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Columbia Missourian

Nell Atchley, 103, of Columbia enjoyed life and family

By Dandan Zou
December 13, 2012 | 10:21 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — After Nell Atchley reached her 70s, whenever her friends asked about her age, she would say she's 29.

She led a healthy lifestyle and had a positive attitude, her granddaughter Amy Lannin said.

She usually woke up early, made herself breakfast, had a cup of coffee and did some house chores. She liked to have a glass of sherry around 11 a.m. After lunch, she would treat herself to some chocolate.

Lannin said her grandmother was one of those role models who "truly enjoyed life and family."

Nell Atchley of Columbia died Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012. She was 103.

Mrs. Atchley was born Aug. 9, 1909, in Trail, Mo., to David and Rose (Owen) Hightower.

She married her high school sweetheart, Lloyd Atchley, when she was 17. They used to read Shakespeare together when they were students at Mountain Grove High School. 

Mrs. Atchley liked to play basketball and golf when she was a young woman. 

"She grew up in a time when it was not common for girls to play sports," Lannin said. "But she played golf on regular basis with another friend during that period."

Lannin said her grandmother used to say "laughter is the best medicine."

Lannin remembers the joy she felt as a child when seeing cookies, pies or homemade brownies in her grandmother's house.

"She's also a good storyteller," Lannin said. Mrs. Atchley had two or three standard ghost stories and she told the story differently each time through changing her voice. Lannin and her sister Jane Merriman would scream, giggle or laugh, depending on how she told the story. 

Mrs. Atchley also set up a playroom for her grandchildren in her basement. She stocked the dress-up area in the room with clothes, hats, shoes, jewelry and makeup. The girls used to spend hours playing there. 

Mrs. Atchley was also a big fan of art, especially painting. She loved Van Gogh's work. Just like her husband, who never went to college or law school but educated himself and later became an attorney, Mrs. Atchley taught herself to paint.

She created several paintings, most of which are replicas of pictures from art instruction books she read. Two of her paintings used to hang on the wall in the nursing home room where she had lived since 2004.

"The paintings are very basic, but she had fun experimenting and enjoying the process," Lannin said.    

Mrs. Atchley is survived by her daughter, Kathryn Mielke, and her husband, Merle, of Columbia; four grandchildren, Ann Bock, and her husband, Doug, of Gretna, Neb., Jane Merriman and her husband, Joel, of Elkhorn, Neb., Amy Lannin and her husband, John, of Columbia, Jeff Mielke and his wife, Krissy, of Columbia; and 12 great-grandchildren.

Her parents, her first husband, five brothers and one sister died earlier.

The memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Dec. 22, at Gretna Baptist Church, 20725 E. Angus Road, Gretna, Neb.

Memorial donations may be made to St. Jude's Children's Hospital or a charity of the donor's choice.

Online tributes may be left at