Thelma Darlene Gaffney
04/09/1920 – 11/18/2022
Thelma Darlene Gaffney, age 102, of Memphis, Missouri, died peacefully in her sleep on November 18, 2022 at the Clark County Nursing Home in Kahoka, Missouri. She was born on April 9, 1920 in rural Luray, Missouri to Otto George Meinhardt and Mary May Barton Meinhardt. Raised on her family’s farm, she attended country school through 8th grade and graduated from Luray High School.
Thelma and her older sister Wilma had agreed to help each other finance additional education. Wilma worked as a nanny in Chicago and sent money so Thelma could attend Gem City Business School and graduate. Thelma then worked as an accountant for John Morrell in Ottumwa, Iowa, and in turn sent money to Wilma to help her get her nursing degree.
While Thelma was working in Ottumwa, her parents and brothers moved to a family farm near Milton, Iowa.
During one of her visits to her parents in 1940, Thelma Norris met Edwin Gaffney at the Milton roller rink, and Norris told his friends that he had just met the girl he was going to marry! They were indeed married on December 5, 1943 at Luray Methodist Church. Norris and Thelma would celebrate 71 anniversaries until Norris’ death in 2015.
After Norris served as a Marine in World War II, he and Thelma moved to a farm northwest of Memphis, where they lived and worked for 54 years, raising their four children, Karen, Sue, Alan, and Philip. In 2000, they bought a house in Memphis and moved back to the city.
While Thelma was proud of her children, she was very proud of her grandchildren. She loved visiting and hearing all about her work, school, farming, sports, music, 4-H, sewing, cooking, gardening, crafts and everything that was going on in her life. She marveled at two granddaughters traveling to far corners of the world and said she couldn’t imagine such a thing. In 1945, however, Thelma traveled halfway across the country alone by train to be with Norris when he returned to California after the war. She enjoyed watching and hearing about the shenanigans of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and wondering what would come next. They always gave her a giggle and a good story to share.
Thelma attended the local council and became a founding member of the Friendly Neighbors Association along with her many friends. She also volunteered at the Downing House Museum in Memphis, helping where she was needed. She was an active 4-H leader for the Consolidated Boosters 4-H Club and in 1965 the family represented Scotland County at the Missouri State Fair.
Thelma was a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Memphis, assisting in Sunday School classes, in the church circuit, and always helping behind the scenes to make things a little easier for others. Known for her delicious cakes, she baked for church fundraisers well into her 80s. When asked if she might need to slow down, she replied that she had to because many of the ladies in the church were quite old! On a Mother’s Day, she was recognized as “Mother of the Year” in the Presbyterian Church.
In her 102 years she experienced amazing changes. She and her sister went to school by horse and carriage. Years later, Thelma learned to drive in a pasture, and in her 60s she flew on a plane to Mexico. Although she shook her head at many technologies, she always smiled when she could spend time with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren far away.
Thelma will be remembered for her wonderful smile, kindness and generosity as she volunteered to do whatever needs to be done.
She is survived by her four children: Karen (Russell) Grubb, Hannibal, MO; Sue (Jim) Eager, St. Louis, MO; Alan Gaffney, Milton, IA; and Philip (Sandra) Gaffney, Milton, IA; eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren: Amanda (Andy) Williams, Elora and Katelyn, Bloomfield, Iowa; Tim (Julie) Eager, Claire and Sam, Niskayuna, NY; Daniel (Allison) Grubb, Amelia and Warren, Minneapolis, MN; Becky (James) Rafferty, Molly and Maggie, Swisher, IA; Leslie Eager, Mebane, NC; Brett (Erin) Gaffney and ClaraMae, Mt Juliet, TN; Kristen (Jim) Vonnahme, Council Bluffs, IA; and Ryan Gaffney, Milton, IA; her sisters-in-law: Mertice Meinhardt, Joyce Meinhardt and Rovene Meinhardt, all from Kahoka, MO. In Norris’ family: Jerry (Nancy) Gaffney, Barneveld, WI, and Norma Zeitler, Douds, IA, plus many nieces and nephews.
Thelma preceded her husband Norris, her parents Otto & Mary Meinhardt in death; her daughter-in-law Phyllis Gaffney; her sister and husband, Wilma and Dr. Robert Galbraith; her brother and wife George and Lurla Meinhardt, her brothers Wayne, Dale and Deane Meinhardt; her sister-in-law Jean Evans & husband John; and brother-in-law, James Zeitler.
Memorials in lieu of flowers are proposed to the Clark County Nursing Home in the care of Payne Funeral Chapel, 202 E Madison Street, Memphis, MO 63555.
Funeral services were held at 2:00 p.m. Monday afternoon, September 21, at Payne Funeral Chapel in Memphis, conducted by Rev. Leon Buford. Burial followed in South Prairie Cemetery in Milton, Iowa.
Pallbearers were Tim Eager, Daniel Grubb, Brett Gaffney, Ryan Gaffney, Andy Williams and James Rafferty. Musicians were Danielle Bair, singer and Joe Fulk, pianist.
Online condolences can be sent to the Gaffney family by logging into paynefuneralchapel on Payne’s website. com
The arrangements were entrusted to the Payne Funeral Chapel in Memphis.