Olivia Lee (Walker) Chappell heard the call of her Heavenly Father to come home on January 4, 2022. Olivia was born on March 5, 1921, daughter of the late Dishman and Edith (Mills) Walker, in Williamsburg, Kentucky. Having been born just 56 years after the Civil War ended, Mrs. Chappell noted that all eight of her great-grandparents had been enslaved. After the tragic passing of her mother in 1929, Olivia was raised by her Aunt Laura (Cain) and cousin Annabelle Whaley, and her maternal great-grandfather John Cain, who was born a slave in 1848.
Olivia attended a one-room elementary school that was the only educational facility for Black children in Williamsburg; however, because of the city’s segregated school system there were no schools to educate Black children beyond the eighth grade. As a result, Olivia attended high school at the prestigious Lincoln Institute in Louisville. Lincoln Institute was an all-Black boarding school that provided high school education for Black children living in the segregated South.
Throughout her childhood, Olivia maintained a close relationship with her best friend, Emma (Chappell) Matthews and her two brothers William “Billy” and Roy. The Chappell family had relocated to Monroe in the early 1930s, after Sergeant Linold Chappell was discharged from the U.S. Army (24th Infantry, Buffalo Soldiers). After moving to Monroe, Linold and Flora (Evans) and their children – Billy, Roy, and Emma – joined Carey Chapel AME Church. Olivia and Billy continued a courtship that began years earlier when they were both children living in Kentucky. Olivia eventually moved to Monroe, and she and Billy married on January 2, 1941, in Toledo. Billy soon started work as a welder at Monroe Steel Castings and later served as President of Local 859 of the United Auto Workers. Olivia initially worked as a domestic for the McIntyre family and was later employed by and retired from the Ford Motor Company, Rawsonville Plant in Ypsilanti.
Olivia and Billy were the loving parents of six children: Beverly Jean (Pree), Gwendolyn, William Gregory (deceased), Alice Jan, Debra Darlene (Carl) McIntosh, and Todd Oneil (deceased). From these children, Olivia had eleven grandchildren: Rosalind (Clifford) Boswell, Maria Annette Chappell, Robert Reed, Edward Darin Chappell (deceased), Wallace Dupree, Rodney Reed, Brian K. Chappell, PhD of Bowie, MD, Gabriel Russo, Erica Richards, William “Billy” (Meagan) Harris, and Corey Moncelli. She leaves to celebrate her life, twenty great-grandchildren: Brandon (Erica) Chappell, Cedric Boswell, Darren Chappell, Christian Chappell, Niveah Reed, Chandler Reed-Moore, Amir Pasha Chappell, Quentin, Tabitha, and Isiah Russo-Kelley, Nautica Richards, Tinaya Johnson, Travon, Tahjai, Dazzman and Talan Dupree, William J. Harris II, Makenna, Korie, Kairi, and Kailana (deceased) Moncelli and Carl Jr., Bradley, Christopher and Amy McIntosh. She also leaves to cherish her memory, twelve great-great grandchildren: Ashton, Braylon, and Nia Chappell, Bobby Stocco and Aubrey Boswell, Haarlem and Zendaya Chappell, Onyx and Elias (deceased) Hartle, Xzavion and Aliea Dupree, and Demani Russo, and her God Daughter, Michelle Henderson.
Olivia leaves to cherish her memory, sister-in-law, Lucy Belle Lang-Chappell, PhD, and nieces: Camille (Chappell) Johnson, Kathy Chappell, Melonie Matthews, Amirah Johnson, and Veronica (Chappelle) McCullough, nephews: Derek (Lita) Matthews, Rashid (Katie) Johnson, and Kahlil Johnson, MD, and cousin Jack Walker. Olivia treasured her special friends: Christine Vining, Zelma Harris, Esther Wise, Joann Townsend, Ronald Doaks, Willie Johnson and Johnson Family, Yvonne Goree, Patricia Pickett, Kathryn Turner, Dharamraj Singh, Winnie (Fairley) James (deceased), Anna Trotter (deceased), and Mary Henderson (deceased).
Olivia joins in Heaven, her loving husband, William “Billy” Chappell, sons William Gregory and Todd Oneil, sister-in-law Emma (Chappell) Matthews, brothers-in-law 2nd Lt Roy M. Chappell (Tuskegee Airmen) and Clarence Matthews, grandson Edward Darin Chappell, and cousins Morris and Annabelle Whaley.
Olivia was a powerful force in the community and was loved and respected by all who knew her. She was a woman of immense wisdom and compassion who carried many titles, to include Ms. Lib, Aunt Lib, Mrs. Chappell, Ms. Olivia, Grandma, and Momma. She loved fashion and listening to gospel music and continued to travel and dance until she was called home. More than anything, she loved spending time with her family. She will never leave us, even though she is gone.
Friends may gather on Saturday; January 15, 2022, from 11:00am until 12:30pm at Merkle Funeral Service, South Monroe; 14567 South Dixie Highway, Monroe, Michigan 48161 (734) 241-7070. A Homegoing Celebration of Her Life will take place at 12:30pm. Procession will follow to Woodland Cemetery for burial.
Online guests may leave words of inspiration and comfort or share a photo by visiting www.merklefs.com.