Longtime Columbia resident was always helping others

Monday, December 3, 2012 | 7:15 p.m. CST; updated 3:28 a.m. CST, Tuesday, December 4, 2012

HARRISBURG — Wilma Via was never shy about giving someone in need a warm meal or a place to stay.

Her daughter, Martha Wade, recalls a friend describing Mrs. Via's house and her life growing up on a farm in Hurdland. 


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The friend remembers that there was never a time when there weren't people eating or sleeping at Via's home.

Wilma Iris Via, a longtime Columbia resident, died Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012. She was 90.

She was married to Romie Lee Burks. After Burks' death, she married Robert Hartley Via.

The door to Mrs. Via's house was always open to those in need. In the 1960s, Mrs. Via housed soldiers that didn't have a place to go. In the 1980s she invited cancer patients who didn't have a bed in the hospital to stay with her. Since then, she has offered her home to troubled teenagers and provided counseling to help them get on their feet. 

"She spent a very small part of her life thinking about herself," Wade said.

Mrs. Via, who came from a humble farming background, was born Aug. 9, 1922 in Hurdland.

She had her first six children while living on a farm with no power lines nearby. After moving to Columbia, she had two more children. Wade described her mother's farm life as "little house on the prairie," without the modern technology used today. 

"She was the last of the old-timers," Wade said. "She leaves a huge legacy."

That legacy includes 25 grandchildren, 50 great-grandchildren and 13 great-great grandchildren. 

When she wasn't caring for her children, Mrs. Via worked in the central supply unit at MU's Ellis Fischel Cancer Center for a time.

She was also a member of the Woodlandville United Methodist Church and was active in the senior citizens group in Columbia. 

Wade said she is remembered for her giving manner that touched people's hearts.

"If she had the opportunity to help someone, she would just do it and never wanted any glory or recognition," Wade said.

Mrs. Via is survived by her children, Martha Wade and her husband, Roger, Ron Burks and his wife, Norma, Anna Osborn and her husband Dean, Betty Retzloff and her husband, David, Lillie Downing and her husband, Charles, and Robert Via; 25 grandchildren, Shirladeen Day, Anna Tiffany and her husband, Charles, Tanya Behrle and her husband, Jimmie, Yvonne Eckenrod and her husband, Kelly, Jamie Burks, Leslie Howard, Jeffrey Turner, Mark Turner and his wife, Tammy, Jeremiah Wade and his wife, Carmen, Jason Burks, Aaron Burks and his wife, René, Mikel Burks and his wife, Michelle, Don Osborn and his wife, Anna, Dean Osborn Jr., Betty Brison and her husband, John, Michelle Johnson and her husband, Eric, Jahia Murphy and his wife, JoAnna, Lauren Rodriguez-Retzloff and her husband, Rogelio, John Downing and his wife, Mary, Amy Crews, Lori Walker and her husband, William, Ashley Williams and her husband, Jay, Jennifer Via, Jessica Via and Justin Via; a brother-in-law, Harold Andrews; 50 great-grandchildren; 13 great-great-granchildren; and many nieces and nephews.

Her husband Robert Hartley Via, a son James Lee Burks, a daughter Deborah Sue Gay, a grandson Ronnie Lee Burks, a brother Craig Lile and a sister Lillie Andrews died earlier.

Friends may call from 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday at Memorial Funeral Home at 1217 Business Loop 70 W. A celebration of her life will follow at 3 p.m. at the funeral home. Burial will be in Memorial Park Cemetery.

Memorial contributions are suggested to the Meals on Wheels in care of Fayette Senior Citizens Center at 102 Highway 5, Fayette, MO 65248.

Tributes can be posted at



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