HILLSBORO, NH: Bertie Estelle Arvanetaki passed away at home on April 16, 2023 after a brief illness, with her loving husband and family by her side. Stella was born on May 1, 1939 in Ace, Texas to Elsie and Elisha Mullins. She was the third of ten children and the oldest daughter. Stella graduated from Unity School in Warren, Texas and moved off the family farm. She worked as a secretary before becoming a cosmetologist. In addition to working in a hair salon, she taught cosmetology at the local school.
Stella married Rolland Bailey in 1959. They moved to California and welcomed three children into their lives, Darrell, Rachelle, and Renee. The family moved to Germany when Rolland was stationed at Spangdahlem Air Force Base for four years. During that time, Stella continued to work in a hair salon and managed to travel to 32 European countries.
Upon the family's return to the United States, Stella joined the US Air National Guard. She served for 22 years, retiring as Chief Master Sergeant in 1995, a rank that generally only 1% of the enlisted force attains. She was proud of her military service and equally as proud of her children and grandchildren who decided to serve as well.
Stella was a very talented artist. She began oil painting in 1977 and was primarily self taught. She was so talented that people began to commission paintings from her. She used her artistry as a way to give back to others. She would often sell her paintings and donate the proceeds to organizations or families in need. She most recently had an exhibit in 2018 after winning second place in mixed media at the Jaffrey Civic Center. Despite selling her art and giving it away to friends and family, she still managed to fill her house with paintings, rotating them out for each season.
In 1978, Stella graduated from the Beth-El School of Nursing. She worked on a locked psychiatric unit for teens at the Colorado State Hospital for a number of years. Upon moving to Connecticut, she started working at the Hospital for Special Care in a rehab facility. She started an art program with the patients and was recognized by Spectrum Magazine for her work.
In the early 1980's, a newly single Stella was on Buckley Space Force Base. Little did she know that Colonel George Arvanetaki happened to be observing her from afar and knew he would marry her someday. George dubbed her "The Redhead," a nickname she carried for the rest of her life. He had to propose seven times before she accepted by sending him flowers while he was in the middle of a military training. The included note told him yes and that he'd better hurry back. George took a lot of ribbing for receiving the flowers, but he happily rushed back to Colorado. They were married in 1986 and Stella moved to Connecticut to be with him. Their love was strong and unending. Even after 36 years of marriage, they still seemed like newlyweds. George adored Stella and she adored him back. He doted on her until her final day.
Stella and George decided to retire to New Hampshire. Stella walked into the entryway of a house and immediately said she would buy it. George liked to tease her about this, but they did buy the house and moved in 2000. George and Stella loved being part of the Hillsboro community. Stella created a shop called Stella's Corner and donated proceeds to various Hillsboro community resources. She volunteered in a number of programs at Valley Bible Chapel, where she and George attended regularly for years. She started holding Ladies Tea, which was a gathering of older women to drink tea and socialize in Stella's backyard that was filled with beautiful flowers. In 2019, George and Stella were awarded the Community Builders Award for their years of service in the community.
Two of the most important things to Stella were family and her faith. Stella's heart was big, and she loved all of her family equally, regardless of whether they were biologically related, adopted, acquired through marriage, or friends who became family. She never differentiated relationships based on this. Once you were part of the family, you were loved unconditionally for life. Stella would tell a grandchild that they were her favorite, but in reality, every grandchild was her favorite. Stella and her sisters had a Sisters Retreat for 18 years, which was always a highlight for her. They would get together for several days of fun, adventures, and talking. Stella had many stories and sometimes talked so much that her sisters considered putting a gag on her!
Stella's faith was steadfast and she lived her life according to her values. She accepted people for who they were. She gave back in a multitude of ways, even baking bread late at night for a neighbor, but never needed recognition. She was patient, kind, and gentle. Even during the most challenging times of her life, she leaned into her faith for comfort.
Stella lived a full and extraordinary life. She was a stubborn redheaded Texan and proud of it. She was a wonderful flower gardener. Despite not knowing how to swim, she played in the pool with her grandchildren, went water rafting, and kayaked in Prince William Sound in Alaska. She rode in the trainer seat of an F-16. In addition to traveling to 32 European countries, she also traveled to Egypt and rode a camel. James Garner kissed her on the cheek, clearly before George was involved. Legend has it that she even jumped with the Green Berets.
Stella is survived by her adoring husband, George, her children, Darrell (Teresa) Bailey, Rachelle Williams, and Renee (Darrin) Sommerfelt, stepchildren, Christine (Rich) Tarrio, Dianne (Brian Hadley) Wyeth, and Anna (Peter) Larghe, 8 grandchildren, and 8 great-grandchildren. She is also survived by her siblings, Kenneth (Elizabeth) Bailey, Lloyd (Audrey) Bailey, Margaret (Leighton) Bramer, Emmett (Beverly) Bailey, Lela (Gene) McCollum, Ruth (Elton) Hollingsworth, and Doris Cearley. Stella was predeceased by her parents and brothers Floyd Mullins and Vester Mullins.
Stella's family would like to thank the numerous friends, neighbors, and community members who came together during this difficult time.
A Memorial Celebration will be held at the American Legion in Hillsboro on July 29, 2023 from 11 am to 2 pm.
The Holt-Woodbury Funeral Home & Cremation Service Hillsboro, NH is assisting the family.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Valley Bible Chapel online at https://valleybiblechapel.net/giving/ or mailed to Valley Bible Chapel, 14 W Main St, PO Box 771, Hillsboro, NH 03244. If you would like to contribute flowers at Stella's celebration, please cut one from your yard in honor of Stella's love for fresh flowers.