Bess Wilmoth Earhart Nichols of Perry


Bess Wilmoth Earhart Nichols, 98, passed away peacefully Jan. 28, 2023, at the Perry Lutheran Homes Kings Garden Campus.

She was the daughter of Joseph and Evie (Durrwachter) Earhart Sr. and was born at home Dec. 28, 1924, in Bumpus Mills, Tennessee.

Wilmoth was educated in schools of Stewart County, Tennessee. In the sixth grade she won the Stewart County Spelling Bee. This would be the first of multiple spelling bees that 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, Wilmoth moved to St. Louis for employment. While in St. Louis, she was a volunteer at the USO, whose volunteers were not allowed to give their phone numbers to men in the service. So she gave her roommate’s phone number to Cecil Nichols Jr. They were married on March 21, 1944, in Hayes, Kansas.

After World War II, they settled in Arispe, Iowa, and raised their family.

Wilmoth always believed that if you live in a community, you should 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.

Wilmoth and Cecil enjoyed retirement, including going on several trips in the U.S., Canada and Europe. They loved going to parades, community events and seeing old customers.

Wilmoth 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.

She moved to Perry in 2011.

Wilmoth is survived by her sons, John (Edna) of Shawnee, Oklahoma, Norman of Dewitt, Iowa, 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; step-grandson, John Thomas; her parents; and siblings, Joe Jr., Orvil, Wilton, Maxine, Caroline, Elaine and Betty Lou.

Graveside services will be held Thursday, Feb. 2 at 1 p.m. at the Green Lawn Cemetery in Afton, Iowa. The Rev. Jim Morris will officiate. Family will great friends at the Arispe Roadside Café from 2-4 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to East Union Dollars for Scholars.


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