Gretchen Olivette Reese, 85, of Hiawatha, died Thursday evening, Dec. 4, 2014, at The Pines, where she was a resident for the past four years. She was born Dec. 21, 1928 in Falls City, the daughter of George and Hortense Kaufman Lessel.

She graduated from Falls City High School. Gretchen attended  Park College in Parkville, MO, where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree. She taught school in Omaha and later substitute taught for 415 School District. She enjoyed working with and teaching children in the community. She later volunteered at the Morrill Free Public Library and Head Start where she enjoyed reading to children.

She married Dean Reese Feb. 5, 1955 in Falls City. They lived and farmed most of their married life in the Mt. Zion Community northeast of Hiawatha. He preceded her in death Dec. 19, 2012.

Gretchen was a member of the Zion United Methodist Church, where she was actively involved as a Sunday School teacher, UMW and church choir member and vacation Bible School teacher. Upon moving to Hiawatha, they joined the First United Methodist Church where she was also very active in the UMW.  

She volunteered at the polling station at the Shore School House for many years and was active in the Republican Women’s Group.  Dean and Gretchen were also very active with the REA. Gretchen enjoyed painting, crocheting and gardening on the farm.

Gretchen is survived by a son, James Edward (Mary Karen) Reese, of Overland Park, KS; a daughter, Nancy (Pat) Dillon, of St. Joseph, MO; sister, Mary Ann (Robert) Woodburn, of Iowa City, IA; grandchildren, Erin and Patrick Dillon, and Katie and Keegan Reese; and eight great-grandchildren.  

She was preceded in death by a sister, Gerry Ann; and an infant brother, Sonny.

Funeral services are planned for 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014 at the First United Methodist Church in Hiawatha, with Pastor Randy Quinn officiating. Interment will follow at the Pleasant Hill Cemetery northeast of Hiawatha.  

The family will receive friends from 1 p.m. until service time at the church on Sunday. Friends may call at the funeral home after noon Saturday.  

Memorials are suggested to FUMC UMW or Morrill Free Public Library and may be sent in care of the Chapel Oaks Funeral Home 124 S. 7th St., Hiawatha, KS 66434. Online condolences may be made to

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