Mary Jo Essex

November 14, 1921March 4, 2019

Mary Jo Essex, 97 passed away on March 4, 2019 at The Retreat.

A life-long resident of Texarkana, Texas, Mary Jo was born there on November 14, 1921. She was preceded in death by her husband Fred Marvin Essex, brother Conway O. Cook Jr. and her parents Conway and Lodie Cook.

A 1940 graduate of Texarkana High School, Mary Jo was active as the lead singer of a band, and had a show on the local radio station. In 1942 she met and married Fred M. Essex, her husband for 40 years before his death

Mary Jo went on to earn her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Texas A&M Texarkana in the early 1970s, and taught elementary school for many years in TISD as well as being a representative for Childhood Education for the Southern Baptist Convention.

As a long-time member of First Baptist Church of Texarkana, she served as Minister of Childhood Education between 1982 and 1990. She went on to teach third grade Sunday school and became the Volunteer Director of the church’s Homebound Ministry which she continued to lead well into her ninth decade. In addition to her 70 plus years of service at First Baptist, Mary Jo served on the Texas A&M Texarkana Alumni Board of Directors, and, at 92 years old, was the recipient of the Alumni Associations 2013 Spirit Award.

Mary Jo loved to travel, visiting many countries including the Holy Land where she was re-baptized in the river Jordan. She was a colorful and flamboyant dresser and is fondly remembered as the “hat lady”.

She is survived by nephew Conway O. “Tanker” Cook III & wife Erica, Chicago, IL, niece Candace K. Cook, Austin, TX; grand-nephews and nieces: John Cook & wife Stephanie; Amye Cook Willard & husband Scott; Caroline Cook Peltier & husband Grant, all of Cypress, TX.; and Elizabeth Earnest and Erin-Kate Earnest of Austin, TX; great-grand-nephews and nieces Brandon & Sean Cook, Mandi Elliott & Ashley Shumaker, Luke & Nicole Peltier all of Cypress, TX.

When it came to helping others by sharing God’s word and offering kind thoughts, Mary Jo wore “many hats” in meeting whatever opportunity God put before her. She was loved by many and will be missed greatly.

Memorial Service will be held 11 a.m., Saturday, March 9, 2019 at First Baptist Church Worship Center with Rev. Larry Sims officiating.

Family will receive friends from 4 to 7 p.m., Friday, March 8, 2019 at East Funeral Home - Moores Lane.

Online tributes may be made at www.eastfuneralhomes.


  • Visitation Friday, March 8, 2019
  • Memorial Service Saturday, March 9, 2019

Mary Jo Essex

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Kimberly Davis

March 4, 2019

One of my all time favorites! I met her as a 2nd grader at First Baptist Church!
She was always taking pictures of my friends and me at Vacation Bible School. I was always fond of her because she reminded me so much of one of my grandmothers. She loved to have fun and always called it like she saw it. I remember walking into Albertsons’s grocery store one day and I could see someone from a distance with a odd hat on. Within seconds she turned around and said it’s my hat for George Washington Day!
There she was in the dairy section in full blown character. She was an original for sure. Nothing got passed her. Regardless of her small stature she had one of the largest personalities and that is what made her Mary Jo!
We are all better for having known her!
What a legacy!