Many will remember Carleen Hall as “the hug lady.”
But her warm embraces were just one way the beloved wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and prayer warrior ministered to others.
“If touched lives were yardsticks, she would have circled the globe several times,” says her son, Jason Hall.
Carleen, who died in April 2020 of leukemia, left a legacy of service to youth, military members and others. She was a leader in Aglow International, an interdenominational organization of Christian women active in 171 nations. She also was integral in Biloxi’s National Day of Prayer observance, which was held this year without Carleen’s involvement for the first time since its inception in 1994.
“She always had a diverse lineup of people praying through different concerns …, and she treated each like family, like her kids to be exact, and treasured each one,” Jason says. “She had a gift of drawing people out, encouraging hidden talents and skills and leading them in wonderful ways of displaying them.”
“If touched lives were yardsticks, she would have circled the globe several times.” — Jason Hall
Faith was a hallmark of Carleen’s life, and she encouraged others to see their worth — both in her eyes and in the eyes of the Lord.
“Being sure of her identity in Jesus, she was always looking to share the hope she had with anyone she met, however brief the interaction was,” Jason says.
A small-town girl from western New York, Carleen blossomed into a world traveler alongside her Air Force husband, Stanley, and the couple experienced a couple dozen countries throughout their life together. In Biloxi, which she made her home in 1991, Jason says she actively pointed people to Christ and accompanied them on their faith journey. Through her adventures, Carleen made a point of keeping in touch with her hundreds of friends — maintaining a file of them that grew year by year.
On a tribute wall alongside Carleen’s online obituary, Joe Collins recalled how supportive she was of the jail ministry during his time as chaplain in Harrison County Jail — always praying for the ministry and participating in special events. Sharon Roberts noted that Carleen counseled her to help her overcome her childhood and teenage trauma.
“Carleen always was amazingly available for praying for me and my family,” Roberts wrote. “We had monumental moments.”
Jason remembers that his mom had a knack for turning life moments into lessons. Upon leaving a movie, for instance, she often would deliver a “sermonette” on what she had learned and how it could point others to Jesus. If a program was needed to teach and entertain children, young adults or seniors, she could be called on to come up with something inspired and inspirational.
“Her creativity, whether fresh or the result of absorbing and filing away ideas over a lifetime, was fun to experience,” Jason says.
To the last, her son adds, Carleen was concerned for others’ wellbeing first. She devoted her life to making others feel wanted and invited, and Jason is certain an eternal reward awaited her.
“Hollywood inserts stars into their sidewalks to honor lives here on earth, but Mom has a huge mansion in heaven simply labeled ‘the hug lady’s house,’” he says. “All are welcome!”