Nell Egli


Nell Smith Egli passed away March 22, 2020. Nell was born in Starkville, Miss., on March 17, 1933, to B. Erle and Gwendolyn Bruce Smith. She graduated from Starkville High School in 1951, attended David Lipscomb College in Nashville, Tenn., for two years and then transferred to Mississippi State University and graduated in 1955. She was the first female to graduate with a degree in animal husbandry and was a member of the livestock judging team.
Nell felt blessed to have been raised in a Christian home by loving parents and was a life member of the Church of Christ.
In 1954, she married Gene Egli, a professor in animal husbandry at Mississippi State. Their first daughter, Susanne, was born in Starkville. They moved to Jackson in 1956, where Gene entered medical school. Two daughters, Carol and Julia, were born in Jackson. After graduating in 1960, they moved to Iowa City, where Gene interned at University of Iowa Hospitals, then to Fairfield, Iowa, where their fourth child, Janet, was born. Gene practiced medicine in Iowa until retirement, and they moved to Starkville, Miss., in 2000.
From 1990, for over 25 years, they did short-term medical missions in needy countries. Their works took them to five continents and one subcontinent. Their main love was African countries – Ghana and Nigeria. In Ghana, they lived in a large city, saw patients at local clinic but made short trips to nearby villages, occasionally staying overnight for several days. In Nigeria, their base was a small village with hospitals and clinics but they traveled to larger cities for short clinics.
In addition to their focus on medical issues, they started a reading glasses project. They took hundreds of low-cost glasses in their luggage and dispensed at no cost to the patients. Nell mostly conducted this program. From long orderly lines, she fitted each patient with glasses until the surplus was exhausted. Hundreds were dispensed over the years and the program is still active.
One day in 1956, she told Gene she wanted to get a Singer sewing machine. The cost was only a little over $100, but that seemed like a lot of money then. "I sew, make clothing, alterations and lots more," she said. They got the machine and she started sewing. She also used needles to make nice purses and beautiful needlepoint. Her flying fingers seemed to never tire. The sewing machine is silent now, but still works well. The needles are quiet, but the legacy will go down in history as the best $100 investment they ever made.
Nell was preceded in death by her soulmate and husband of 65 years, Gene, who passed away on Jan. 5, 2020.
She is survived by her four daughters, Susanne, Carol, Julia and Janet and their families.
In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations to African Christian Hospitals, 102 N. Locust St., Searcy, Arkansas 72143.

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