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February 22, 2000

A couple of ladies who have brightened a lot of corners in our community are missing from the scene these days. Delores Day, best known simply as De De, has moved from her home southwest of Perry to the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, and Jo Vawter has been transferred to a room at Green Valley Nursing Home following a brief stay in the hospital.

De De retired as director of the Noble county welfare department, Oklahoma Department of Human Services, a few years ago, but that did not end her lifelong interest in helping other people. During the last years of his life, her husband was an invalid at Green Valley and she devoted as much time as possible to looking after him. She was in church every Sunday morning but after the benediction she hurried to Green Valley to read her sermon notes to him. Although De De retired after his death, she continued an active life as a volunteer in dozens of activities. She was fiercely independent, a plain talker, and utterly devoted to any responsibility assigned to her.

De De helped at the Perry Carnegie Library for years but her chief occupation was as a helper in dozens of ways at the Presbyterian church. To name but a few, she was church librarian, served on the board of elders, filled in as Sunday school teacher, made coffee and kept track of church attendance records. That's only scratching the surface. When she left for Texas, it took several people to handle all the jobs that had been left to her. She wanted no folderol about her departure so the congregation surprised her on her final Sunday in Perry by naming the library after her and giving her a plaque.

Jo Vawter is another one of those people who make Perry such a unique community. For several years she has offered her time and talents to assist unknown others who need a helping hand. She and her husband, Neal, came to Perry in the 1940s to operate the Davis Paint Associate Store on the south side of the square. They made friends quickly through the business but also through church, fraternal and charitable organizations in which they took an active part. Following Neal's death she concentrated on those interests and one of the principal beneficiaries has been the Operation Blessing warehouse and store in the old Blaine school building on the south side of town. Jo was pretty much in charge of the big room where children's clothing, old magazines and miscellaneous other items are on display.

One of her principal interests has been the dolls that people bring to Operation Blessing. For years she has made wardrobes for the dolls and offered them to be given as Christmas gifts. There's no telling how many little girls have gasped and smiled on Christmas morning when they found some of Jo's handiwork beneath the tree. Like almost everything else she did, those acts were anonymous.

Jo isn't working at Operation Blessing these days. After a trip to the hospital the other day she moved into a room at Green Valley Nursing Home and she will be a patient there for the foreseeable future. Jo's health is precarious and at least for now she is bedfast, unable to share her quiet energy with the many friends she has accumulated through the years. I understand she appreciates brief visits, but before making a call it would be best to check at the nurses' desk to make sure it's OK. It will be difficult to find someone who is willing to serve in all the capacities Jo has filled.

Our small town needs men and women like Jo Vawter and De De Day to keep things running. Now is a good time to express our appreciation to all of them, including those who labor silently with no accompanying fanfare.