Wilma Georgenia Hargus

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

After a full life of 90 years, Wilma Georgenia Hargus, of Marietta, Ga., formerly of Nevada, lost her battle with cancer on April 23, 2013.

Wilma was born on March 2, 1924, to Maude Blankenbeckler Hedrick and Clarence Hedrick in Burnham, Mo. Weighing in at only 4 pounds, she was a miracle birth and a miracle in the lives of many during her 90 years. She was the middle child of five with two older brothers, Cecil and Basil, and two younger sisters, Wanda and Charlene. She spent her childhood in and around Willow Springs, Mo., where she often worked in her parents' store, auction house, furniture store, or cafe, but mostly at the grocery.

She loved school, trying for perfect attendance every year and it is not surprising the she ultimately became a teacher like her mother, Maude. She attended college at Southwest Missouri State in Springfield and roomed with her best friend from high school, Betty Lilly. In summers, she and Betty sold magazines which allowed them to travel the country as part of a four person magazine crew.

After college, she and her youngest sister Charlene did something that not many young girls from Missouri did in those days -- they moved to San Diego, Calif., lived on the beach and worked in a department store. They had fun going to the beach, going to USO dances and dancing with the sailors stationed there. Also, she enjoyed spending time with their niece Sandy, Debbie and Stephen, who lived in San Diego with their mother, Wanda, while her husband was in the Navy.

The sisters returned to Willow Springs after 18 months. Wilma worked as a teacher at a private ranch, in a one-room schoolhouse. Later, she worked at Show Me Power as a customer service clerk where she greeted everyone with her warm smile and knew everyone in town.

It was while she worked at Show Me, that she and her mother, Maude, went to an event in West Plains. They saw a handsome young man walking towards them on the opposite side of the street. Wilma turned to her mother and said, "That's the man I am going to marry." And it was. She met the cute GI teacher, just out of the Air Force, the next day at the Howell County Fair and they were married a year later on June 22, 1953.

For a time, the newlyweds lived in a home with other GI teachers in Bakersfield, Mo., with Mrs. Swain who taught Wilma how to make the famous pecan pie that graced every family holiday table through Christmas 2013. Then, they moved to a cute rock farmhouse in Pittsfield, Ill., where they were able to keep chickens and "Old Jers," a brown and white Jersey cow. Wilma taught school and Warren worked for Swift and Company, representing the feed vendor in the Pittsfield area. They made butter and cheese which Wilma always said was the best they ever had.

Not long after, the couple moved to Ste. Genevieve, Mo., where Warren began his life's career as a county agent for the University of Missouri. Then on July 18, 1959, Wilma gave birth to her oldest daughter, Karen Jean. Karen had both her parents wrapped around her little finger but after five years, Warren and Wilma decided to have another child and their daughter, Susan Diane, was born on Dec. 28, 1964. And with that, the family was complete.

The couple made many friends in Ste. Genevieve, but moved across the state to Nevada, Mo., in July, 1968, so Warren could take another position with the University -- this time as a community development agent based in Vernon County. Wilma became very involved in school and community affairs. She helped her girls sell everything from 4-H Chicken Barbecue tickets to NHS Band candles and was active as a home room mother and PTA volunteer.

Once Susan started kindergarten, Wilma became a substitute teacher. She was a very active 4-H leader with the Town & Country 4-H Club. She taught many Vernon County cooks how to make their first Snickerdoodles and family dinners, but her specialty was yeast breads. She taught both her daughters to cook -- her sugar cookies are still a favorite of her grandchildren. Wilma said she couldn't count how many sugar cookies she baked during her lifetime, but she wished she had a dollar for every one and she would be rich, indeed.

Wilma's favorite time of year other than Christmas, was the week of the Vernon County Youth Fair. She and the family worked in the diner for Town and Country 4-H. Wilma, Mrs. Prewitt and Mrs. Greer judged the "foods" and canned goods exhibits together almost every year until Wilma and Warren left Nevada in 2005.

