A lifetime resident of Southwestern Oklahoma, she was a pillar of the community, who was devoted to her family, friends, and church, while working tirelessly to serve others.
The eldest of five children, she was born at home in Harmon County on Oct. 12, 1928, to Walter Howell Brown Atwood and Nora Lorene Norris Atwood. She left Southwestern Oklahoma briefly, after high school to attend college in Oklahoma City. Her college studies were interrupted by an illness that forced her to move back home. Shortly, after returning home, she met Aubrey Robert “AR” Welch, Jr., who had just returned from World War II.
Ardella married A.R. on Aug. 21, 1947 and they made their home in the northwest corner of Jackson County where they raised their five children: Shirley, Robert, Linda, Brenda and Peggy. A.R. and Ardella worked together to run a farm and raise their children while being community leaders.
Horses were an important part of the Welch family life. The Duke Riding Club was named the Outstanding Riding Club in the nation while A.R. served as president with Ardella helping every step of the way, which included washing and ironing countless pairs of white jeans. The family was named Outstanding Farm Family in 1967.
Extension Club, 4-H club, basketball and school activities kept Ardella and her family very busy, but Ardella seemed to always have hot cookies coming out of the oven when her five children got off the school bus, as well as the “other brother” Rick Johnson, who grew up “across the road,” and was the son of Ardella and A.R.’s close friends, Frankie and Othelda Johnson.
In addition to cookies, Ardella was a fabulous cook and served wonderful meals, which often included homemade bread that won many State Fair awards from The Oklahoma Wheat Commission and Oklahoma Wheathearts. Anyone who dropped by was always invited to come in and enjoy a meal or some home-baked treat.
Ardella often said that her proudest accomplishment was her children, but she made a difference in countless lives, and many of her selfless contributions will never be known. However, she was one of 12 Oklahomans named an “Ageless Hero” in 2000 for her civic leadership. Ardella spearheaded a movement to preserve a community center on the site of the former Centralvue School after its closing in the 1964. It was used for meetings of the Extension Club, of which Ardella served many terms as president, as well as school reunions and other community gatherings.
Later, Ardella worked tirelessly to establish a permanent monument to commemorate the school’s nearly 50 years of existence and then continued to co-chair the Centralvue reunion, after it outgrew the original community center. The reunion is still held today on Memorial Day weekend.
A careful steward of the land, she was awarded Goodyear Conservation Awards of Merit by Harmon County in 1989 and by Greer County in 1999.
Undoubtedly, one of her most valuable contributions to the community was to establish the Russell Volunteer Fire Department, which has saved homes, farm equipment and countless acres of crops. Ardella researched and wrote a grant to receive seed money; then went on to organize the community, establish and collect dues and served as the first Fire Chief for many years.
A devoted member of the Russell Baptist Church, she was a Sunday school teacher, long-time treasurer and spearheaded a campaign for a major church renovation that was completed in 2004. The Welch family donated the brass bell for the church.
Ardella also led an effort to map the Russell Cemetery graves, and for years she was the person to take the call when there was a request for a burial plot. She started a fund to restore damaged markers and permanently ensure maintenance of the cemetery. She will be laid to rest, next to her husband and grandson, in the ground that she carefully tended.
Ardella was preceded in death by her parents; her beloved husband, A.R.; her grandson, William Brent Hastings; her two sisters, Imogene Miller and Norene Brundige; as well as her brother, Walter DeLoyd “Dee” Atwood.
She is survived by her brother, Norris Atwood; and her five children and their spouses, Shirley and Rod Hastings of Knoxville, Tenn., Robert and Rebecca Welch of Altus, Linda and Gary Ablard of Atlanta, Brenda and Mark Yazel of Kiowa, Kan., and Peggy and John Fenderson, also of Kiowa; her beloved grandchildren, Katrina Welch Hasty, Megan Yazel Janda,Travis Fenderson, Monica Yazel, Amanda Fenderson Grove and Michelle Coe, Randy and Phillip Welch; and her great-grandchildren, Mason and Karter Hasty, Jordan Ramirez, Jace and Tripp Janda, Terry and Carson Welch and Jax Grove .
Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Friday at Russell Baptist Church with the Rev. Dean Goodfellow officiating. Interment will follow at the Russell Cemetery under the direction of Lowell-Tims Funeral Home.
Memorials may be sent to the Russell Baptist Church, Russell Cemetery, or the Russell Volunteer Fire Department.
On line tributes may be made to the family at www.Lowell-Tims.com use Lowell Tims element at the end of this obit