Barbara Short Nowell

Barbara Short Nowell

July 8, 1932 – April 14, 2024

WENDELL – Barbara Short Nowell, 91, died Sunday April 14, 2024 in her sleep after a struggle with dementia. She was born July 8, 1932 in Catawba County to the late Daniel Henson Short and Addie Sue Elizabeth Williams Short during the depression. Her family eventually settled in High Point, NC where she attended Lexington Baptist Church. She graduated from Mars Hill college with an AA in pre-nursing, and completed her BS in nursing at the Medical College of Virginia School of Nursing in Richmond Virginia. She also completed 26 hours at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

She is survived by her children, Carolyn Nowell Elliott (David) of Wendell, Kenneth Grady Nowell (Julie) of Apex, Sandra Nowell Phillips (David) of Lynchburg, VA, Brenda Nowell Maxwell (Danny) of Louisburg, brother Timothy Henson Short of San Jose, CA; Jean Short Allen of Wilmington, nine grandchildren (Andrea, Rebecca, Olivia, Cassie, Brianna, Nicole, Matthew, Addison, and Cooper), six great-grandchildren (Ava, Austin, Amelia, Maya, Allie and Abigail).

Barbara became a Christian at the age of 8 while reading Psalm 139, realizing that there was no where she could go to get away from the love of God, and decided she did not want to be away from such a great love. At the age of 13, Barbara felt called to missions, through involvement in the Girls in Action mission program and the influence of her pastor. Her first opportunity to see missionary service was the summer she spent in Jamaica sharing Jesus with others. She also knew she wanted to help people practically when she shared about Jesus, so in order to serve others she also became a nurse. Barbara was so dedicated to becoming a missionary that she did not seriously date anyone who did not also feel called to be a missionary.

After nursing school, she went to Wake Forest seminary where she met the love of her life, Charles Grady Nowell. Their courtship began by Grady asking Barbara to play the piano at a small church while he preached. She was captivated by his blue eyes and his adventurous spirit. While Barbara appeared to be a quiet serious person, she surprised many by playing a practical joke on someone. It always seemed funnier because it was so unexpected.

Early in their marriage, Barbara worked at hospitals as a nurse as well as embracing being a mother of four and a pastor’s wife. In 1966, Barbara and Grady were called to be missionaries in Honduras. They learned Spanish and she served as a partner supporting Grady in all of his activities as well as pursuing her own calling. Barbara tended to the sick in all the areas she lived and visited, giving out medications and education to the people of Honduras. Barbara even rode a mule to share medicines, music and Jesus to remote villages.

Barbara was also gifted in music and played the piano and sang. While in language school in Costa Rica, Barbara learned from a fellow missionary how to teach piano in Spanish. While in Honduras she taught piano to students in Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, Siguatepeque and La Ceiba, with the goal of these students playing keyboards in their local churches, which many of them did. Barbara also taught herself how to play the accordion so when she and Grady went to the interior of the country, she could play an instrument for the church services. Barbara also led many churches in musical cantatas in Honduras, especially at Christmas.

To know Barbara is to know she was a prayer warrior. Her time spent with God every morning was important to her. She had a notebook for those she prayed for that she used until her most recent stroke.

Barbara taught Sunday School classes, led Girls in Action, and was very involved in the Woman’s Missionary Union. Barbara also shared Christ with many people and discipled many new Christians both in the US and in Honduras, even in the days after Grady’s death she witnessed a family member and led him to Christ.

Barbara and Grady enjoyed hosting fellow missionaries in their home. Family was important to them. Celebrating birthdays and Christmas with the family was a priority. When the children were younger Barbara made baking cakes a special event as the birthday child always got the top layer of the cake, and friends were always invited for the occasion. Later, Barbara began making Christmas cinnamon wreaths and many neighbors and friends were blessed to receive them, especially during the Christmas season.

Barbara was an excellent homemaker, sewing clothes for herself and her children, making homemade bread, doughnuts, peanut butter, jelly, and mayonnaise.

Barbara was also an artist and said she enjoyed painting landscapes best because it was her way of capturing God’s beauty. She painted for enjoyment, and also gifted many with her paintings. She enjoyed flowers, especially in her yard, and watching the birds from her breakfast table. Barbara enjoyed reading a wide variety of books as well.

Barbara’s medical skills were instrumental in helping many people after Hurricane FiFi in San Pedro Sula (1974) and later after Hurricane Mitch in Tegucigalpa (1998).

It is fitting to have a celebration of life service for both Barbara and Grady Nowell, as they were truly one when serving God. Even after their retirement Barbara and Grady continued to return to Honduras for mission trips and they inspired countless people to go with them and become involved in missions in Honduras. Countless people have been touched by the ministry Barbara and Grady had, both in the US and in Honduras.

Romans 10:15 (NLT) “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”

Memorial gifts may be designated “Barbara Nowell /Lottie Moon” and sent to Wakefield Central Baptist Church, 308 Proctor Street, Zebulon, NC 27597, or given at

There will be a visitation Tuesday, April 16th at 7.00pm, Strickland Funeral Home, 211 W Third St, Wendell NC. The funeral will be at 2pm Wednesday, April 17th  at Wakefield Central Baptist Church, 308 Proctor Street, Zebulon NC. A graveside service at Mitchell Cemetery will follow.

1 Comment

  • Joyce Davis Posted April 16, 2024 5:31 pm

    I do not know this beautiful lady, but after reading her obit, I was greatly touched. If all Christians could do just a small bit compared to the life it would be great. She has a wonderful testimony. Praise the Lord.

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