BARDWELL, KENTUCKY — Ida Rhea Wilson, 89, died on Saturday, May 16, 2020, at her home in Bardwell, Kentucky. Ida Rhea Munsell was born near Bardwell in Carlisle County on Nov. 29, 1930 — the eighth of eight children born to the late Luther Hayden Munsell and Idella Sams Munsell. She came into the world in a big way: She weighed 13 pounds even at birth.
Ida Rhea graduated from Bardwell High School in 1949. Nine days later, on May 14, 1949, she married the Rev. Howard Wilson Jr. in a pastor’s home in Lowes, in Graves County, Kentucky, after a three-month courtship. Her dream was to go to college, but God needed her in the mission field. The young couple moved to the Appalachian Mountains of Eastern Kentucky, where they organized a Baptist Church, Bible schools and did mission work on the small creeks between the mountains. Her ministry as a preacher’s wife would continue for 58 years, with calls to churches throughout Tennessee and Kentucky, including Richland Baptist Church (1962-80) in Livermore, Kentucky, and Calvary Baptist Church (1980-2007) in Arlington, Kentucky. She remained a member of Calvary Baptist after Howard’s passing in 2007 until the church closed permanently in March 2020.
In addition to her ministry roles, she entered the workforce in 1983 at age 53. Affectionately known as “Miss Ida,” she was a quality control inspector at Garan’s Manufacturing Co. in Clinton, Kentucky, from 1983-2001. For every birthday, Christmas and other special occasion for 18 years, she gave her family turtleneck shirts made at the garment factory. Every member of the Wilson family had at least three turtlenecks of about a dozen different colors at any given time. What a legacy. When Garan’s closed in 2001 and production was relocated to Mexico, displaced workers qualified for free education — allowing Ida Rhea to pursue her lifelong dream of going to college. At age 71, she entered Draughons Junior College, where she was on the President’s List and maintained a 4.0 GPA upon graduating in 2002 from the Health Information Technology program. Her husband and family could not have been prouder watching her walk in her cap and gown in her 2002 graduation ceremony at age 72. She considered it her greatest accomplishment.
Her greatest joys in life were spending time with and cooking for her family, despite her claims the past 20 years or so that she “just couldn’t cook anymore.” Her specialties included chicken and dressing, Bonanza Beans, squash casserole, potato salad, sweet potato casserole, chess pie, pecan pie, fresh coconut cake, cherry cheesecake and strawberry freezer jam. We would gladly share her recipes with you, but she never measured anything. “Just eyeball it.” Ida Rhea (pronounced “Ree”) was funny and feisty, universally adored, incredibly humble, a skilled seamstress, an amazing artist (oil paintings), an avid University of Kentucky Wildcats basketball fan, an expert guesser while watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune on TV, and she could outlast anyone shopping, especially at thrift stores. Oftentimes, she would buy material or clothing in unneeded sizes because, as she said, it “would make a pretty pillow.” Today we are left with stacks of fabric and clothing we can’t wear … yet still no pillows.
She was fiercely independent. She put up quite a fight when we finally made her stop push-mowing her lawn at age 85. She considered one of her biggest blessings the opportunity to live in her own home with no one telling her what to do for the final 13 years of her life. Ida Rhea left an impression. She touched the lives of everyone she met, spreading God’s love and kindness, wherever she went. One of her longtime passions was the greeting card ministry she maintained for decades, handwriting greeting cards and sending them to dozens of friends and family, especially those alone or shut in. Her mission was to remember the forgotten and make the lonely feel loved. She never had a grandmother of her own, so she wanted to be the best grandmother to her own grandchildren. She accomplished that mission.
When we see roosters, we will fondly remember her kitchen. When we smell Estee Lauder Youth Dew perfume, we will long for her hugs. And when we hear the song “How Great Thou Art,” we will take comfort in knowing that because of God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, we will be reunited with Ida Rhea in Heaven. In addition to her parents, Ida Rhea was preceded in death by her husband of 58 years, the Rev. Howard Wilson, Jr., by three sisters, Alice Louise, Minnie Beatrice and Geneva, and three brothers, Frates Mosby, Thomas Boyd and Marshall Hayden.
Survivors include two sons, Kenny Wilson of Calhoun, Kentucky and Lance Wilson (Regina) of Livermore; a daughter, Venita Wilson of Livermore; four grandchildren, Misty Gower (James “Nate”) of Saginaw, Michigan, Shaun Wilson of St. Petersburg, Florida, Colby Wilson of Pineville, Kentucky, and Anthony Wilson (Kayla) of Livermore; five great grandchildren, Evan Gower, Paisleigh Wilson, Cambria Wilson, Ryker Wilson, and Hoyt Wilson; and a sister, Eva Mae Tharp of Cunningham, Kentucky.
In compliance with health and public safety directives private family graveside services were held Monday, May 18, 2020 at Richland Baptist Cemetery in McLean County with Pastor Brian Jones officiating.
Ida Rhea’s services were streamed live on www.musterfuneralhomes.com on Monday.
The Ida Rhea family requests that expressions of sympathy take the form of donations to Richland Baptist Cemetery Fund; C/O Jack Burden; 650 Hicks Road; Calhoun, Kentucky 42327.
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