SIKESTON - Thelma Atteberry Bess, 99, of Sikeston and formerly of Charleston, died at 7:48 a.m. Feb. 5, 2008, at West Ridge Place in Sikeston.
She was born April 28, 1908, at McCool, Miss., to the late Walter Phillip and Hattie Clark Wade Atteberry. Her family moved to Charleston in 1922. After high school graduation, she worked from 1928 until 1941 in insurance and abstract work, and was in charge of an abstract company until it was sold. She became a legal secretary, and from 1941 until 1955, she worked in that position for Judge James C. McDowell in both the circuit court and the court of appeals.
She moved to Sikeston in 1957 and was a legal secretary and office manager for the Gilmore Law Firm until 1984. Extremely proficient in locating points of law, she taught many beginning lawyers the use of the law library. She was the first legal secretary to be awarded Secretary of the Year for the state of Missouri.
She was a published poet, mainly of poems for children, and was well known for her many acts of kindness and generosity. In Charleston, she was a lifelong member of the First Baptist Church, where she served as church organist and choir director for over 40 years. She also directed many Christmas and Easter pageants. She was the last surviving member of the organizers of the first Vacation Bible School in the state of Missouri.
For several years, she was the accompanist for a local golden age choir, which performed in Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana and Missouri. In Sikeston, she became a member of Murray Lane Baptist Church and later Fellowship Baptist Church.
On Dec. 27, 1935, in Charleston, she married Roy A. Bess. He preceded her in death on Dec. 27, 1955.
She is survived by a daughter and son-in-law, Catherine Ann Camden-
Howard and Ronald Howard of Sikeston; one stepdaughter and stepson-in-
law, Paula Gay and Lloyd "Beans" Evans of Sikeston; one brother, Phil Atteberry of Charleston; two grandchildren, Bernard R. Dawkins II and his wife, Theresa of St. Louis and Amy L. Sirk of Bertrand; one step-
granddaughter, Merry C. Lape of Sikeston; three great-grandchildren, Michael Dawkins of St. Louis, Sara Bess Slayden of Venice, Calif., and Elizabeth Anne Sirk of Bertrand; two great-stepgrandsons, Tradd Hess of Sikeston and Evan Hess of the U.S. Air Force stationed at Fayetteville, N.C.
She was preceded in death by two brothers, Felix Wade Atteberry and James M. Atteberry; and four sisters, Frances Atteberry, Sue Atteberry, Lurline Durst and Louise "Til" Moran.
Friends may call from noon until 2 p.m. Thursday at the Nunnelee Funeral Chapel in Sikeston, where funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Thursday with the Rev. Michael Brewer, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Charleston, officiating.
Burial will follow in the I.O.O.F. Cemetery at Charleston.
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The family requests
in her memory
be made to:
2008 Kenny Rogers Children's Center Telethon
300 Floyd Dr.
Sikeston, MO 63801