Cover photo for Thelma Gaffney's Obituary
Thelma Gaffney Profile Photo

Thelma Gaffney

April 9, 1920 — November 18, 2022

Thelma Darlene Gaffney, age 102, of Memphis, Missouri died peacefully in her sleep at the Clark County Nursing Home in Kahoka, Missouri on November 18, 2022. She was born April 9, 1920 in rural Luray, Missouri to Otto George Meinhardt and Mary May Barton Meinhardt. She was raised on their family farm, attending country school through 8th grade and graduating from Luray High School.

Thelma and her older sister Wilma had agreed to help each other afford additional education. Wilma worked as a nanny in Chicago, sending money to enable Thelma to attend and graduate from Gem City Business School. Thelma then worked as a bookkeeper at John Morrell's in Ottumwa, Iowa, and in turn sent money to Wilma to help her complete her nursing degree.

While Thelma worked in Ottumwa, her parents and brothers moved to a family farm near Milton, Iowa.

On one of her visits to her parents in 1940, Thelma met Norris Edwin Gaffney at the Milton roller skating rink, and Norris told his friends that he'd just met the gal he was going to marry! They were indeed married on December 5, 1943 at the Luray Methodist church. Norris and Thelma would celebrate 71 anniversaries until Norris's 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 farmed for 54 years and raised their four children, Karen, Sue, Alan, and Philip. In 2000, they purchased a home in Memphis and retired to the city.

While Thelma was proud of her children, she took tremendous, quiet pride in her grandchildren. She enjoyed visiting with them and hearing all about their work, school, farming, sports, music, 4-H, sewing, cooking, gardening, crafting, and everything going on in their lives. She marveled at two granddaughters who traveled to far regions of the world and said she couldn't imagine doing such a thing. However, in 1945 Thelma journeyed alone by train halfway across the country to be with Norris when he returned to California after the war. She delighted in watching and hearing about the shenanigans of her grandchildren, and great- grandchildren wondering what would be next. They always gave her a chuckle and a good story to share.

Thelma participated in the county extension council and became a charter  member of the Friendly Neighbors extension club with her many friends. She also volunteered at the Downing House Museum in Memphis pitching in wherever 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, Church circle, and always there in the back contributing to make the work a little lighter for others. She was known for her delicious pies and kept baking well into her 80s for the church fundraisers. When asked if she might need to slow down, her reply was that she had to do this because many of the ladies in the church were quite elderly! She was recognized as the "Mother of the Year" in the Presbyterian church one Mother's Day.

In her 102 years, she saw amazing changes take place. She and her sister rode to school with a horse and buggy.  Years later, Thelma learned to drive a car in a pasture, and in her 60s she was flying in an airplane to Mexico.  Although she shook her head at a lot of technology, she always smiled when it meant she could spend time with her grandchildren and great- grandchildren who were far away.

Thelma will be remembered for her wonderful smile, her kindness, and her generosity in volunteering for whatever needed 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 of Kahoka, MO. In Norris' family: Jerry (Nancy) Gaffney, Barneveld, WI, and  Norma Zeitler, Douds, IA, plus many nieces and nephews.

Thelma was preceded in death by her husband, Norris, her parents, Otto & Mary Meinhardt; her daughter-in-law, Phyllis Gaffney; her sister & husband, Wilma & Dr. Robert Galbraith; her brother & wife, George & Lurla Meinhardt, her brothers, Wayne, Dale, & Deane Meinhardt; her sister-in-law Jean Evans & husband, John; and brother-in-law, James Zeitler.

Pallbearers were Tim Eager, Daniel Grubb, Brett Gaffney, Ryan Gaffney, Andy Williams, and James Rafferty.

Memorials in lieu of flowers are suggested to the Clark County Nursing Home in care of Payne Funeral Chapel, 202 E Madison Street, Memphis, MO  63555.
1:00 P.M. 11/21
Chapel Service
2:00 P.M. 11/21
South Prairie Cemetery
Milton, Iowa
Memorial Contributions
Clark County Nursing Home % Payne's To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Thelma Gaffney, please visit our flower store.


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