Dr. Nelda Hand

Published 4:08 pm Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Dr. Nelda Hand

August 26, 1942-May 22, 2018

Dr. Nelda Hand’s life exemplified kindness, strength, intelligence and faith. Everyone who knew her could share a story of her service, compassion or wisdom.  She loved her family, she loved God and she loved you, too.

She had an incredible memory. She remembered everyone’s birthday and any phone number she ever dialed. If you needed to open a stubborn pickle jar, she could always get the job done.

Nelda Lee Knight was born to Bobbie Neely Knight and E.W. Knight (Edward Wilson Knight, Jr.), August 26, 1942. She was the youngest of three girls, her sisters being Martha and Melba. Martha commented that Nelda was the sweetest person she’s ever known and can’t remember ever seeing her mad. Many would repeat this sentiment over the years.

The Knight family lived in rural Randolph county most of Nelda’s childhood. Life on a dairy farm wasn’t easy and there were many challenges to overcome but Nelda turned a tough upbringing into a life of accomplishment and eternal impact. She graduated from Dadeville High School on Friday, May 27, and married the preacher’s son, Benny Charles Hand, on Sunday, May 29, 1960. They moved to the Auburn area and attended Auburn University. Nelda earned a Bachelor’s of Education and became a school teacher. There were many hardships yet to overcome but Nelda’s strength lifted her young family again and again. When Benny’s faith was weak, she was always there to strengthen him.

They had two children, Benny Charles, Jr. and Starlyn Bene’. Nelda and Benny worked opposite shifts and had little time together during those years. After they both finished their studies at Auburn, they worked as school teachers and administrators until God called them into the ministry.

In 1975, Nelda figured out how to fit an entire household into a small truck and they moved to Central America. She was the wife of a dedicated and radical missionary, the mother and teacher of two children, a pioneering homemaker and a minister.  She was adept at making something from almost nothing, like grape jelly from Kool Aid mix, and had the strength to let Benny leave the house after hearing him tell yet another story of having a soldier’s gun in his back.  She opened her home to one of Ben’s friends, Jose Cotton, and thought of him as her own.

In the mid 80’s they adopted a baby, Benelda Shea, and moved back to the United States. They helped form a church in Falfurrias, Texas, and continued missionary efforts in Northern Mexico. In 1986, they returned to Auburn and started Believers Church. The life of a pastor’s wife is often very difficult and her efforts often go unnoticed. Nelda was such a quiet person that her contributions were even more likely to go unseen. She sacrificed most of what would normally have accompanied her professional potential yet she never acted as if she lacked a thing. When her family lived in an old school bus or RV, she didn’t complain, she just made it a home. When there was no money for a daughter’s formal dress, she stayed up all night to sew one. Whenever anyone was hungry, she gave her own food to feed them.

As the church and Christian school grew, she continued her education through the 80’s and 90’s. Attending Auburn again to work towards her Master’s in Education and earning a Doctorate from Christian Life School of Theology.

At the age of 56, Nelda’s health began to fail. A debilitating condition, possibly a form of Parkinson’s, possibly the result of a stroke, slowly robbed her of her physical strength. However, no disease or disability was able to rob her of the spiritual strength that marked her life. She never complained or exhibited any bitterness. She was still more concerned about your needs than her own; whether you were a family member or someone she just met. Her service inspired many people to lay their own lives aside to care for her as she became completely disabled.

Nelda is survived by two sisters: Melba Dequene of Seattle, Washington, and Martha Farmer, and her husband, C. W. of Newnan, Georgia; one brother, E. Paul Jones of Alexander City, Alabama; her son, Benny Charles Hand, Jr., his wife Elizabeth, and their children Hannah, Abigail, Aliya, Taylor, Benjamin, Noah, Rosie, Zoe, Jack, and Rachel; her daughter, Starlyn Bene’ Hand Weems, her husband, Hassel, and grand-daughter, Anna Grace; her daughter, Benelda Shea Hand and her children D’Andre and De’vonte.

She was preceded in death by her father, E.W. Knight; mother, Bobbie Neely Knight; and her devoted husband, Dr. Benny Charles Hand.

Her family, friends and church members miss her deeply but we are all so happy to know that as of May 22, 2018, she is now standing upright in Heaven with no more pain.

1 Corinthians 6:4-6

But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in watchings, in fastings; by pureness, by knowledge, by long suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned.

Visitation will be Wednesday, May 23, 2018, from 6 – 8 p.m. at Fountain Gate Church, 1415 Moores Mill Rd., Auburn, Alabama. The funeral service will be Thursday, May 24, at 11 a.m. also at Fountain Gate Church. There will be a graveside service at 4:00 PM at Mt. Pisgah Methodist Church in Clanton, Alabama. Pastor Dan Lane is officiating. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Ballard Christian School, 1415 Moores Mill Road, Auburn, AL 36830.

Jeffcoat-Trant Funeral Home is directing.