Death of Connectional Lay Organization President Valerie Gary Bell (1953-2020)

Family Statement

It is with great sadness that Mr. Donald Bell, Sr., Mr. Donald Bell, Jr., Mr. Derrick Bell, Dr. Shirley Cason Reed, and family share the passing of a loving wife, mother, grandmother, sister, and niece. God dispatched His angels to Manassas, Virginia, on February 4, 2020, and took the hands of one of His most faithful servants, Valerie Faith Gary Bell. The family would like to thank everyone for their continuous prayers and requests that no calls or visits be made at this time. Additional information on arrangements will be forthcoming.


Mrs. Valerie Faith Gary Bell was born on October 25, 1953, and is a fifth-generation AME and a member of the Lay Organization since 1974. She is a native of the 2nd Episcopal District, the daughter of Mr. James and Rev. Vivian Gary. Valerie’s spiritual growth and development were inspired and nurtured by the members of Mt. Zion AME Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

From birth, Valerie was taught to strive for excellence, and in 1973, she made history as the first African American graduate of Old Dominion University, School of Dental Hygiene, in the state of Virginia.

Her professional career included employment as a Staff Dental Hygienist, Clinician, and Instructor, at the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, and the Public Health Service of Capitol Hill in Washington DC. She continued to cultivate and enhance her leadership skills as a Marketing Manager for AT&T Inc. in Fairfax, Virginia.

After successful tenures with the United States Naval Academy and AT&T, Valerie stepped out on faith and began living her childhood dream as an African American entrepreneur. For over 25 years, Valerie was the successful owner and stylist of two salons in the D. C. metropolitan area. 

Valerie has dedicated her life to making a difference in the hearts and lives of others. As servants of the Lord, Valerie, her husband, and two sons are the founding members of First AME Church of Manassas, Virginia, in 1985.  

Valerie was recognized in the African Methodist Episcopal Church for her unwavering love for God, humankind, and being a catalyst for excellence. She has served in many capacities at the Local, Conference, District, and Connectional level. 

  •  General Conference Delegate: 1984-2016
  •  Elected to General Board: 1992-2019
  • Secretary of the Commission on Statistics/Finance 2000-2017
  • Member of the Executive Committee of the General Board
  • Vice-Chairman of the Lay Commission
  • Member of the Global Development Commission
  • Connectional Women’s Missionary Society-Chief Protocol Officer
  • Connectional Lay Witness Speaker/Workshop presenter
  • Founding member of First AME Church Manassas 1985 Lay Organization 1986
  • Second Episcopal District Lay President 2010-2018 

On August 7, 2017, at the 35th Biennial Session of the Connectional Lay Organization, in Columbus, Ohio, she was elected as the 14th Connectional President. Since the birth of the Lay Organization in 1912, she was the 2nd female to serve in this capacity. Valerie died on February 4, 2020, after a brief illness. For over forty-six years, she was married to her best friend and the love of her life, Donald Bell, Sr. God blessed this union with two sons: Donald Bell Jr. (Adrienne) and Derrick Bell, and the proud and loving grandmother of DeAriel, Donald III (Trey), Adriana and Derrick II. She is also survived by her brother James (Darlene) Sherman Gary, Jr. and other family members. Please be in prayer for the Bell, Gary, Cason and Reed families, the Second Episcopal District, and the Connectional Lay Organization. Arrangements have not been finalized.

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