Community leaders remember longtime public servant

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Dedicated public servant Mary Jean Sell has died at 71.

Mayor Butch Berry remembered Sell’s service to Eureka Springs, from her eight years as city clerk to decades of volunteerism. Berry said Sell was an important part of the city.

“MJ was a very strong-willed woman, and she certainly had that personality as the city clerk,” Berry said. “She really knew what the rules and regulations were, and she made sure everybody lived by them.”

Sell worked at the Eureka Springs Historical Museum for about five years and wrote all the scripts for Voices from Eureka’s Silent City from 2009 to 2016, according to museum operations manager Stephanie Stodden. Sell’s service to the museum won’t be forgotten, Stodden said.

“She wrote a huge report on all the springs. I seriously don’t understand some of the things she wrote, because she was so intelligent,” Stodden said. “She was instrumental in the formation of the springs documentation.”

Sell served on the hospital commission for a number of years, returning to the commission a few years ago. Hospital commission chairman Michael Merry said he worked closely with Sell and learned a lot from her.

“She was the only other person out there that had a relationship to the history we had been through with Allegiance Healthcare Management,” Merry said. “She was a tremendous asset to the commission in that regard, and as my secretary, she was invaluable. She just worked really hard for us. We are truly going to miss her.”

On a personal level, Merry said, Sell was difficult to get to know.

“She was one of the more mysterious people I’ve ever met. She didn’t talk to me a great deal about her history,” Merry said. “MJ maybe was a little hard to get along with sometimes, but she and I worked together very well. We had a friendship I valued very highly. It was quite heartbreaking to learn of her passing.”

Berry said he’s grateful to Sell for her work on the hospital commission.

“She really felt dedicated to the hospital and really loved the hospital very much,” Berry said. “She’s going to be missed, especially on the hospital commission. She was always a solid person at the hospital. You could always count on her.”

Alderwoman Mickey Schneider said Sell is one of the best people she met in Eureka Springs.

“She was extremely detailed. The quarterly reports we got every month … she taught that stuff at a state level,” Schneider said. “She was incredible. If the state asks you to train the rest of the people in the state, you’ve got to be good.”

Sell could be difficult sometimes, Schneider said, but you had to get to know her.

“MJ has a very strange sense of humor, which is why it took a while for people to figure out she was actually a very, very awesome, nice woman,” Schneider said. “She meant the world to me. She really, really did, but it took a while to get past that really bizarre sense of humor. She meant the world to me. She was incredible.”

Stodden said she appreciated Sell’s candor.

“She was herself. She didn’t lie. You knew where you stood with her,” Stodden said. “She just told it like it was. I loved her.”

Berry said he will always remember Sell’s dedication to the community.

“I think she loved Eureka Springs,” Berry said. “Well, there’s no thinking to it. She did love the city very much. She really valued her relationship with everybody in the city she met over the years.”

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