Funeral for award-winning journalist Melinda W. Bigelow will be 12:30 p.m. Wednesday at Community Bible Church at 9201 Dallas St. in Fort Smith.

Bigelow, 63, died Monday at her Van Buren home after a lengthy battle with cancer.

Burial will be at U.S. National Cemetery in Fort Smith under the direction of Edwards Funeral Home.

Bigelow was a reporter for the Press Argus-Courier from February 2000 to October 2007. Prior to that, she was employed by the Smackover Journal, Kilgore News Herald and Times Record.

During her seven-plus years at the Press Argus-Courier, she received numerous awards from the Arkansas Press Association and was instrumental in the newspaper being recognized as being one of the top weekly newspapers in the state, often taking the sweepstakes award in the annual APA editorial contest.

Debbie Thomas remembers Bigelow as someone who loved her community and will be missed.

"She displayed so much courage and a willingness to live for her family and friends," Thomas said. "Melinda is heaven-bound. She knew it and never doubted it."

Bigelow and Thomas were fellow members of the GFWC Women’s League of Van Buren which worked with the Smart Girls program at the Boys and Girls Club of Van Buren.

"I will always remember her at swim parties, sitting in a chair, passing out Oreo cookies," Thomas said. "She would always say, ‘You can never have enough cookies.’ "

Thomas said Bigelow enjoyed visiting with the girls and always displayed an encouraging heart.

Bigelow was active in the annual Relay for Life sponsored by the American Cancer Society.

"Melinda was one of the kindest, most courageous, and most selfless women I have ever known," said Carolyn Loyd. "In the midst of her own battles, she was concerned about the welfare of others. She will be missed by so many."

Vicki Kilgore, president of the Women’s League, recalled last October’s GFWC South Central Region Conference in Rogers. The international president was in attendance.

"Our state was in charge of the banquet for Saturday night," Kilgore said. "Before the dinner, there is a processional of all state officers, past and present presidents and conference chairmen where ladies are dolled up in formal attire marching in."

Here is where Melinda comes in, Kilgore said.

"Having attended the tour of Crystal Bridges the day before, Melinda was gung ho to help our state president get ready for the big night," Kilgore said. "I don’t know that I would have had the energy for that task. Our state president had recently had shoulder surgery, so she was basically helpless when it came to getting dressed and ready."

Kilgore said Melinda just sat her down and proceeded to put on her make up.

"Did I mention that our state president was not the type to get ‘made up’ ?" she recalled. "Melinda with her dry wit pretty much told her to be still and let her work some magic. Vickie Davis, who I call the queen of big hair worked an absolute miracle. I was left to put on the knee high hose and shoes. Yea, me. I will have to say when we were all finished, our state president was presentable and ready to walk the processional. We all had the best time that afternoon and laughed until we cried. I think we will always remember that fun time with Melinda."

Vickie Davis said one of her most precious memories was one evening leaving the women’s league meeting. There was a beautiful rainbow in the sky.

"I told Melinda, ‘look God is showing you that he always keeps his promises,’ "Davis said. "After that every time either of us would see a rainbow, we would mention to the other one how many rainbows we have seen and each time we would think of each other and remember God was with us despite the circumstances."

Davis said Bigelow had a great positive attitude despite the fight with cancer.

"Melinda always wanted to find out what you were doing, find out how you were doing, then she would talk about herself last, and then you realize your problems were nothing compared to what she was dealing with," Davis said. "She came to a meeting to tell all of us in person that her journey was almost over and there was nothing else the cancer doctor could do. How courageous."