Suvella Rayburn

July 09, 1941 - August 07, 2021


Suvella Rayburn, 80 years of age, died 7 August 2021. She had suffered with the effects of vascular dementia, caused by multiple transient ischemic attacks which were a result of atrial fibrillation, for over a decade. Resultantly, she resided in a dementia ward for almost the last six years of her life as this particularly pernicious disease stripped her of her personhood and robbed her of her humanity.

Suvella was born on 9 July 1941 in rural Miller County, Arkansas to Harvey Elmo Rayburn, Sr. and Lula Rayburn (nee Johnson). She was a life-long red-headed and named after a neighbor of Swedish descent. Suvella means ‘Sue of Valhalla’. She attended Genoa Central School District.

Suvella was married four times to three husbands. The first marriage, in her early 20s, with Robert Griess, generated one female and two male offspring: Robin, as well as Nathan and Dana, respectively. Suvella and Robert Griess primarily lived in Bossier City, LA as Robert Griess was stationed at Barksdale AFB. Suvella’s second and third marriages, later in her 20s and early 30s, were to the same man, Jewel Barney. Mr. Barney was a Salmon Indian and a lineman with the electric utility in northern California. They lived near Happy Camp, CA upon a creek which was a tributary to the Klamath River. Their union produced no offspring. She then returned to southern Arkansas whereupon she obtained a vocational nursing certificate and licensure. Suvella’s final marriage, from her late 30s to her early 50s, was to Marion Burl ‘Tank’ Tatom. They lived at the end of a dirt road in rural Columbia County, AR and produced a single male offspring: Jason Burl Tatom. At the age of 51 she returned to her childhood home of Genoa, AR where she lived unto death, minus her time in a dementia ward.

Suvella had a green thumb, particularly with tomatoes and zinnias. She enjoyed animal husbandry of goats, cows, chickens, as well as dogs and was known for being able to heal sick and damaged animals.  She was a skilled marksman who delivered headshots to squirrels in her youth and could explode a heart from a hundred yards with open sights in her sixties. She had a passion for gambling. She enjoyed playing the one-armed bandits in Reno, NV in her younger years and the slots in Shreveport/Bossier during her cronehood as her friend James Ray Roberts played on the card tables.

Suvella Rayburn was preceded in death by both her parents Lula and Elmo, Sr., her brother Bennie Floyd Rayburn, her son Dana Griess, and all three of her ex-husbands. She is survived by her daughter Robin Griess as well as her sons Nathan Griess and Jason Tatom, her brother Harvey Elmo Rayburn, Jr., her sister Dorothy Sue Farell (nee Rayburn), numerous nieces and nephews, multiple cousins, and friends.

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