Rita Jo (Stem) Turgeon, of Thornton, passed away at her home on Saturday, August 14, 2021, at age 78.
Funeral services will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, August 19, 2021, at the Central Baptist Church in Thornton, with Reverend Tracy Sims officiating. Burial will follow in Ferguson Cemetery.
Pallbearers will be Ricky Winn, Brian Winn, Richard Stem, Jeff Stem, Joey Stem, and Chad Winn. Honorary pallbearers will be Bubba Easley, Wendell Johnson and Colton Swick.
Rita Jo Turgeon was born at home in Bald Prairie on August 21, 1942, to Cecil Oneta and Joseph Richard Stem. She was the middle child with her older brother Jerry and younger sister Brenda Kay. When she was young, she worked hard alongside her parents farming the land, from picking cotton to tending the crops and livestock. She attended Oletha School until it closed; she attended Marquez until it also closed, and then Leon ISD. Rita graduated in 1960 from Leon High School. While in high school, she was a cheerleader, played basketball serving as team captain and earning all-district honors, and was also selected as the FFA and football sweetheart.
Upon graduating, Rita moved to Houston and was employed with HLP and then Firestone. Rita lived in Houston until 1981 when she returned to Seale, Texas to be near her mom. Rita worked as the Accounts Payment Manager at Limestone Medical Center for 31 years before retiring in 2013.
Growing up, she attended Oletha Baptist Church until Lake Limestone Baptist Church was built less than a mile from her mom’s house. She was a charter member there and attended until her health began to decline. She was a member of Central Baptist Church in Thornton and was always grateful for the women’s group bringing goody baskets by and visiting with her – especially Judy Driskell. When she was no longer able to attend church services, she enjoyed being able to watch the services at Central Baptist Church and Freestone Heritage Cowboy Church each Sunday. She served on the board of the Ferguson Cemetery Association for many years and always enjoyed the annual memorial at the cemetery. She taught her children the importance of remembering those who have gone before her.
Her greatest joys in her life were her children, Susan and Sean, until her grandchildren, Kailey and Tristan. Being a “mom” was always her primary job which she loved. When her children were growing up, she was a stay-at-home mom who drove the daily carpools, volunteered at school, was a room mother every year, worked in the concession stands when it was their teams turns to find parents to work and served as a Brownie leader. Her involvement in her children’s lives continued as they grew older. She never missed a swim meet or a baseball, softball or football game. She spent many hours helping decorate class floats and other school activities. She gave of herself to help Susan and Sean’s friends when she really did not have anything extra to give, but she always found a way.
When her grandchildren came along, they became the apples of her eyes. Her proudest role was being “Nana.” Until her health prevented her, she was always in the stands at volleyball and softball games, cheerleading events, and anything they were involved in. She shared a special New Year’s Eve tradition with Kailey who would spend New Year’s Eve with her, and they would have cokes with cherries in special glasses along with party hats and horns as they waited to bring in the new year.
Even in the difficult times in her life, she always put her children’s needs first, no matter how hard it was on her. She was a strong Christian woman who raised her family to love and follow the Lord. The last years of her life were a daily struggle. She never once quit or asked God “why;” she continued to turn to Him for strength and praise his name.
She loved her yard and sitting on the porch swing. Sean made sure the yard was full of flowers and was well-manicured. He helped her daily at her home. She loved Bradley as a son. Anything she needed help with or fixed, he was always there. Her greatest joy was when Kailey or Tristan would come to visit and stay with her. She always had activities planned for them to do. They were pretty much allowed to do whatever they wanted when they were with Nana.
Everyone at Limestone Medical Center knew her-from her starting at the old hospital to the move into the new one…if PO’s or purchasing requests were not done currently, she would let others know about it…even if she had to track them down. She even got the loving nickname of “Wheezer” from Steel Magnolia’s and would get called that over the speaker at times.
She was always an example for her family. Her never-ending and unconditional love, even in the difficult times, will always remain in her children and grandchildren’s hearts forever.
Rita was preceded in death by her mother and father, her brother Jerry Stem, and son-in-law Bradley Swick who she loved like a son, and Donald Turgeon-the father of her children.
She is survived by her daughter, Susan Kay Swick and son, Sean Allen Turgeon; her grandchildren, Kailey Ashton (Swick) Isbell and her husband Zack Isbell, and Tristan Allen Turgeon; her sister and brother-in-law, Brenda and Walt Winn and sister-in-law, Judy Stem; her aunt, Marie Stem; and nephews: Ricky and Melissa Winn, Brian and Shannon Winn, Chad Winn, Richard Stem, Jeff and Jena Stem and Joey Stem; and other extended family.
In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to the Ferguson Cemetery Association, P. O. Box 283, Groesbeck, TX 76642.