Roberta Wike Jones

Roberta Wike Jones

Roberta Wike Jones, 96, of Columbia, died Saturday, May 16, 2020.

She was born Jan. 19, 1924, in Coal County, Oklahoma, the fourth daughter of Jacob Lester and Luella Channell Wike. Roberta grew up in the homestead of Allen Wright, the chief of the Choctaw Tribe in Indian Territory who named the state of Oklahoma, and she went on to love and teach Oklahoma history.

After graduating from Wapanucka High School in 1941, she entered college but interrupted her education and moved to Long Beach, California, with her sister, Priscilla, to weld U.S. naval ships in World War II as “Rosie the Riveters,” though she always emphasized that Priscilla proved to be the better welder.

After the war experience, she completed her college degree at Southeastern Oklahoma State College, married her childhood sweetheart, Lee Don Jones, and embarked on a public education career.

She taught in the public classrooms in North Enid and Wapanucka, Oklahoma, and Gallup, New Mexico, before she and Lee Don threw caution to the wind, sold all their worldly possessions, loaded a couple of children into a 1958 Rambler station wagon and drove the gravel Alaskan Highway 1,390 miles to Anchorage. There they sold the car and boarded a pontoon bush plane to the isolated village of Ekwak, where they spent a memorable year researching, teaching kindergarten through eighth grade and learning village culture from the Alaskan natives.

After returning to Oklahoma, Roberta taught in the Mustang and Arapaho public schools, earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Oklahoma, obtained a private pilot’s license and accepted a position as principal at Arapaho High School in the mid-1970s, a position rarely offered to women at the time.

She served a long and fulfilling tenure before retiring to build a home on the Atoka County ranch that she and Lee Don had pursued as a weekend and summer hobby for many years. She drove the farm truck to feed cattle and haul the grandkids to the swimming hole, watched birds, taught Sunday School, quilted, made delicious pies, organized a women’s luncheon group and fended off armadillos from her flower beds.

In 1997, Roberta and Lee Don moved to Columbia to be near family. Before long, she was organizing the kitchen at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia, starting the women’s “Conversations” group, serving as an election judge at the polls, growing beautiful hydrangeas and playing an active role in the lives of her Columbia grandchildren.

She will be remembered for her wit, wisdom, industry and keen observations of human nature.

Her beloved Lee Don died in 2009. She is survived by a son, Lee Jonathan Jones of Ardmore, Oklahoma; a daughter, Jan (Charles) Swaney of Columbia; grandchildren Leah (James) Sanchez of Portland, Oregon, Jacob (Ashley) Jones of Reno, Nevada, Donavan (Kaitlin Worley) Jones of Fort Worth, Texas, Aaron (Julia Baller) Swaney of Washington, D.C., and Micah (Ashley) Jones of Tulsa, Oklahoma; great-grandchildren Anna Jones, Caroline and Robert Sanchez, and Holly Jones; daughter-in-law Vicki Jones of Tulsa; sister-in-law Betty Sullivan of Atoka, Oklahoma; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Due to the pandemic, a small graveside service will be held at the Rose Hill Cemetery in Wapanucka at a later time. Memorials are suggested to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia, 2615 Shepard Blvd., Columbia, MO 65201; Johnston County Historical Society, P.O. Box 804, Tishomingo, OK 73460; or a charity of one’s choice.

Online condolences for the family may be left at www.millardfamilychapels.com.

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