Remembering Leora Goff Wilson (1890-1987)

Leora Goff Wilson, Guthrie Center, Iowa, writing in her diary, September 24, 1976. Taken by her oldest son, Delbert Goff Wilson.

Leora Goff was born on December 4, 1890.

She died December 5, 1987, on her 97th birthday.


By Rev. Jerry D. Palmer, First Christian Church, Guthrie Center, Iowa, December 7, 1987


While with some people yesterday, the question was asked of me, “What are going going to say about Leora?” My answer, “There are so many things going around in my mind just now, that I am going to have to sort them out, to make my words meaningful and special to all who have gathered here this day.”

Before we begin to look at faith and hope and love, let me share with you just two or three things about being pastor with Leora for these past 18 years. First of all, there was a special kind of bond between Leora and myself. You see, my mother’s name is also LeOra. Though spelled a bit differently, it is pronounced the same, and since there are not too many with that name, these two persons had a special thing going for them, and since I was the son of one, it made it special for me, as well.

Secondly, Leora was one whom I would liken to John Wayne in the movie, “True Grit.” By true grit, I mean that she never gave up in or on life. There were times when the weather was so bad, I did not expect to see Leora here, and yet, as I would pass by the north window in the entryway, there she would be coming down the street. Perhaps it was raining hard, or it was slick, or it was snowing. It got so that, when we would cancel church because of the weather, she would be one of the first I would call, because I know that she would try to make it. This true grit has been expressed to me in the past couple of days by a good number of persons on the street. She would not miss Auxiliary, or Women’s Fellowship, or would have be late in paying her bills, but would walk to town to take care of the matters at hand.

First Christian Church, Guthrie Center, Iowa

Thirdly, there was an enjoyment of life. Her association with others in many differing kinds of ways was special to her. It meant that she could go, rather than sit at home. It meant that the mind  was kept active and alive, by what was taking place not only within the organization, but as well the world. There was the keeping of one’s body fit – fit to work in the year tending to the flowers and yard, of itself, or walking to town, for whatever reason. It was not a sitting in the rocking chair, to wither away, if you will, but to remain active and alive and vital, even though the years were beginning to take their toll.

Also, there was a deep and abiding faith not only in people or groups, but in the God and Father of us all, and in our Lord Jesus Christ. I have only heard bits and pieces of the troublesome life that Leora had, but I remark at her faith. The losing of children, a husband, parents, brothers and a sister, one would think that this would make a person bitter and sour on the world, but for Leora, it was opportunity. An opportunity that looked the situation square in the eye, and said, “I believe, I have faith and hope and love, and I am going to express it all the days of my life.” It was an opportunity, if you will, to come close to God, walking down the path of death and disease, only to know that he would, indeed, provide a pace for us. It was recognization [sic] that God is a god of love, mercy and compassion. So much so that he gave his only begotten son, on the cross for each and every one of us, so that those who believe in him will never die, but will have eternal life.

Perhaps the great apostle Paul expressed it best when he said, like Leora’s life, “I have fought the good fight, I have run the race, I have kept the faith, henceforth there is for me the crown of righteousness.” What better words can we say of this lady who touched all of us in many ways, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” and with God we would say, “enter into the Kingdom.”


Leora Frances Wilson, daughter of Laura Jordan and Milton S. Goff, was born in Guthrie County, Iowa, on December 4, 1890. She passed away at the Guthrie County Hospital, Guthrie Center, Iowa, on December 4, 1987.

Leora, celebrating her 90th birthday with great granddaughters Deni and Christa Scar, December 1980.

Leora’s early life was spent in the parental home attending school and growing into womanhood. On February 15, 1914, she was united in marriage to Claiborne Wilson. To this union ten children were born.

The family resided in Dexter, Minburn, and Perry and in 1948, [she] moved to Guthrie Center where Leora maintained her own home until her passing. She was a member of the VFW Auxiliary, the American Legion Auxiliary, Rebeccas, the Christian Women’s Fellowship, and the First Christian Church of Guthrie Center.

Many became acquainted with Leora through the years by being a party of these various organizations, but also seeing her work in her yard and to make trips to town shopping. She took a good deal of pride in her flowers and enjoyed sharing them with church members on Sunday mornings.

Leora was preceded in death by her parents, her husband in 1946, six children, four brothers, and one sister.

To mourn her passing, she leaves her two sons, Delbert Wilson of Fremont, California, Donald Wilson of Raymond, Washington; two daughters, Mrs. Doris Neal and Mrs. Darlene Scar of Dexter, Iowa. As well, there are 9 grandchildren, 18 great grandchildren, 1 great-great- grandchild, one sister, Mrs. Ruby Blockley of Long Beach, California, two brothers, Willis Goff of Redlin, Calif., and Clarence Goff of Omaha, Nebraska. As well, other relatives and friends will miss her.

From left: Don and Rose Wilson (Grayland, Washington), Sam and Darlene (Wilson) Scar of rural Madison County, Leora Wilson, Warren and Doris (Wilson) Neal, Del and Evelyn Wilson of Fremont, California. 1976


  1. Leora was much like my Grandma Mildred. Woman of the end of the prairie years, lived w great faith despite losses of child and brother tragically early.
    Lived to 97 and pastor used same warm, appropriate words of Paul. Fought the good fight, run the race and kept the faith.

  2. I was so glad to read this tribute of Leora as I wait to receive Leora’s Letters. Her pastor’s characterization of her will make reading her letters even more meaningful.

    • I’d been looking for what he’d said, remembering only that he mentioned “True Grit.” I was so thankful to find it in time to share it. The day of her funeral the fog was so thick that many people couldn’t get there. She was my mentor–so outgoing and unjudgmental, even during our crazy-hair and clothes teenage years. Just a plain women, but such a delight to have as a grandmother!

  3. As I read “Leoras Letters” I realize the true hero of this story was Leora. What an amazing pillar of strength. God bless her!

    • Bless you for your note. She’s the history of the next one, too. “Leora’s Dexter Stories: The Scarcity Years of the Great Depression” went to beta readers this week. By the end of the month it’ll go to the cover design-formatting-uploading to KDP (Amazon). About 6 weeks later, those Leora stories will be a real book. Amazed and humbled, and I believe Grandma Leora would feel the same way.

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