Arthur (Art) Fredrick Stelley, Jr. of Waco, Texas, passed away September 13, 2023. A memorial service will be 11AM, October 4, 2023, at Grace Gardens Funeral Home with Rev. Scott Rhodes officiating.
Art was born March 18, 1924, on the family farm in Boone County, Nebraska. He spent his childhood and early youth farming and attending the nearby first through eighth grade one-room/ one-teacher school. To complete high school, it was necessary for Art to commute to the nearby town of Albion. Art’s older brother, Harold, made certain that Art did not miss a day of high school. Harold drove Art from the farm to school and back each day. After graduating high school, Art enrolled at the University of Nebraska. He was a freshman when Pearl Harbor was attacked and he immediately left school to follow his brothers, Harold and Charles, into the military.
Art enlisted in The United States Army Air Corps where he completed his pilot training and received his commission. He was ordered to report to Waco Texas Army Air Force Base and serve as a flight instructor. This assignment was where the seeds of Art’s future career in academia were planted. According to his cadets, not only could Art teach, but he was also good at it. Art’s career path was not the only life decision affected by his assignment to Waco. His first weekend in Waco, one of Art’s buddies invited him to attend a church social at Emanuel Baptist Church. While he was there, he met what he described as an absolute vision of loveliness named Jimmie Lee May. Evidently, Jimmie Lee was equally captivated. They were married June 15, 1945, and remained so for sixty-six years. They continued to live in Waco while Art, taking advantage of the GI Bill, attended Baylor University. He received his law degree and was licensed to practice in 1949.
In 1952, Art, Jimmie and their three daughters moved to Beaumont, Texas where he became District Manager and Claims Attorney for Continental Insurance Companies of New York. While at Continental Insurance, his career in academia began when he was asked to become an adjunct faculty member in the School of Business at Lamar University. In 1960 he became a full-time faculty member. Art continued his law practice in corporate and financial matters and he and Jimmie co-owned the A & J Property and Casualty Insurance Agency.
While they lived in Beaumont, the Stelleys attended First Baptist Church. Art was a committed Christian. He served on the finance, personnel, and real estate and facilities committees of the church. He and Jimmie were a team and served as Sunday School directors and teachers for children, youth and adult classes.
The Stelleys returned to Waco when Art joined the faculty of The Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University. They became members of First Baptist Woodway. Art was an enthusiastic supporter of all things Baylor and was a charter member of the Baylor Old Main Society. After Art retired from Baylor he continued to practice law and to enjoy his hobbies.
Art enjoyed woodworking. He could build or repair anything. He and Jimmie designed and built their dream home in Beaumont, Texas. It was a family project. Art and his cousin Stan spent the spring and summer of 1965 building the home. Always a willing teacher, Art patiently taught his daughters anything they wanted to learn about the construction of the house. They learned how to grout a brick floor, tape and float sheetrock, paint walls and woodwork, and clean up a construction site. Art was brave enough to show his daughters how to measure and saw oak flooring strips. The carpentry proverb “measure twice cut once” became the family catchphrase for everything from “have you checked your homework” and “are you sure all the recipe ingredients are in the cookie dough” to “we love you, take care of yourself!”
Art was a birdwatcher. It was a hobby he and Jimmie shared. The Stelley’s back yard was landscaped to attract birds. Birdbaths, bird feeders, owl boxes, wren baskets and bird houses were always available, so every bird had a place to perch, eat and nest. When Art and Jimmie traveled throughout the United States, they always tried to arrive in Kearney, Nebraska during March and April to see the almost one-half million Sandhill Cranes as they migrate each year on the Platte River. After Jimmie’s death in 2011, Art continued to travel. He traveled throughout the United States, Europe and Central America and his travel usually included an excursion to bird watch.
Art was a devoted family man and dedicated educator and attorney. He will be remembered for his deep faith, kindness, wisdom, generosity, and wonderful sense of humor.
Art is preceded in death by his wife Jimmie Lee, three brothers, Harold, Charles and Robert, and his great granddaughter, Kara Butler. He is survived by his sisters-in-law Rosaline Stelley and Laureen Stelley; his daughters Linda Stelley Butler (Robert), Frances Stelley Orbeck (Joe) and Mary Stelley James (Bob); grandsons: Samuel C. Butler and Thomas A. Butler (Tabatha); and six great grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Jimmie and Arthur Stelley Endowed Scholarship Fund in Music, Baylor University, One Bear Place #97026, Waco, Texas 76798, or to the charity of your choice.