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Bernice Gessel
© Roberts and Son Funeral Home
Submitted by: Jo Aguirre

© Roberts and Son Funeral Home

Bernice Gessel of Blackwell, Oklahoma, died Saturday evening, February 6, 2016 in the Oklahoma State University Medical Center, Tulsa, Oklahoma, at the age of 75 years. Bernice Gessel lived her life as a Daughter, Sister, Nurse, Wife, Friend, Mother, Farmer and Grandma. She was an avid O.S.U. Cowboys fan, a great fisherman and a lucky gambler. She had a deep faith in God and lived that out in practical devotion, pursuing Christ both inside and outside of the church she loved.

Bernice was born in 1940 in Cedar City, Utah, to Chester and Rosalie Peterson. The family moved to Blackwell in 1947 where she attended St. Joseph’s Catholic Grade School and Blackwell High School with her three sisters. She was a proud member of the B.H.S. marching band and an excellent vagabond Camp Fire Girl. “Niecie” enjoyed abiding and vibrant friendships from this era throughout her life.

After graduation from Blackwell High School in 1958, Bernice pursued a vocation in the convent, but left when she was certain her calling did not include classroom teaching. She then returned to Blackwell and studied nursing at Blackwell General Hospital. Bernice was proud to complete her L.P.N. certificate and upon completion moved to OKC to work in the newborn nursery at St. Anthony Hospital.

While living in the city, Bernice met and married Daltha Watts and returned to Blackwell to raise her growing family. Steve, Allen and Terri provided her with endless volunteer hours at Cub Scouts, Baseball, Wrestling, Girl Scouts, FFA and Music. She also cared for and about her many nieces and nephews.

During those years she was a fierce contender in her bowling league, determined at training altar servers and teaching Sunday School, and diligent as she gardened and raised rabbits. She remained always “on-call” for her friends and neighbors.

In 1981, Niece would return to private nursing and farming for the Stuever family. This “temporary” job would last her over fifteen years.

Her life was transformed when she and Raymond Gessel were married in 1984. Their married life was a quiet, joyful love story. Both worked the farm, and they completed a degree-course in theology out of Wichita University. They also headed up St. Joseph’s Catholic Youth Group for over eight years.

The Gessel family reunions each summer were epic, and these trips were the only time Bernice and Ray would ever take a vacation.

After Ray’s tragic death, Bernice would return to nursing and work at Blackwell Nursing Home. She retired from full-time nursing in 2004. In recent years, she was very interested in local politics and she worked at improving the city of Blackwell with a group of like-minded “Rabble-Rousers”.

In her retirement, the original Camp Fire friends would travel the country on annual tours. They made a scene wherever they went with laughter, straight talk and adventure. Rumors of an arrest record are greatly exaggerated.

Bernice was preceded in death by her parents, her husband Ray, and her sister Virginia Hampton. She is survived by her sister, Clara Stafford and husband Don, sister Antoinette (Cookie) Stone and husband Bill, son, Allen Watts and wife Patricia, all of Blackwell; son, Steve Watts and his wife Tina of Kingman, Kansas; and daughter, Terri Hastings and husband Scott of Tulsa, Oklahoma; and seven beloved grandchildren.

A prayer service is set for 7:00 p.m., Thursday, February 11th in the Roberts and Son Funeral Home Chapel in Blackwell with Deacon Bart Brashears officiating.

Funeral Mass is scheduled for 10:00 a.m., Friday, February 12th in the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Blackwell with Father Jack Gleason of Church of St. Mary’s in Tulsa officiating. Burial will follow in the Blackwell Cemetery.

Casketbearers are Jim Stone, Drew Norlin, Will Stone, Andrew Hastings, Jason Stone and Tom Reed.

A memorial has been established in her honor with St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in c/o Roberts and Son Funeral Home, 120 W. Padon, Blackwell, Oklahoma 74631.

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