Bess Wilmoth Earhart Nichols, 98, of Perry, formerly of Arispe, passed away peacefully Jan. 28, 2023, at the Perry Lutheran Homes Kings Garden Campus in Perry.
Bess was born Dec. 28, 1924, the daughter of Joseph and Evie (Durrwachter) Earhart, Sr. in Bumpus Mills, Tennessee. She was educated in Stewart County Tennessee schools. In the sixth grade she won the Stewart County Spelling Bee. This would be the first of multiple spelling bees she would win. She always gave credit for winning the spelling bees to an elementary teacher who taught phonics. She was valedictorian of the Dover High School class of 1940.
After graduation she moved to St. Louis, Missouri, for employment. While in St. Louis she was a volunteer at the USO. Volunteers were not allowed to give their phone numbers to men in the service. So, she gave her roommates phone number to Cecil Nichols, Jr. They were married March 21, 1944, in Hays, Kansas.
After World War II they settled in Arispe, and raised their family. She always believed if you live in a community you are to be part of it. She was a den mother, Sunday School teacher and the first chairperson of the Arispe School carnival. In 1964 she started a new career as the bookkeeper in the family grain elevator which they sold in 1986.
They enjoyed retirement, going on several trips in the United States, Canada and Europe. They loved going to parades, community events and seeing old customers. She enjoyed quilting. She made 47 quilts and gave all but one away, which she kept for herself. She really enjoyed spelling bees. She was a five-time senior citizens champion of the Iowa State Fair Spelling Bee. In 2011 she moved to Perry.
She is survived by her sons. John (Edna) of Shawnee, Oklahoma, Norman of Dewitt, Joe (Becca) of Snohomish, Washington, and Keith (Karen) of Perry; four grandchildren, one great-granddaughter and two great-great-granddaughters.
She was preceded in death by her husband Cecil; son Robert, daughter-in-law Cathie; stepgrandson John Thomas; her parents and siblings: Joe Jr., Orvil, Wilton, Maxine, Caroline, Elaine and Betty Lou.
Graveside services will be held 1 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2 in the Greenlawn Cemetery in Afton. Reverend Jim Morris will officiate. Family will great friends 2-4 p.m. at the Arispe Roadside Cafe.
In lieu of flowers memorials may be sent to East Union Dollars for Scholars.