff, and visitors as they faced difficult times. Everyone called him “Preacher” and the entire nursing home made sure he always had his signiture hat when he left his room, a black brimmed John Deere hat. During the last three years of his life, Lavelle fought multiple bouts with pneumonia and urinary tract infections. He lost a lot of muscle mass and strength during the last three months of his life and finally succummed to an infection on March 4. He was lucid and communicated clearly until two days before he died.
Lavelle Reynolds was preceded in death by his parents, John Thomas Hughey and Inas Octavia Whatley Reynolds; his brothers Brenton and Thelson Reynolds; his sister Vaudria Reynolds Headrick; his wife Imogene Bean Reynolds; his son Roderick Lavelle Reynolds; his second wife Eurla Langley Reynolds; and his third wife Edna Smith Reynolds. He is survived by his daughter in law Barbara Strait Reynolds of Opp, AL; daughter Carolyn Hill and her husband Jimmy of Carrollton, GA; son the Rev. Hughey Reynolds and his wife Sandy Jones of Decatur, AL; and daughter Charlotte Junkins and her husband Wayne of Northport, AL. He is also survived by nine grandchildren: Pam Murphy, Dan White, Eric Reynolds, Christopher Reynolds, Whitney Yancey, Jonathan Reynolds, Kenny Whaley, Jonah Lewis, and Justin Lewis, and 23 great-grandchildren.
The funeral visitation will be Thursday, March 9, from 12:30-2:00 p.m. at Lineville First United Methodist Church with the funeral service starting at 2:00 p.m. Pallbearers for the service are his grandsons. Anyone desiring to make memorial gifts may direct them to Lineville First United Methodist Church or to SIFAT.