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Faith, fence posts and farewells

Cleaning out some computer files, I came across a note with an intriguing heading I’d received from a young friend sometime back. I pulled it up to refresh myself as to its content to decide if it should be kept or deleted.

The first line made the decision clear: it should not only be kept, it should shared. This is it:

Faith ‘N Fence posts

As a teenager I was busted for faking going to church. These days, if I miss church, I feel left out.

A week is one length in the fence line of our lives. Church is the fence post of my week.

Imagine a fence without posts.

Disclaimer: I don’t care where and when you gather as long as it is to worship a peaceful God. God made and loves us all.

Fence lines change. Earth shifts. But faith is resolute, following us beyond the grave.

You might not think we share God, but He is us.

On re-reading this I thought, not only of the wise author of this insightful piece, but of so many others I have met through my lifetime who have been a part of my own fence building. Many were family members or close friends whose fences had often let me lean on them awhile for support and helped to mark my path in life. Others appeared only for as a little unexpected jog, just long enough to help me set a strong post when my own life fence was beginning to sag or weaken and I had not the strength or insight to do it on my own. Sometimes the person is only seen as a peripheral part of your life, but supplies the needed inspiration and motivation, or simply pleasure as you move along your wandering fence line.

I’ve been fortunate to have many such people in my life. Two have just recently completed their beautiful individual fences and crossed the bridge to their next and higher adventure. One was Brenda Wallace, an RN at Camelot Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, who I came to know and admire. Brenda was 61 at the time of her death.

Lelia Rowe is the other lovely lady who has inspired me, and who passed just two days short of her 105th birthday that would have been celebrated on Jan. 24! So instead, her family and friends will gather, not to recognize another year, but to celebrate her life. As one family member said, “Grandma passed away, just like she lived…peacefully.”

I got to know Lelia after she moved to Camelot Nursing & Rehabilitation Center when she was 99. I was always impressed by her gentleness, sweet smile, restful demeanor and strong faith. She was just a delight to be around as witnessed by the number of visitors she had. I did a story about Lelia when she turned 100, five years ago, and had planned to do another this year on her 105th birthday and to include a picture of her with her newest family member who was born last year: a great, great, great, grandson, who extended the branches on the family tree to six generations!

Following is the earlier story I wrote about Lelia in 2013. It gives a small glimpse of her strong character, sense of humor and love of life:

“I remember the first time I saw an automobile. I was just a little girl and when I heard that thing chugging by, I just ran out into the road and watched in amazement until it was gone.

“Now days there’s always something new; but my husband Phillip Rowe and I preferred to stay with things we loved. Like our house. We first rented two rooms at 515 Theodor Street in Esther, Missouri. shortly after we were married, then later we bought the house. There we raised our two children, Darrell and Sue. Even as our family grew to eventually include seven grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren and, at last count, 28 great-great-grandchildren, (Editors Note: and as of 2017 one great, great, great grandson) our home remained the gathering place for them all.

“One of my joys was that the grands and great-grands, all enjoyed coming to spend a time with me. They loved it when they could ‘stay over’ for a night and we’d always make it a fun occasion. On New Year’s Eve, I’d gather up any of them who were staying there and we’d get every pot, pan, lid and spoon we could find and go outside and beat on them at midnight! They did enjoy doing that. The more noise the better. It was our way of welcoming another year.

“I lived in that house for nearly 82 years and there wasn’t a Christmas that every member of our family and extended family hasn’t spent Christmas Day there. I always made sure every person had a gift. It wasn’t always a lot, but at least they were included. Then a number of years back, someone added a gift of an elephant statue, and since then he’s shown up at every family occasion. Through the years he’s gained some scars and chips, but he’s still loved and making the family rounds.”

Lelia, like that beloved elephant, gained some scars and chips, dents and bruises through her nearly 105 years, but she remained sharp and interested in her family and today’s events. She loved reading, kept her Bible close at hand, and read every story in the Reader’s Digest condensed books (Large Print) that she faithfully subscribed to. She was also a great fan of “American Idol” and watched it every week with one of her family members who always came for a “girl’s night.” Lelia never lacked for company as her daughter Sue Turner rarely missed a day of being with her, and several others would also stop by to visit and share a memory.

When her family and friends gathered at Camelot to celebrate Lelia’s birthday or some other event, so many people came, it looked like a political rally or rock concert was being held. She remained the matriarch of the family, the well from which they all drew assurance and strength. One family member summed it up by saying, “Lelia is our yardstick for great ladies. Across the generations, we all love and admire her. She is our anchor.”

Lelia Rowe, 104 years, 11 months and 28 days of age, passed away, Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018, at Camelot Nursing Center in Farmington. She was born Jan. 24, 1913 in Marquand, to the late Jesse and Margaret Ann (Hansen) Rhodes. Lelia was a member of the Esther United Methodist Church. She worked as a checker at I.G.A. grocery store in Park Hills for many years. Lelia loved to cook and her family was the light of her life. She was preceded in death by husband, Phillip Easton Rowe and son, Darrell Rowe.

She is survived by her daughter, Sue (Mrs. Joe) Turner; grandchildren, Denise (Dale) Wright, Darrell (Susie) Rowe, Cathy (Steve) Marler, Randy (Jennifer) Rowe, Cindy Minnis and spouse Betsy Lehmann, Amy (Chris) Williams, Anna (Kyle) Yount; 29 great-grandchildren; 19 great-great-grandchildren; one great-great-great-grandchild; and daughter-in-law, Jennell Rowe.

Visitation was held at C.Z. Boyer and Son Funeral Home in Desloge, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018 with interment at St. Francois Memorial Park in Bonne Terre. Memorials may be directed to the Esther United Methodist Church or St. Francois County Relay For Life Team Turner.

I hope someone thought to send the elephant with her.

Outgoing….Best wishes on his retirement to Dick Womack submitted his letter of resignation as Chamber President/CEO last week, effective immediately after serving in that capacity for two years. Dick had been active in the community for many years, while he served as General Manager of KREI/KTJJ. The executive committee is already working towards a replacement. Staff members Laura Raymer and Candy Zarcone continue to serve the chamber and keep the doors open for business.

Incoming…Congratulations to David Buerck on being recently elected as Chairman of the Board of Ozarks Federal Savings and Loan. The appointment followed the retirement of Dennis McIntosh at the end of 2017. David has been a director of Ozarks Federal since January 2009.

Well Deserved Recognition… Joe Turner was presented the KREI/KTJJ “110% award” at the recent Park Hills Chamber of Commerce banquet. Joe has carried on as manager and owner of long-time, family-owned Turner Chevrolet-Buick in Park Hills, and is also known for his support and participation in the community and region.

A Note for Support….For those who would like to let Kevin Thurman know their thoughts and prayers are with him, his address is: Kevin Thurman, 3 Hermann Museum Circle, Apartment #5405, Houston, Texas 77004. Kevin is currently taking cancer treatments in Houston.

Ending on a WOW….The Farmington 7th grade girls basketball team went undefeated for the season at 13-0, winning the conference championship, then the conference tournament defeating North County 35-27 and Potosi in the championship game 40-18. Overall season total: 15 wins-0 defeats! Congrats to all of the members of the team and their coaches!

We’re already entering our second month of 2018….probably a good time to check your personal fence line to make for needed repairs and to be certain you’re still headed in the right direction.

Janet Douglas

Janet Douglas

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