Wilma Esther Roper of Joplin, Missouri passed away December 2, 2019 following 105 years of life filled with hugs and kisses, lots of home-cooked meals and celebrations of everyday living.
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Wilma was born September 23, 1914, in Reeds, Missouri, to Walter David and Linnet (Watson) Ferguson.
Wilma attended Reeds Public School in a two-room school house. She graduated from Carthage High School in 1932. Her extracurricular activities included piano lessons, tap dance lessons, elocution lessons and playing second violin in the Carthage High School Orchestra.
In Spring 1933 Wilma secured a teaching job at Erie School, a one-room school for a salary of $45 a month for the 1933-34 school year. Her employment was offered with the provision that she attend summer classes at Springfield Teachers College (now Missouri State University) and pass an eight-hour Teacher Certification Test administered at the Jasper County Court House in Carthage Missouri prior to the start of the fall classes in 1933.
Wilma met Gilbert Roper, the love of her life, at a yard party. The couple married November 12, 1933. They started their 68 years together by purchasing a span of mules and a milk cow and began farming and raising their children. They began share-crop farming on rented land and in 1941 purchased their first 100-acre farm for $3000 loaned to them by their veterinarian on the condition they put a well in on the property. The farming enterprise would eventually grow to include 900 acres. Partnerships in the Sarcoxie Bank and Triangle Motor Co. Inc. brought about a “move into town” …Sarcoxie…in 1950. In 1958 Gilbert and Wilma established Roper Pontiac Inc. in Joplin. Sharing a common love for travel, their adventures took them far and wide including most of the lower forty-eight states, Hawaii, Alaska, Canada, much of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Panama and Russia.
Wilma was active in the First Presbyterian Church where she served as Sunday School teacher, President of the Women’s Association, Curtis Club and Circle member, Elder, and she helped start an effort to provide back-to-school clothes for children, a program that eventually evolved into Crosslines Ministries. She was also active in P.E.O., Chapter FI, Ladies of Kiwanis, Cherete Study Club, Woman’s Club and was an avid bridge player.
In addition to her parents, Wilma was preceded in death by her husband, Gilbert, June8, 2001; a sister, Opal Young; brothers, Lonnie Ferguson and Harry Ferguson; daughter-in-law; Darlene Roper; sons-in-law, Larry Beard and Kenneth Steele and great-granddaughter, Stella Beard.
Wilma was a devoted wife, mother, grandmother, great and great-great grandmother. She was immensely loved, she will be profoundly missed and forever treasured by the eighty-six who survive her.
Wilma is survived by her five children, Hal Roper (Ruth) Joplin, MO., Phil Roper (Celeste) Ridgecrest, CA., Janice Steele, Joplin, MO., Joy O’Dell (Vern), North Ft Myers, FL., Sallie Beard, Joplin, MO.; thirteen grandchildren, Cindy Rice (Dennis), Tammy Brown (Rick), Terry Taylor (Mark), Randy Roper (Charlene), Misty Frost (Jack), Paul Roper, Jeff Roper (Stacy), Doug Steele, Brian Steele (Leigh), Kyle Steele, Cass Conrad (Jim Sailer), Meghan Klosterman (Shawn) and Andrew Beard (Marissa); twenty-seven great-grandchildren, Lydia Lawless, Aaron Rice(Beth), Dustin Brown (Hannah),Jason Brown (Kali), Nathan Brown (Holly), Grant Taylor (Emily), Logan Taylor (Paige), Andrea Thomas (Joe), Hallie Roper, Riley Roper, Madison Hamilton (Jake), Jovi Frost, Mackenzie Roper, Ainsley Roper, Sam Steele, Jennie Steele, Allie Steele, Morgan Steele, Connor Steele, Dillon Steele, Payton Steele, Henry Sailer, Camryn Klosterman, Norah Klosterman, Owen Beard, Elliott Beard, Mary Grace Beard; and eighteen great-great-grandchildren, Fenton Rice, Cardin Brown, Maclin Brown, Creed Brown, Knox Brown, Trace Brown, Brooks Brown, Ily Brown, Brody Brown, Aubrey Brown, Roudy Brown, Charleston Taylor, Sloan Taylor, Lincoln Thomas, Zoe Thomas, Talyn Steele, Lyla Steele and Mallory Steele.
Funeral services will be held at 2:00 p.m. Saturday at the First Presbyterian Church 509 South Pearl, Joplin, MO. Reverend Alex Wales and Reverend John Nipper will officiate. Internment will be at Ozark Memorial Park Cemetery, Joplin MO.
The visitation will be from 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. Saturday at the First Presbyterian Church prior to the service. In Lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to the First Presbyterian Church or the Missouri Southern Foundation in care of the mortuary.