It was cooler than normal the 5th day of June, in 1926, when Moses H. Osbourn took out running up the dirt road in search of help. A neighbor in the Texas County community of Upton was known for her midwife skills, and 21-year-old Opal Stottlemyre Osbourn was in labor with the couple’s second child. Moses was strong and sure-footed, but by the time they made it back to the tiny, shingle-covered house, it was too late.
Lois Blanche Osbourn had already been born – in a chamber pot, on her head.
It would turn out that being clunked on your head was no problem for the scrappy little girl who would grow up hating her knobby knees and the skinny legs that could outrun many a boy, cling to a grapevine that swung out over the creek by her mother’s washday kettle and shimmy up a barn wall to secure the ingredients for robin egg mud pie.
She had the perfect childhood, she would say, rich in love that smelled like homecured bacon on a frosty morning, sounded like her father’s old time fiddle music and felt as warm as the wrapped, hot brick in a feather bed next to a frozen wash basin. There was always treasure, financed by her mother’s egg money – a jaunty hat from the little store in Upton that brought fancy used stuff back from St. Louis, or a ring with a shiny stone from Aunt Nan in Joplin.
When she was barely five years old, Lois started classes at the one-room school of Coffey. She didn’t want to be left behind by her older brother. She was an eighth-grader when the Coffey students went to visit Houston High School. It was then, she first saw Harry Kelly II, dark hair, brown eyes with a deep voice, and a friend of her brother’s. Lois went home that day and wrote his initials and hers on countless scraps of paper – backwards, so no one would guess their true identity. Then she buried them beneath rocks. She planned to marry him, and at the moment that seemed the way to will it into truth.
The next year, Lois would ride the Houston bus, the one with a board down the middle for a bench, to attend Houston High School where she would graduate in 1943 at the age of 16.
The next fall, seventeen-year-old Lois began teaching at the one-room schools, Coffey and Ragsdale. Though she looked as young as her students and played the games at recess with as much vigor, she had the class’s respect with her unwillingness to accept misbehavior.
After getting her B.S. Degree in Art and Art Supervision, Lois began teaching sixth grade at Houston Schools. It was about this time the rock-paper strategy began to bear fruit and Harry Kelly, home from the University was at the same gathering and asked her to dance.
Harry S. Kelly II and Lois Osbourn were married in 1949 and moved to a little stucco house on the corner of Grand and Chestnut in Houston. To this marriage two children were born, son Harry Kelly III and daughter Kathy. Tragically, Harry II was killed in a deer hunting accident two months before the birth of Kathy in 1953.
It was a blow for Lois, but surrounded by love and support of her family and a strong Christian faith, two and a half years later, Lois married Roger Lee Kirkman, Aug. 4, 1956. He would love her family as his own. Three years later, daughter Kari was born.
In 1967, while living in Springfield, Lois received her M.S. Degree in guidance and counseling from the University of Missouri-Columbia. It was a new field and Lois would enjoy being a counselor at high schools in Republic, Springfield, Waynesville and Rolla until her retirement in 1987.
Retirement for Lois and Roger meant continuing a lifetime of projects – home building, rock gardens, fishponds, flower beds, impressive vegetable harvests and years of Sunday School teaching.
Lois enjoyed good health and independence into her ninth decade. She passed away at Sleepy Oaks Nursing Home, June 6, 2022, the morning after her 96th birthday.
Lois was known for her hard work, artistic ability and undeterred focus. She leaves behind a trail of accomplishments and sweet memories to her family – homemade bread with 17 different ingredients, a wardrobe void of horizontal stripes and flat-heeled shoes, an impressive inventory of hair spray, widespread ukuleles, and detailed scrapbooks of each family member.
She was much loved, much admired and had a positive impact of those lives she touched. She will be greatly missed.
Lois was preceded in death by her husbands, Harry Kelly II and Roger L. Kirkman; her parents, Moses and Opal Osbourn; her brother Dorman (Ozzie) Osbourn and sister Iris Cohn. She is survived by her sister Marlys Casteel and brother-in-law, Dr. Charles Casteel; a son, Dr. Harry Kelly III and two daughters, Kathy Kelly Richardson and Kari Kirkman Ricketts. Other immediate surviving family members include daughter-in-law, Patti Birdsong Kelly; sons-in-law Dr. Joe Richardson, and Dr. Randy Ricketts; grandchildren, Noah and Kelly Richardson Dorrance, Dr. Mike and Katy Richardson Dieckhaus, Regan Kelly, Wesley and Dr. Christine Ricketts Strange, Stephen Ricketts, Mike Ricketts and Shaina Fink and great-grandchildren Remy, Eleanor, Reeve, Evelyn, and Cameron.
A visitation for Lois will be held from 10 -11:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 11, 2022, at Evans Funeral Home, Houston. A service for the family will follow with Pastor Roger Cary officiating. Interment will be in Pine Lawn Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Downtown Houston Inc., PO Box 170, Houston Mo 65483. Arrangements entrusted to Evans Funeral Home. Online condolences may be left at www.evansfh.com.