Thelma Cornell Morris Wheatley
Thelma B. (Cornell) Morris Wheatley of Butler, Missouri, departed this earth on June 13, 2020, at the age of 105 years. She was born March 18, 1915, near Ballard, Mo, to Hal and Edith (Hughes) Cornell. She was the oldest of seven children who grew up in the Ballard and Passaic areas. Thelma often told of walking two miles to one school the Cornell children attended when they were younger, and then riding the mare named Nell to school when a bit older. Just before starting high school, Thelma’s father asked her to wait a year before going so that she could stay home and help her mother with the house and the other children. She did so, and the following year she started high school. In 1933, she graduated from Butler High School. Academically she was one of the top three graduates of the Class of 1933.
On March 18, 1934, she married Roy O. Morris of Butler. They had two children: first a daughter Sue Ellen, and then four years later a son, Jimmy LeRoy. Roy O. Morris passed away December 31, 1985, after 52 years of marriage. In 1988 Thelma then married Roy Wheatley of Butler, a friend since their childhoods. They had 10 years together before his death in 1998.
Thelma was interested and active in many pursuits throughout her long, active, and extremely accomplished life. She was a long time member of the Ohio Street United Methodist Church of Butler and its United Methodist Women’s ministry. She was the oldest and longest active member of the Butler High School Alumni Association, never missing a meeting until the last few years of her life when health concerns prevented it. Once, when in her 90’s, she participated in the annual parade by riding on the back of son Jim’s motorcycle. For many years, especially while her children were young, Thelma served as a 4-H Leader and supporter. Also, she was an active member of the Cooperative Extension Service Club from 1940 until 2005.
A love of politics and of her country prompted Thelma to be involved with the Democratic Party her entire life. She was a founding member of the Bates County chapter of the Federation of Women’s Democratic Clubs in 1972. She served as president, board member, and also as president of the Fourth District Chapter. In 2005 Thelma was honored by being named by the FWDC as the Democratic Woman of the Year for the State of Missouri.
An artist, Thelma earned many local and regional awards for her work in various mediums: watercolors, oils, acrylics, charcoal, and even in china painting. She was a member of the Bates County Fine Arts League since 1974. One of her paintings graced the Washington, D.C., office of Missouri Fourth District Congressman, Ike Skelton.
Thelma always was interested in history and the traditions of the past. She remained an active member of the Bates County Historical Society and Museum. She has written two memoirs--CORNBREAD AND BEANS is the story of her life, beginning with stories about her ancestors, histories of the family during the Civil War, and how her people, and eventually, Thelma, came to be. It continues with her life up until the death of her “second Roy.” Her other book is DOWN ON THE FARM. It contains stories of farm life and animals that she knew. Both books contain illustrations, photos, and poems all done by Thelma.
Not the least of Thelma’s accomplishments was success in the business world. Along with her many other duties and interests as a wife and mother, she also maintained employment away from the home---generally in sales. From 1952-1980, she worked in retail sales in Butler, first at the Firestone Store, then at Levy’s Mercantile. When she became convinced of the quality of Amway products, particularly the vitamin supplements, she became a distributor. Eventually she advanced to the esteemed designation of Ruby Direct Distributor.
Thelma Berniece (Cornell) Morris Wheatley was preceded in death by her parents, four brothers, one sister, and both her husbands, Also preceding her was her son, Jim L. Morris, and 3 grandsons: Bill Lockard, Reid Worley, and Jimmy C. Morris. Survivors include daughter Sue Lockard of Butler, Mo., daughter-in-law Lurenda “Rendy” Morris, of Springfield, Mo., sister Ruby Cornell of Independence, Mo. Surviving grandsons are Alan Lockard (Christy) of Butler, Dwayne Lockard (Lona) of Butler, and Bryan Morris (Amy) of Springfield. Also surviving are 23 Great-Grandchildren and 15 Great-Great-Grandchildren.
The family would like to thank Bristol Manor, Medicalodges of Butler, Heartland Hospice, and Dr. James Miller for all the kind and loving care given to Thelma, especially these last five challenging years of her life. The family requests contributions to the Ohio Street United Methodist Church in Butler, Mo.
Visitation will be held Monday, June 22, 2020, from 10-11 AM, prior to services. Funeral service will be held Monday, June 22, 2020, at 11 AM at Schowengerdt Funeral Chapel (660-679-6555) in Butler, Missouri. Internment will follow at Oak Hill Cemetery, Butler, Mo. Online condolences www.schowengerdtchapel.com.