On Wednesday, May 10, 2023, our mother, B. VeNita (Crabtree) Connley, passed peacefully from this life and entered Heaven. She was surrounded by many members of her family.
VeNita was born January 17, 1928 in St. Joseph, Missouri, the fourth child of Clarence Dee and Edith (Woodward) Crabtree. During the Depression they moved to a farm in New Hampton, Missouri. She attended the Locust Grove School. They purchased a farm south of Bethany, Missouri. She then attended the Mitchelville country school and after graduating from Bethany High School (where she was an honor student), she attended Maryville State Teacher’s College, teaching her own district country school at the age of 17, as the school board had approved of her taking two years in one. She was active in the Mitchelville church and 4-H club and won many honors. She and her sister performed around the county with an acrobatic-dance routine and she sang solos for Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs as well as weddings.
She married James (Jim) Connley , (a tall, handsome Marine who had survived WWII), in a double-ring ceremony with her brother and his wife at the Love Chapel in Leon, Iowa on April 20, 1946. They made Marshalltown their home. She was employed by the Security Bank as a teller and later as an auditor. She set up and managed the Cooperative Advertising Department for Lennox Industries. She later became a real estate associate. She was a Red Cross instructor, chairwoman of volunteers, served two terms on the local board, set up the local blood pressure clinic, instructed for the National Red Cross, served as a state consultant and an auditor, was named Volunteer of the Year and in time became the Marshall County Red Cross director. She was sent to Louisiana, Puerto Rico and Kentucky as a disaster specialist. The Governor of Kentucky named her as an Honorable Kentucky Colonel for her work.
Mother was a beautiful, energetic, multi-talented woman. She had four daughters whom she called “her little women.” She designed and sewed clothes for them, gave fabulous birthday parties, and for the two oldest – horrible Tony perms. Our home was always the hub of the neighborhood. She used her talents as a leader for 4-H, Brownies and Girl Scouts.
She was a Sunday school teacher for Grace EUB Church, sung in the choir, served as chairwoman of Social Concerns and wrote and directed many of the Christmas programs.
She and Dad were always active in the community. They supported the beginning of night classes at MCC, (where in time she received her AA degree), helped start a square dance club, they also supported a Vietnamese refugee family and were founding members of what is now called Grace Church. Mother also helped start a Christian Women’s Club, performed with the “Sweet Adelines” in Las Vegas, was a member of the Oratorical Society and sang in the first presentation of “The Messiah” and for many years thereafter. She was a member of Kiwanis Queens and PEO chapter NU. While living in Palisade, Colorado she performed in a few of the senior citizen plays.
In the winter of 1963, Mom and Dad bought a fixer upper and acreage on West Main Street Road. It began a time for the family of remodeling, building, small farming, and having pets and horses. There was fun, laughter, stories, adventures and LOTS OF WORK!
Mother genuinely loved people and entertaining. She made friends wherever she went. When Mom was around, no one was left out. In her 90s she was still planning birthday parties and coffees. At 90 years old she had a public showing of her art work. She had several of her poems printed in the TR. She wrote one book and was almost finished with another.
Above all else, Mother loved Jesus – all her life. She was eager to share his love with anyone in need, in a variety of ways and with passion. While living at the Embers she invited everyone to Bible study and Vespers. But the best way she shared Jesus was by living her life.
As a dedicated wife, Mother took care of Dad for 22 years after his stroke. She was very proud of her family right down to the 20 great-grandchildren. With her we all experienced fun, games, celebrations, joy of life, faith and love. Her legacy was a strong foundation in the Christian faith.
She was preceded in death by her husband of 66 years, parents and siblings. She is survived by her daughters: Jinita (Doug) Boyd and Gena (Ed) Graglia, both of Marshalltown; Penny (Doug) Pfantz of Melbourne and Lynnette (Ron) Summy of Palisade, Colorado. Grandchildren: Kerry (Justin) Anderson – VA., James (Shannon) Boyd – IA., Courtney (Bill) Micheel – IA., Nathanael (Michelle) Graglia – TX., Zachary (Stacy) Pfantz – IA., Brant (Michelle) Pfantz – IA., Nick Pfantz – MN., Shiloh (Karley) Summy – PA., and Nicole (Keaton) Bell – MO. Great-grandchildren: Dylan & Gavin Anderson; Hudson and Drew Boyd; Adeline, Elliott and Lewis Micheel; Vincent & Samuel Graglia; Tate, Tessa & Tyus Pfantz; Noah and Zadie Pfantz; Stella & Stetson Summy; and Blaine, Sienna, Keira, & Ariya Bell.
We give thanks to God for giving us such a wonderful Mother for 95 years.
We want to express our thanks to the friends and staff at the Embers who gave Mother such joy. On the last day of her life, a special thank you to the staff of Marshalltown Unity Point ER and Hospital for the compassionate and dignified care they provided for our Mother and all of us.
There will be a visitation on Sunday, June 25 from 4:00 – 6:00pm at the Mitchell Funeral Home. Mother’s memorial service will be Monday, June 26, 2023 at 1:30pm at the First United Methodist Church, Marshalltown.
Memorial gifts may be made to the American Heart Association or to the family for a yet to be determined memorial.