Theresa Helen Smallwood Gregory passed away on May 24, 2014 at the Christian Health Care Center, Hermitage at the age of 84 years of natural causes. She was born at the beginning of the Great Depression on August 19, 1929 in Ironwood, Michigan, the youngest of four children of Albert and Helen Mueller Oettel.
Times were hard for everyone and the family saw many hardships. Much of the time they traveled on foot and worked at whatever they could find. When Theresa was three, her family camped for several months with a lean-to over the front of a small cave in the Wisdom, Missouri community. At age ten, both of her parents died in DeQueen, Arkansas one month apart. Her oldest brother, Albert, age 17, who lived and worked near Wisdom, traveled to Arkansas to bring his sister back to the Wisdom community. There she lived with foster parents, Arvel and Thursie McMillin and attended Freedom School.
On August 27, 1947, Theresa married Glen William Smallwood. Three daughters and one son were born to this union. Glen and Theresa were married just a few months short of fifty years before Glen passed away.
On June 26, 1999, Theresa married Gordon Gregory. They enjoyed visiting with their families, working in the garden, and attending music shows where they had a good time visiting with friends and dancing. For nearly ten years, they remained together until each experienced major health problems and Theresa entered the nursing home.
Theresa is survived by her husband, Gordon Gregory, Lowry City; daughter, Genola Jean Rash and husband, David, of Cross Timbers; daughter, Lola Jane Palmer and husband, Larry, of Osceola; and son, David William Smallwood and wife, Patty of Warsaw; eight grandchildren, nineteen great-grandchildren and one great-great-granddaughter. Theresa is also survived by sister-in-law, Dolly Oettel, Bradenton, Florida; sister-in-law, Mildred Smallwood Bell, Sedalia, Missouri; and a brother-in-law, Ronald Kirby, Archie, Missouri; and many loving nieces and nephews. She is also survived by many dear long-time friends that have been a great comfort to her.
Theresa was preceded in death by her husband, Glen Smallwood; one daughter, Glenda Sue; her parents; a brother and his wife, Albert and Athalene Oettel, Hartsville, Tennessee; brother and wife, Frederick and Ione Oettel, Waterloo, Iowa; and brother, James Oettel of Bradenton, Florida; sister-in-law and husband, Marie Smallwood Harrop and Walter; sister-in-law and husband, Elno Smallwood Snyder and George; sister-in-law, Ethel Smallwood Kirby; and brother-in-law, Carroll Bell.
Theresa was always known in the neighborhood to be a hard worker. Although she worked outside the home some, most of her time was dedicated to caring for and working with her family. She and Glen always raised cattle and a huge garden. Theresa could be seen selling their produce in Warsaw every Saturday throughout the summer. It was common place to see her out working side-by-side with the men “bucking” bales of hay or driving a tractor. For many years, Glen and Theresa worked in a business with Larry, Lola, David and Patty cutting, splitting and bundling wood to be sold in the Kansas City area.
From the time Theresa came to the Wisdom community, she attended Mt Olive Holiness Church near the home she and Glen shared for most of their lives. Rev. Kenneth Shinn, having experienced the loss of his mother at a young age also, became a close friend to her when she first came to the community.
The family would like to thank everyone who visited Theresa in the nursing home, sent her cards and letters on special occasions, and the many kindnesses to her and the family. They would like to extend a special thank you to the staff at Christian Health Care and Transitions Hospice for the excellent care.
During the time the Oettel family lived in the cave in the Wisdom community, they were interviewed by a reporter from the Henry County Democrat for a story that was printed on Thursday, Dec. 22, 1932. The author wrote, “Theresa, age 3, the baby of the family is quite a talker.” Despite many hardships in her life time, Theresa remained a cheerful person and a great conversationalist to the end – she loved nothing more than to visit with a friend and she always greeted everyone with a big smile and twinkling eyes. Most strangers did not remain strangers for long.
Funeral Services will be at 1:30 P.M. Wednesday, May 28, 2014, at the Reser Funeral Home in Warsaw, Missouri, with Rev. Mike Henderson officiating.
Visitation will be from 7:00 to 8:00 P.M. Tuesday evening at the Reser Funeral Home
Burial will be in the Hopewell Cemetery in southern Benton County.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Hopewell Cemetery Fund in care of the Reser Funeral Home.