LaWilda Jo Bishop Reitz was born December 18, 1925, by the light of a gas oil lamp and at a house heated by coal on the family farm west of Byron, Oklahoma to Joe and Velma Marie Bishop.
She attended school at Byron, Oklahoma where she was a multi-talented musician, with emphasis on voice, piano and violin. She also gave piano lessons and played in the Byron orchestra. During high school she was offered a music teaching position at a college in Kansas but declined to finish school and graduated as Valedictorian. LaWilda also loved to play basketball and was a co-star of the team with her sister, Barbara Jean. It was often said, ‘if one of the Bishop girls get the ball, there will be a score’!
LaWilda met the love of her life in Cherokee, Oklahoma, Robert E. Reitz. At the time, he worked at the Dixie Clothing Store. After a proper courtship, the two were married on February 17, 1947, at the First Christian Church in Cherokee. Soon after, Bob and LaWilda opened Reitz Mens Wear and they walked together to the store each day with LaWilda wearing her ‘high-heel shoes!” After five years of marriage, Risa Kay was born and five years later, Ken Robert was born.
They worked hand in hand, and she supported Bob in any endeavor he might pursue. She dearly loved being a housewife and a loving mother. Raising a family in Cherokee was monumental and the best life anyone could ask for. The closeness of friends to LaWilda, Bob and children was a love that has and will never end.
After Bobs untimely passing, she spent much of her time in Norman with Risa–helping and loving her two grandchildren. She and Risa joined Ken, and together, they ran a successful floral business, Woods Floral Company–where employees became family and customers became friends. Those were some of the best years of her life. Beautiful flowers to perfection and customer relations were ‘second to none’ for LaWilda.
LaWilda was known for her delightful foods. She loved to bake bread along with other delectable dishes. She even had her ‘white homemade bread’ recipe published in the Cherokee Newspaper while still in high school. She had a love of sharing her baked delicacies with others and that tradition is carried on by both of her children.
LaWilda–a lifelong seamstress–was said to have been born with a sewing needle in her hand. She particularly loved sewing for grandchildren and great grandchildren and made numerous quilts, cross-stitch and needlepoint.
She loved the ‘old-fashioned’ way of correspondence…notes, greeting and birthday cards…all in her handwriting to ‘keep in touch’.
LaWilda took great pride in never missing an opportunity to vote…whether school board, city, county, state or federal…it was her civic duty.
She had a lifetime of never receiving a traffic ticket citation, as she often noted!
She was a lifelong member of the First Christian Church of Cherokee, serving as a Kindergarten teacher for over 60 years. She dearly loved her church family. She was active in her community….ESA Sorority, Alfalfa County Historical Society, hospital volunteer, home room mother, her children’s school activities and the Alfalfa County Democrat Women’s Club.
LaWilda was proud to have accomplished her eternal dream to see that no child in Alfalfa County went to school without a warm coat, through the establishment of the LaWilda Bishop Reitz Foundation. Her dream became reality.
LaWilda had long and numerous friendships that were meaningful to her. She was a loyal and trusted friend in return.
We will greatly miss her gentle kindness and love.
LaWilda passed away peacefully on Tuesday, April 11, 2023, and will be laid to rest next to Bob on Monday. She is survived by her daughter Risa Kay of Norman, Oklahoma and her son Ken Robert of Oklahoma City–grandchildren Blake Joseph and Ashley Elizabeth–great grandchildren Karsen, Cooper, Reese and Rylee–numerous nieces and nephews and lifelong friends.
The family would like to personally thank her special doctors, Dr. William Boudurant, Cheri Bonsteel PA, and Dr. Branilsav Schifferdecker for their many years of loving care and special friendships and caregivers Anitra, Maria, Stephanie, Becky, Rhoda, Michelle, Abigal, and many others were a true blessing and will always be loved.
Viewing will take place Saturday, April 15 from 11 am to 7 p.m. and Sunday, April 16 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. with family present from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Smith & Kernke Funeral Home on North May Avenue in Oklahoma City. Funeral services and a Celebration of Life will be held Monday, April 17 at 11 a.m. at the Smith & Kernke Chapel.
A graveside service will then be held at the Cherokee Municipal Cemetery in Cherokee Oklahoma. Seating will be provided.
Memorial contributions may be made to:
The Cherokee Ministerial Alliance C/O
The First Christian Church
202 South Kansas
Cherokee, Oklahoma 73728
The Cherokee Educational Foundation
C/O Cassandra Berry
1103 Hadwiger Drive
Cherokee, Oklahoma 73728