This is not a name you will recognize or perhaps would have ever remembered if you were not a friend of mine to be reading this now.
Tomorrow, Friday, April 4th, 2008 I will drive my older sister to Houston and back so we can pay respects and honor the older sister of my Daddy. She was 85 and had been in a Nursing home watched over daily by her loving husband of 62 years. In all my knowing memory I have know her to be the most devoted of daughters, loving of sisters, faithful and congenial of wives, giving of mothers, generous of Aunts, and hope-filled believers I have ever known. She may have been the shortest woman I have ever known in stature, but she cast a giant shadow with the good works and kindness that followed her life. My tribute letter follows the obituary below:
Fleta Mae Gopffarth passed March 31, 2008, after a short illness.Born February 10, 1923 in Groesback, TX to Lottie and Burl Vinzant she loved and cherished her two sisters, Annie Loraine and Janey, and her three brothers Burl C., Lewis, and John Earl. In 1939, she became a Christian and was baptized.In 1940, she graduated from High School in Groesback, TX. Her father allowed her to have a piece of land for a cotton crop, where later that year she made a bale of cotton. After leaving home, she went to work in a defense plant. Here, she started with a broom and moved to screwing fuses into bombs. Shortly after, she took the job of driving a jeep pulling trailers full of TNT. As WW II ended, she went to work at a train station in Lolita, TX. In Lolita, she met her husband Albert R. Gopffarth and was married September 14, 1946.Albert and Fleta had two beautiful children Martha Kay (1948 – 1987) and Albert Brent (1951 – 1972). Martha married Kenneth Ray Martin of Baytown and had four boys: Jonathan David, Jeremy Michael, Jared Andrew, and Joshua Paul. The majority of her life was lived in Baytown taking care of her husband, children, and grandchildren. She moved to Tomball in 2006.Surviving are her husband, Albert R. Gopffarth, and sisters, Loraine Sadler, of Waco; Jane Spikes, of Moody; brother, Lewis Vinzant, of Greater Houston; and four grandchildren, Jonathan Martin with wife Kimberly, of Tomball, Jeremy Martin, of Los Angeles, CA, Jared Martin with wife Sara, of Cordova, TN, and Josh Martin with wife Mandy, of Los Angeles, CA; and great grandchildren, Adisyn, Anna Kate, Andrew, Ava, and Aiden.A visitation will be held from 6:00 – 8:00 PM, Thursday, April 3 at Earthman Baytown Funeral Home. The funeral service will be held at 12:30 PM, Friday, April 4 at Earthman Baytown Funeral Home with Reverend Burl Hickerson, officiating.
My Aunt Fleta and Uncle Albert lost their son at 21 to a horrific tragedy. Fifteen years later they lost their oldest child-Martha to a severe breast cancer—2 forms, 1 in each breast where they moved in to care for her and the four small children. Then on the day of the funeral they were asked to leave and kept for several years from seeing their only grandchildren as their son-in-laws affections ran to a new interests in the nine months it took his wife to die. Grief upon grief, but they kept their eyes on Jesus, they turned their great sorrow into service for others and were examples to many such as myself. And thankfully as the grandchildren came of age, they reunited with their grandparents and they have been a comfort in their old age.
Here is what I wrote on the Guest book of the funeral home website:
Dear Uncle Albert and boys--now so grown up,
My earliest memories of you two were out on the Vinzant place walking into the house--little, red haired Aunt Fleta and tall, mustached Uncle Albert with that little fru-fru Pomeranian dog in tow...what did that stodgy ole Queen in England have that our family did not have in a royal couple :)
The stories, the warmth, the care, and the laughter you shared with all of us-the attention you gave to us as young children. Albert's willingness to help Daddy, Granddaddy, or the other uncles on various project--when I was away at school for the first time and blew up my $700-- Volkswagen Squareback and was being fined for it being a nuisance--here came Albert and Daddy to tow the thing from Brownwood to Waco...
I was 16 when horror struck your life and your grace and dignity in embracing the Cross and silently suffering-- all the while maintaining your unwavering faith in a Good God--shaped my life and future work. When lingering tragedy struck again 15 years later, as a young father and pastor--your faith and grace in suffering deeply molded me. I will never read the Gospel passage of Lazarus the same again--"Jesus loved Martha..." I have told your story far and wife to hurting parents all these many years...and will continue to as long as I share the Gospel Hope.
In 2000, when that horror of horrors--out living your own child--happened to us with Sarah Ruth, I will never forget the comfort you gave when you both came into the room amidst 100's and engulfed us in your loving embrace and let the knowing pain in the back of your eyes penetrate into our very being--you became my Mentors in taking up the Cross and bearing suffering in silent HOPE. I would not have survived from then till now without your witness-your trust-your faith-your Hope.
Uncle Albert, I have no words other than these thanks to help heal your pain of losing a constant companion of 62 years. You will be in my daily prayers and I will carry your story to many--may those fine men, their wives, and those 5 adorable reflections of your own children bring you much comfort in the days to come. And may He who does promise in That Day to wipe away all tears bring you much comfort and a little laughter as you tell your sweetest memories of days gone by. You and dear Aunt Fleta live large in our hearts, prayers, hopes, and comforting words to others in pain.
With many prayers and hope,
Daniel Vinzant, Andrew and Lewis
My dear friends,
It is so much easier to say goodbye to those who live out their lives and you have time to say your goodbyes to. And writing out these thoughts is such a healing. Thanks for being one who walks along with me through this life journey and we share in each other’s joys and sorrows. I am amazed at how many I have come to hold so close—you do my heart much good.