Shirley Joan Wilmeth
Silver City: Shirley Joan Rice Wilmeth, 88, passed away on August 6, 2020. The oldest child and only daughter of Carl and Leona Rice, Joan was born in a little house on Yankee Street in Silver City, New Mexico, on December 5, 1931. She is among an ever-shorter list of Grant County residents who were born, lived their entire lives, and die in southwestern New Mexico. She was known to her friends as Joan, her husband as Sue, her children as Mom and her grandchildren as Gram.
Joan spent her childhood in Cliff. She was surrounded by family in every direction. She is the descendent of the families of Moss, Rice, Shelley, and Turman, all early pioneering families of “the river”, with the first arriving in 1880.
She will forever remain the only sister to her brother, Bill. She was also a member of the “sister cousins”, a group of beautiful and feisty cousins who all grew up as if they were sisters rather than cousins and attended Cliff Schools together. That group of Joan, Maureen and Georgie Barrows, Mary Hooker, and Betty Rice were a formidable bunch; projecting the ‘one for all and all for one’ kind of attitude. They remained faithful and lifelong best friends.
In 1947, Joan married Pete Wilmeth in a what turned out to be an all points bulletin sort of affair. They eloped, and outran the law arriving in Reserve to stand in front of the Justice of the Peace to recite their life’s vows.
The union that ensued encompassed 72 years of a very happy marriage, and, husband, Pete, survives to exemplify the outcome of that rare accomplishment. Their marriage produced four children; Susan, Steve, Paul and Mary Kristen. Only Mary Kristen failed to reach adulthood. She died at birth. The oldest daughter, Susan, died of the ravages of cancer at the age of 64 in 2013. The two brothers, Steve and his wife, Katherine, and Paul and his wife, Jody, survive Joan’s passing.
Joan will be remembered for many things. She was a faithful wife, a great cook, a wonderful seamstress, a country homemaker, an accomplished painter, and a devoted, proud, and very caring mother and grandmother. She is survived by grandchildren Sean, Kristen, Amy, Stephanie, Lindsay, Josh and Jen. Joan also lived to see 14 great grandchildren and one great great grandson brought into the world with assurance of knowing what their Gila River heritage means.
Special thanks must go out to the extraordinary friends and various caregivers including Dollie Brown, Blue Horizon’s Jill Shannon and staff, and the Ambercare Hospice staff. The family cannot thank these devoted, dedicated, and hugely qualified people enough for their loving kindness and special care.
In this time of COVID restrictions, a private graveside service and internment will be held graveside at the Mesa Cemetery at Gila, New Mexico, August 15 at 10:30 AM.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in the name of Joan Wilmeth for the care of Alzheimer’s patients at the following address: Blue Horizons Properties, Residents and Staff Appreciation Fund, 2707 Spitz, Las Cruces, New Mexico, 88005 Arrangements made by Bright Funeral Home, 210 W. College Avenue, Silver City, NM 88061. Please visit www.hbrightfuneral.net for further information or to sign the online local guest book.
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