Wilberta E. Smith, 99, Tempe, Arizona, passed away on April 17, 2019, a few days away from her 100th birthday. She began life in Mound City, Missouri, at her grandparents’ (Brown) home on May 14, 1919. Soon after she moved to the farm near Fairfax, Missouri with parents Wilber and Minnie Means. In 1921 her sister Ann joined the family, and all worked hard to keep things going during the depression years. Wilberta went to college in Maryville, Missouri, and received a teaching degree. She was a lifetime member of Tri Sigma sorority. Later she attended Tarkio College and Arizona State University for advanced degrees. She began teaching in country schools where she arrived early to get the fire going to warm the classroom. She then taught in Rock Port and Tarkio, Missouri.
She met her husband, Maurice Smith, through a mutual college friend. They married in 1943 and enjoyed 37 years of marriage until his death in 1980. In 1945, they moved to Joplin and in August of 1947 they moved to Tempe near his sister, Helen.
Wilberta lived in the same house for 61 years. Each summer the family returned to Missouri to work on the farm until 1975. She enjoyed teaching and resumed her career in 1955. She taught on the Indian reservation as well as many years at Mitchell School and then Thew. She served as a supervising teacher for student teachers as they prepared to begin their own careers.
Wilberta and Maurice traveled in the U.S. and South America, having fun visiting family, friends and exploring new places. After her husband’s death she continued traveling the world with family and friends. When at home, they loved playing bridge with friends. After her husband passed she played with a group of ladies for over 30 years.
She was a longtime member of the Congregational Church of Tempe. She and her husband were very involved in the church on many levels. She was also a member of the Tempe Lions Club for years and served as an officer. She held the record for selling the most roses year after year for their annual fundraiser.
She was a wonderful, caring and kind individual who was always willing to help and had a positive outlook on life. She was a great role model. Her family will forever miss her homemade chicken and noodles, biscuits and many other specialties. She was an excellent cook who prepared everything to perfection.
She is survived by her sons, C.W. (Jan), and Robert (Kwang); grandchildren, Kami Fockler (Jack), Marci Leith (Larry), and Robert Smith II; great-grandchildren, Morgan, Zach, and Adam Fockler, Cooper, and Senna, Mika and Kaia Leith; niece, Donna Ball; great-niece, Tiffany Miller; and many other beloved family members.
Our family would like to express its deepest gratitude to her neighbors (especially Diane and David) as well as the Keith and Mack families for all their help and support over the years. In addition, we would like to thank Robert and Kwang for providing daily loving care for Mom in her last two years.
Donations can be made to Tempe Meals on Wheels where she was a driver for many years as well as a recipient in the last few years.
Funeral services will take place at Sharp’s Grove Church, Craig, Missouri, at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, May 3. There will also be a memorial service at the First Baptist Church of Tempe, 4525 S. McClintock, on Saturday, June, 15 at 11:00 a.m. Funeral services provided by Meierhoffer Funeral Home, 5005 Frederick Blvd, St. Joseph, Missouri.