When Susan began taking piano lessons from Sister Theresa at St. Francis Convent (a former Catholic boarding school for girls), Wilma met Mrs. Daniels, who directed the Vernon County Day Care Center. Wilma loved early childhood education and decided to teach full time for VCDCC, where she taught hundreds of children during her 10 years with the center until her retirement.

Wherever she went in Nevada, current and former students would either run up to hug her or talk to her (depending on their ages), and many said that she was their favorite teacher of all time. Perhaps her favorite class was her summer camp program for school age children. She kept them busy all of the time with projects and field trips. She credits much of her outstanding health in her later years to the miles she walked with her summer campers to parks and businesses for field trips.

Wilma loved her students, but most of all she loved her grandchildren. After Karen completed her studies to become a pharmacist and married her husband, Scott Biehle, a banker, it wasn't long before they decided to start a family. When Karen first told Wilma that she was going to have a baby, Wilma said she was just too young to be a grandmother. But there was never a grandmother more proud of her grandchild than Wilma was of Lauren Rachel, who was born on May 18, 1986. She and Warren made many trips from Nevada to St. Louis to spend vacations and holidays with the Biehle Family (Scott, Karen, and Lauren). She was thrilled to have another granddaughter, Heather Michelle, who was born four years later on July 31, 1990.

While Karen was giving her mother, Wilma, the grandmother experience, Susan followed in her mother's footsteps, determined to see the world. Susan's career led to many opportunities for Wilma and Warren to travel with their daughter as well as with the whole extended family. During retirement, Wilma and Warren also traveled by themselves and generally kept themselves busy with community activities in Nevada and making trips to the Atlanta area to visit the family, since Karen's family and Susan all lived in Marietta, Ga.

After years of their daughters trying to persuade them to move, Wilma and Warren moved to Marietta in July 2005, in anticipation of the birth of their first grandson. James Anthony (Jimmy) was born on Halloween in 2005. Wilma and Warren had to see him every day and Wilma enjoyed cooking with Jimmy, reading to him, playing games and helping with homework. Wilma and Jimmy had a special relationship and after Warren passed away in 2011, Wilma lived with Susan and Jimmy full-time and loved spending time with "her boy."

Wilma was always an energetic woman who liked to stay busy. She enjoyed perfect health for 88 years. Wilma was diagnosed with a rare subcutaneous melanoma in July 2012 and despite a grim diagnosis, refused to let it rule her life. She led a full, active life overcoming challenges such as surgery, radiation therapy and even a broken hip and kept on going. She broke a second hip in January 2014, and at the same time, doctors found that the melanoma had moved into her brain. She stayed with Karen through her last days surrounded by family and friends. She passed away peacefully at home with her daughters by her side.

Wilma is survived by her sister, Wanda Daioczok, of Mountain View, Mo.; her daughters, Karen Biehle and Susan Mortimer, of Marietta, Ga.; her granddaughters, Lauren Biehle, of Denver, Colo., and Heather Biehle, of Orlando, Fla.; her grandson, Jimmy Mortimer, of Marietta, Ga.; and many nieces, nephews and other extended family.

The family invited friends, family and former students for a celebration of her life that was held at 2 p.m., Tuesday, April 29, at the home economics building at the Vernon County fairgrounds. Funeral services will be on Thursday, May 1, at Willow Funeral Home, in Willow Springs, Mo. Donations may be made in her name to the Melanoma Research Foundation or to the American Cancer Society.

Like Warren, it is hard to find anyone with other than a kind word to stay about Wilma Hargus. Wilma was the glue that held her extended family together, Mom No. 2 for more friends and family than we can count, and a wonderful role model for her children and grandchildren. We will miss her love and her spirit, her wisdom and spirit of fun, her sugar cookies and pecan pies, and her devotion to our family. She will be missed by her family and friends, but remembered by many for her love, her spirit and contributions to her family, students and her community.