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How do you sum up the life of someone who was so much to so many people?
Whether you knew her as Cheryl, Lane, Coach Bell, Beezy or Lane Lane—she was undoubtedly the best person you ever knew. Born to the union of S.L. and Ida Mae Darden on July 21, 1967 in Hallsville, Texas, Cheryl was the second youngest of 13. She was given the nickname “Lane” from her middle name Elaine, and would be endeared as such for all her days.
A true Hallsville native, Cheryl attended Hallsville High School, where she did everything: volleyball, basketball, track and cheer. She graduated in 1985 and attended Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia, Arkansas on a basketball scholarship. In typical Lane fashion, she ended up playing volleyball there instead and even won a conference championship. In 1989, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and Exercise Science/ All Level. During this time, Cheryl was dating Gary Bell and the two became one on March 14, 1992. Aereal Bell was born out of this union on November 9, 1998. Cheryl later earned her master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Administration from Lamar University.
Her love for the game led her to become a coach and she returned to her alma mater Hallsville High as their head volleyball coach from 1994-2011. She compiled an impressive 446-186 record, and her teams averaged nearly 31 wins per season from 2007-2011. She retired to spend more time with family, but spent the last three seasons as an assistant volleyball coach at Longview High School under former player and forever friend, Chaka Jackson. It was this friendship that led Cheryl to also serve as a club volleyball coach for Wrecking Crew, which is also ran by Jackson.
As big as her impact was on the court, Cheryl left an even bigger mark off it. Cheryl was the epitome of “walking and living for Christ.” She didn’t just talk the talk, she lived by His Word and her love of God was evident in everything she did. Her walk with Christ started at a young age, as she was baptized at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. She was heavily involved in church as a child, and her devotion to MPBC grew even more as an adult. As others came and went, Cheryl remained a faithful servant and served wherever needed—children’s church, mistress of ceremony, resolution reader to name a few.
This life of service continued within her family, whom she held dearest and nearest to her heart. Having been one of 13 born to a mother who was one of 12, the importance of family was ingrained in her early. Whether it was the Taylor Family Reunion, Darden Family Reunion, William Family Reunion or Mudear’s Birthday Celebration, she put her best foot forward at every event. You may best remember her for the Taylor Roll Call or declaring “we’re Facebook live” whenever the chance arose, but she worked so tirelessly behind the scenes as well. Prior to each reunion, she would facilitate a pasture clean-up to make sure it went off without a hitch. And as if the two-day reunion wasn’t enough, she’d help clean up and even added a Monday celebration at her house to keep the good times rolling.
And the good times did indeed follow wherever she went. As a coach and physical education teacher, Cheryl molded generations of young people from all walks of life. When she stepped away from coaching, she entered East Texas Montessori Prep Academy as a P.E. teacher—ready to mold the next generation of babies. Although her time with them was just beginning, those babies will be better just from knowing Coach Bell.
We all will, and we owe it to her to live up to this legacy of love she has left behind. On February 18, 2021, Cheryl made the transition to a place where righteousness dwells and the weary shall be at rest.
Those who preceded her in death were her parents, S.L. and Ida Mae Darden, her sisters Cynthia Stoker, Joyce Helen Stoker and Carolyn Rigby, and her brothers Stanley Darden and Gregory Darden.
Those left behind to cherish her memory: her husband Gary Bell, her daughter Aereal Bell, her sisters Sandra Leonard, Rhonda Jordan, Trina Johnson, special sister-in-love Shamaria Darden, her brothers S.L. Darden Jr., Anthony Darden and Christopher Darden, and hundreds of nieces and nephews.
Take your rest, Lane. “Well done, good and faithful servant.”