Melba Wilkes, 89Published 9:05pm Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Melba C. Wilkes, 89
Born: June 29, 1923
Died: Jan. 8, 2013
Melba C. Wilkes, 89, of Dowagiac (beloved Mom, Grams, Boppie) passed away at her daughter’s home the morning of Jan. 8, 2013.
She was born in Sovereign, W. Va., June 29, 1923, the eldest child of the Rev. Robert M. and Hazel Ruth (Buchanan) Gibson.
In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by: her husband, M/Sgt Howard K. Wilkes, in 1976; her sister and brother-in-law, Thomas M. and Lorraine Elswick; and her son-in-law, Louis DeGraff.
Survivors include: her daughter, Connie (Michael) DeGraff-Shearer of Dowagiac; her son, Robert E. (Karen) Wilkes of Paw Paw; three grandchildren, Connie (Brad Phillips) Wilkes, Louis (Nicole) DeGraff and Adam (Christin) DeGraff; six great-grandchildren, Kelton Jacob Phillips, Edward and Evelyn DeGraff, Charlotte, Molly and Louis DeGraff; two sisters, Gloria E. Farmer of Omar, W. Va., and Donna (Richard) Boothe of Kalamazoo; one brother, Robert M. Gibson Jr. of Hamilton, Ala.; special niece, Ruth Elswick-Rando of Louisiana; and many relatives and friends.
Growing up she was devoted to her parents and younger siblings.
After finishing school she went to Detroit, working in a defense plant for the U.S. Army Air Corps as an engraver during World War II, always sending money and packages home.
When the war ended, she returned home and married the love of her life, career soldier M/Sgt Howard K. Wilkes March 9, 1945, in Paintsville, Ky.
Through the years as her children were growing up she lived wherever the military sent them, stateside and overseas.
Their transfer to the Dowagiac area is where they settled and eventually retired.
Mrs. Wilkes work for Berry’s Pharmacy, then Heddon’s and Per-Pac after her husband passed away. She then began ballroom dancing at Arthur Murray Studios and her love of dance took her to competitions across the U.S., winning trophies along the way.
When not dancing she was traveling, the United States and abroad many times.
Europe, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Israel and Bali were some of her favorite places and returning to Germany, where her family lived during their military days.
She belonged to First United Methodist Church, the Red Hat Club, enjoyed aerobics class and took part in local senior groups and activities.
A gifted seamstress, she designed and made many of her dance gowns and costumes, always sewing for her children and grandchildren. She loved her family dearly and lived a full and exciting life. The memories of our life with her will always be cherished and held in our hearts.
With grateful hearts we thank and appreciate Beverly Wade, who tirelessly cared for Mom so tenderly and lovingly. Also, granddaughter Sissie (Connie) who always came for her Grams, Hospice at Home, Mary, Bonnie, Nancy, Laurie and Margie who helped us so much through this journey. God bless you all.
Mom, Grams, you taught us to love, you taught us strength, you taught us compassion. Love you always and forever.
Melba’s family will gather with friends on Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. at Yazel and Clark Chapel, where her funeral service will be on Friday at 10 a.m. led by Father Kevin Covert of Holy Maternity of Mary Catholic Church.
Memorial contributions in her name may be directed to the Disabled American Veterans (DAV). Please sign her guestbook and leave a memory of Melba at www.yazel-clark.com.