Thelma Grace Conley Hughes, 105, of Spencer

Thelma Grace Conley Hughes passed away after a short illness at 4:00 a.m. March 2, 2021 at Roane General Hospital, Spencer.

She was born at Zona, Roane County, one of 16 children born to the late Ord and Ethel (Gandee) Conley. She married Harold Hughes and they raised 12 children at their Coon Creek farm. Harold worked away from home for many years, so Thelma had most of the responsibility for parenting, which she did with her usual positive, uncomplaining manner.

After Harold’s retirement, they began spending their winters in Hemet CA, near Harold’s niece, Millie and her husband Lloyd Jaspering for several years, and then moved there permanently. Harold passed away in 1978. Thelma found many educational and creative opportunities that were not available to her in rural West Virginia and she took full advantage of them. She was inspired by a documentary “Life after 60” to tell about her “after 60” adventures, and they are listed here in her words.

“I started thinking of all the things I have done since my 60th birthday: first plane flight, first driver’s license, high school GED, 6 Elderhostels with honorary college degrees, several trips across country, a trip to Alaska, two trips to Hawaii, several trips to Mexico, one to Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia; also London, Ireland, Belgium, France, Germany through the corridor to East Berlin, bus trip from Belgium with a tour of Paris. Painted more than 100 oil paintings, took classes in golf, tennis, swimming, art, exercise; made a few trips to Las Vegas, Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, Pasadena Rose Parade, car trips with George (Shultz) to Canada, up the coast and inland through Arizona, Colorado, Yosemite, Palm Springs, Joshua Tree National Monument, Washington, D.C., Coon Creek and Dollywood. This does prove that life begins at 60. This was after I had done the most important part of my life.”

Thelma didn’t mention that the Wells-Fargo Bank in Hemet had a special display of her paintings, and that future generations will cherish her paintings forever. While in France, she was able to visit the grave of her brother, Irvin, who died heroically in the Normandy Invasion.

Thelma was a non-judgmental, loving, caring person who made friends easily and always met her many friends and family members with a smile and warm hug. She never failed to express her appreciation for anything anybody did for her.

Thelma moved to Spencer and spent several years living there independently. At an advanced age she had surgery to remove a brain tumor, to repair a broken hip, and a shattered knee cap, but she always worked to rehabilitate herself and remain ambulatory. She could often be seen walking around Spencer and visiting the library and her other friends, especially Candace Westfall at the Antique Mall. She moved to the Roane General Skilled Nursing Unit in November 2019, where she spent the remaining months and earned the love and respect of the staff there. They gave her a big 105th Birthday party, and she received over 160 cards and a proclamation from the Governor for the occasion. The family would like to thank the staff at Roane General for their loving care, and the students in the Junior Volunteers, who loved her so much they asked for her picture to be placed in the activity room. She last attended the Spencer Presbyterian Church.

Thelma was preceded in death by her parents, her husband, sisters, Sybil Lemon, Alice Miller, Mildred Turner, Naomi Miller and Flossie Eakin; brothers, Roy, Ross, Ray, Edwin, James, Brice, Irvin and infant, Claudie; daughters, Joyce Raines and Kerry Gilbert; sons, David and Richard.

She is survived by sister, Janet Smith of Elyria OH and brother, Jason (JoAnn) Conley of Charleston WV; daughters, Jean Fields of Hemet CA, Doris Thomas of Gay, Ethel Elaine Barker of Colorado Springs CO, and Katherine Ferguson of Proctorville OH; sons, Paul of Spencer, George of Fremont CA, Frank of Cottageville WV and John of Pedro OH; daughter-in-law, Sharon Hughes of Marshall MI; son-in-law, James “Rick” Gilbert of Walton WV; caregiver, Donna Scott; 34 grandchildren, 50 great grandchildren and 27 great great grandchildren.

Thelma will be interred in the Mt. Lebanon Cemetery beside her husband, Harold. She requested that no funeral be held, but that family and friends “just have a party.” A Celebration of life will be held at a later date.

She asked that memorial donations be made to the Mt. Lebanon Cemetery Fund, c/o Premier Bank, 406 Main Street, Spencer WV 25276 or to the Roane County Scholarship Foundation, 804 Summit Street, Spencer WV 25276.

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