Norma Jean Gentry (nee Whitley) was born April 29, 1929, in Sand Springs, Oklahoma, and passed away on January 23, 2016, in Bakersfield, California, of natural causes at the age 86.
Norma's family moved to Tipton, California, in 1936. Her mother was treated for tuberculosis at the now defunct Tulare Kings Counties Joint Tuberculosis Sanitarium in Springville, California, and succumbed to the disease in 1938. Norma wanted her ashes to be interred with her mother in the Tipton-Pixley Cemetery.
In 1940, Norma's father married a widow, Liz Johns (nee Gallagher). The blended family lived in Visalia where Norma attended Visalia Union High School, class of 1948. She married Jim C Gentry on June 12, 1948, after graduating from high school, and they raised two daughters in Visalia before divorcing in 1969. While in Visalia she attended Federico beauty school where she earned her cosmetology license.
Norma moved to Bakersfield in the early 1970s. She worked for Goodyear until the plant shut down, and then worked for Mervyn's until retirement. She made many lifelong friends at Mervyn's and enjoyed their weekly luncheons. The employees jokingly called themselves the "Mervynites" and got together annually for a big party. Any friend of Norma's was a friend for life. She didn't take friendship lightly. Luncheons, parties, and correspondence - she kept up with all her friends and relatives.
Norma lived in Kernville, California, with her companion, Les Walton, for 16 years before her recent move to Bakersfield in 2015 to be near family. She enjoyed spending time with family and friends, crocheting, listening to music, cooking, and gardening. While living in Kernville, weekends would find Norma and Les at either Riverkern General Store, or Kern Valley Airport, their favorite places to eat. They stayed active until her health began to decline.
Family members, and many of her friends, will remember her by the afghans she crocheted for them. She was always working on an afghan for the newest member of her extended family. She also will be remembered for her rose garden. She loved roses, and they thrived under her care.
Norma was preceded in death by her ex-husband Jim C Gentry, sister Geneva Sanders, brother-in-law Don Sanders, sister-in-law Pat Whitley, step-brothers and wives Gene Johns (Roberta, Margie) and Ed Johns (Roxie), step-sister and husband Mary Holt (Everett), parents Richard and Ollie Whitley, and step-mother Liz Whitley.
Norma is survived by her companion of 16 years, Les Walton, Albany, OR; two daughters, Joanna Gentry, Santa Paula, CA, and Susan Bashor (Larry), Bakersfield, CA; one brother, Richard Whitley, Bodfish, CA; six grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, plus many nieces and nephews, and a very large extended family.
A graveside memorial service will be held Friday, March 4, 2016, at 11 AM at Tipton-Pixley Cemetery, Tipton, CA, 10395 Avenue 144, Tipton CA 93272. Fellowship at Vejar's in Tulare following the memorial.
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