Lela Sass Fleenor
Lela Sass Fleenor, 100, was born September 12, 1913 in Willow Springs, Mo. and passed away Friday, July 18, 2014 in Springfield, Mo. She was the youngest of the Christian Sass family, consisting of one boy and six girls.
Different from most families in Willow Springs, Lela's parents emigrated from Europe - her father, Christian from Germany and her mother Rosa, from Switzerland. Lela took a great deal of pride in being a first generation American. In 1992, her parents' names were inscribed on the Wall of Immigrants at Ellis Island.
Lela loved school and was an excellent student. This love for education later developed into her becoming a very dedicated, creative, and innovative elementary and junior high school teacher. She received a BS in Education from Missouri State University in Springfield, an MA in Education and a Specialist Degree in Reading from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Lela taught school for 25 years in Willow Springs, Houston, West Plains, and Salem.
Everything to do with the out-of-doors was Lela's passion, from her beloved flower gardens to badminton, croquet, and especially swimming. While in high school, she excelled in tennis and basketball.
Everyone in Lela's family was musical and perhaps that intrinsic love of music was the attraction to her late husband, Lowell Fleenor. They were married on July 14, 1935 and enjoyed a wonderful 62 years of marriage. They loved to dance and shared a lifelong love of music. They had so many things in common - a love of theater, playing bridge, and playing music together with Lowell on the piano and Lela on the keyboard. They were longtime members of the United Methodist Church in West Plains and Houston, Mo.
When Lela celebrated her 100th birthday last September, she spoke of her life saying, "I have had a wonderful life and a husband who was kind and gentle. We loved each other's company and had such good times together. I hold the beautiful memories of our 62 years together most dear. Oh, how I would love to live them over again! Lowell and I were blessed with a loving, caring, and intelligent family that brought so much joy and love to our lives. Living the past several years at the Gardens is special to me. I have made many friends among the residents and staff who are so good to me. I am so very blessed to have seven angels: Angela, Bernice, Jessamyn, Kathy, Lois, Sue, and Tahrena that make every day of my life so pleasant. So, how did I live to be 100 years young? Exercise, drinking lots of water, constantly washing my hands, eating tuna fish, and most importantly, eating lots of chocolate!"
The family wishes to thank Lela's care-giving angels, Nurse Karolyn Farley, Chaplain Patrick Boyle, and Aid Carolyn (Cricket) Dennis with Hospice Compassus.
Lela is survived by two daughters and their husbands, Lesley and David Trottier, Springfield; Linda and John Harlin, Gainesville; two granddaughters, Nicole (Stacy) and Summer (Brittany), Springfield; two grandsons, Brent (Holly) Springfield and Chris (Missy), Gainesville; five great-granddaughters, Brooke, Richmond, VA; Abbi, Fayetteville, AR; Faith, Gainesville; Raegan and Reese, Springfield; and one great-grandson, Riley of Springfield.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the MSU Foundation, Missouri State University - West Plains, 128 Garfield Ave, West Plains, MO 65775. Please write "The Lela and Lowell Restricted Current Scholarship Fund" in the memo line.
A "Celebration of Lela's Life" will be on Friday, August 1, 7:00 p.m. in Highland Springs Country Club, Springfield.
Published in the News-Leader on July 25, 2014