Doris Arnold Wall
The arrival of Doris Arnold into the world coincided with the height of the Great Depression that hit eastern North Carolina particularly hard. Her home, not far from the banks of the muddy Tar river, was not something to brag about and the family struggled to make ends meet.
Born Jan. 29, 1932, to Eddie and Lucy Arnold in Grimesland, Doris was to be the only surviving girl in a family with three brothers. Hard work and frugality, she confided, was not a choice in her family as she grew up. Wise investment of every penny was an imperative. The experiences were to shape her life.
She graduated as valedictorian from the Chicod High School in Greenville and won a scholarship to college but was too frugal to take advantage of it due to the other costs associated with the scholarship and her yearning to work and make a living. Instead, after high school graduation Doris married Hayward Wall and soon had two girls but the marriage did not last. At age 36, right after the divorce was granted, she loaded everything she had in a beat-up used car and moved to Georgia with her younger daughter. The older daughter already a teenager went on to boarding school.
Again and again, she would quote Norman Vincent Peale to her children: “Shoot for the moon,” she would exhort. “Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars.” It was a mantra she would follow in her own life.
Her friends knew her to be decisive and feisty, a quintessential Southern woman with tremendous grit and business acumen. She put those traits to work, shrewdly accumulating Georgia real estate, putting the financial worries of her childhood far behind her. To her, real estate investing was a game to be enjoyed. And she insisted her beloved girls be as independent as she was. “You have to know how to take care of yourself, because no one else will,” Doris warned her daughters.
She sometimes struggled to understand how best to be a mom, but she was always determined to make sure the girls understood how much she loved them. “Whenever you hurt, I hurt. When you are sad, I’m sad,” she wrote to one of her daughters. “When you're depressed, ‘I’m depressed.” As a mother, she believed she should be able to fix anything.
She refused to spend money on herself but as a person of deep faith she modeled her giving on Jesus’ care for lepers recounted in Matthew and Luke, often showing great generosity to those that no one else would help. Always, she looked for the good in people, even if sometimes she was disappointed. She made a point of repairing relationships where they had broken, particularly with one of her brothers, forgiving, but not always forgetting.
While she believed some day she would meet the Jesus she so dearly loved, even at age 87 Doris did not believe it would be soon. She referred to dying as changing her address. She worked hard to stay healthy. For breakfast, she faithfully ate quinoa and took vigorous walks on her treadmill three times a week. But the change of address came suddenly, the result of a brain aneurysm on April 18, leaving her daughters bereft. Some comfort came in a re-read email that she had sent her younger daughter nearly four years ago, who at the time was mourning a beloved canine companion.
“Your feelings are normal,” Doris wrote. “I am grateful for the precious time we had…”
Doris Wall is survived by her brothers, William (Edna) Arnold, Bobby (Elvira) Arnold, Ray (June) Arnold; her daughters, Mary Lou Barnard (Mike) and Elizabeth W. Fletcher, who are all grateful for the precious time they had.
A celebration of life service will be conducted in Atlanta in early December.