DIGHTON — Leota Jewel Watkins was born June 13, 1931, to Albert (Alley) and Marguerite Watkins in Garnett, Kansas. She was greeted at birth by her five older sisters Kay, Nina, Gladys, Dorothy and Wanda. She had additional siblings Lea, Allen, Roxie and Vinita Kay. All nine of her siblings were close and shared a fierce loyalty and love for family that was certainly passed on.
As a young girl, along with sisters Gladys and Lea, Mom would sing on the radio and for numerous functions and fairs. That love of music was carried throughout her life and passed on to her children and grandchildren. She also had a great love of roller skating as a young girl and would take every opportunity to go and skate…even when she wasn’t supposed to go!
While a young girl, Leota came to Dighton to visit her sisters Dorothy and Nina for the summer and fell in love with Rex Owen. Her main contact was seeing Dad at the movie theater. He would buy “Roossian peanuts” (commonly known as sunflower seeds) for Mom in order to have an excuse to sit with her at the movies. Mom left after that summer and returned in her early twenties with daughters Carol and Lynn to help work and manage the café owned by her sister Dorothy and brother-in-law Frank. Dad was home from the military and had plans to go to Denver to start a business venture with a friend. When he learned that mom was back living in Dighton, those plans changed, and he stayed in Dighton to pursue his childhood sweetheart.
On September 20, 1954, they married and started a long and beautiful life journey. Starting off they managed the L&F Café owned by sister Dorothy till they started their family. They were blessed in marriage with four additional children: Lori, Max, Mark, and Mike. Leota was then a full time homemaker, a profession she took great pride in doing. After her children were older, she managed the Fridged Crème where she expanded her mothering, teaching, and life skills to all the many young girls who worked there over the years. She left her mark on most of them. She and Rex were also members of the Order of the Eastern Star together for a number of years. Rex and Leota were members of the First Christian Church in Dighton. Their marriage spanned 65 years, and they lived most of those years at 234 North First Street, where together they raised their six children.
Leota loved most to care for her family and often told others her hobbies were cooking and cleaning. She loved people and loved being with friends and family. She lived her life with lots of laughter and enjoyed having fun and usually was the life of every party. She and Rex loved to dance the jitterbug. She had a quick tongue and enjoyed reading non-fiction books about law and health and loved to learn. She passed that love along to her children. She was an exemplary mother. She taught us all the value of hard work. She taught us to be resourceful and creative problem solvers. We learned from her that “our word was our bond” and that integrity and honesty were of the highest priority. She taught us to stand up for what was right and to be willing to stand on principle. She taught us to be empathetic of others and to love unconditionally. She lived by example and enjoyed extending a hand to someone in need, or at the very least bake them a loaf of her famous banana bread (aka Nanny Bread). She was generous to a fault and valued family and friends over material possessions. She made certain her children got a good education and wanted for nothing we needed. She supported all our endeavors and was our biggest champion and fan.
She passed at 10:04 am on March 12, 2019 in Anamosa, IA. She was preceded in death by her parents and husband of 64 years, sisters Kay, Gladys, Nina, Dorothy, and brother Allen.
It is hard to measure how much Leota will be missed by all of us who remain behind. The mark she left on our lives will be forever felt. She will be remembered for so much. The love for her children and grandchildren has left us all with memories to last an eternity. Her example and life will be expressed through countless lives that she touched. Leota had a long and full journey of life with her husband Rex by her side. They were inseparable in life, and now in death, and lived a marriage that taught us all to love unconditionally, to forgive easily, to fight fairly, and to love fully. Mom lived a life never wasting a moment to tell you she loved you in both words and deeds. We are comforted in death by her quiet faith. We are all blessed for the 87 years we have had and will live our lives going forward with the knowledge that we will see her again in Heaven. Thanks be to God for this good and faithful servant, mother, grandmother, great grandmother, friend and wife. We ask God to give us all the strength to go on without her and to live our lives in a manner that exemplifies what she has taught and meant to us. May God eternally bless and keep her soul. We will miss you Mama.
It was the wish of Rex and Leota to have a combined Celebration of Life service upon both of them passing. They felt their life was one life together and not separate. The family will have the service in Dighton at the First Christian Church on April 26th at 10:00 am with a private internment for the family to follow.