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Former secretary remembered for selflessness, service at Truman Veterans Hospital

Thursday, July 4, 2013 | 4:59 p.m. CDT; updated 7:55 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 4, 2013

COLUMBIA — Sarah "Juanita" Kidwell always thought of others before herself and loved friends as if they were family, her daughter said.

"I think that's a pretty strong statement," Brenda Kidwell said about her mother. 

Mrs. Kidwell died Tuesday, July 2, 2013 in Columbia. She was 77.

Mrs. Kidwell was born July 22, 1935, in Columbia to William Henry and Mary Craig Fite. 

She married Donald "Duke" Kidwell on Aug. 28, 1959.

"She was a real morning person and loved to get up early and drink her coffee and smoke her cigarettes," Brenda Kidwell said.

Friends and family were most important to Mrs. Kidwell and she spent as much time with them as she could. 

"She just liked to play cards with friends, and she loved nothing more than hitting garage sales on Saturday mornings," Brenda Kidwell said. 

A Hickman High School graduate, Mrs. Kidwell worked as a secretary for her best friend, Tom Atkins, for more than 30 years until she retired a couple of years ago. His company, Atkins Inc., provides lawn care, pest control and Christmas light-hanging services, among many others.

Mrs. Kidwell also volunteered at Truman Veterans Hospital in evenings after her day job. She worked closely with the patients and especially enjoyed playing cards and reading to them to pass the time. She adored her time at the hospital and was awarded a certificate of appreciation for her 20 years of volunteerism, her daughter said.

"The award she received is likely in recognition of the hours of service that she contributed to the hospital," said Stephen Gaither, public affairs officer for veterans hospital.

Gaither said that although it had been quite some time since Mrs. Kidwell had been a volunteer there, she stuck out in his mind.

"I do remember Mrs. Kidwell as a volunteer here," Gaither said. "She was a very gentle woman who was dedicated to helping veterans." 

Brenda Kidwell described her mother as an incredibly strong and selfless woman who never complained. 

"She was always about everybody else," Brenda Kidwell said. "She never wanted the light on her — she was just never like that — she just always wanted it on her family."

Mrs. Kidwell is survived by a daughter, Brenda Kidwell; a granddaughter, Andi Baker Glidewell and her husband, Nick; a great-grandson, Maddox Glidewell; her best friend, Tom Atkins; and numerous family members and friends. 

In addition to her husband, three sisters, Joan Kennedy, Betty Lou Baker and Dottie Sue Fite, and one brother, Dickie Ray Fite, died earlier.

Visitation will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, at Memorial Funeral Home, 1217 Business Loop 70 W., followed by funeral services at 4 p.m. Interment will be in Memorial Park Cemetery.

Memorial contributions are requested to go to Central Missouri Humane Society, 616 Big Bear Blvd., Columbia, MO 65202; Cancer Research Center, 3501 Berrywood Drive, Columbia, MO 65201; or Boone County Family Resources, 1209 E. Walnut St.,  Columbia, MO 65201.

Memorial tributes can be posted at www.memorialfuneralhomeandcemetery.com.

Supervising editor is Zachary Matson.


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