On September 14, 2019, Arvilla Mae West was carried to heaven by the angels and escorted into the presence of her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
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Arvilla was born on May 2, 1934 to Harold and Alta (Johnston) Fliginger in Pittsburg, Kansas. Arvilla was raised in Kansas and enjoyed time in Pittsburgh and Hutchinson. She was blessed with a younger sister, Betty Jo. Arvilla considered Betty to be hers and hers alone. She loved baby Betty and toted her around like a baby doll. The two sisters cherished each other dearly and created a life time of memories together. As children, they loved getting soda pop at their grandpa’s, going on Sunday discovery drives with Aunt Leona, making homemade ice cream with their dad on hot afternoons and mixing up fudge and divinity with their mom for Christmas.
At age 5, Arvilla contracted polio which forever changed her life. The family was told that Arvilla would never walk again. They were praising Jesus when Arvilla miraculously got out of bed on her own to get a drink of water.
Although able to walk, her left leg remained paralyzed and created several challenges for her to overcome during her lifetime. Arvilla was perseverant and gained strength from her Savior, Jesus, in who she put her trust at age 12. Her spirit was greatly influenced by her grandfather, Joseph. He was a man of strong faith and was an example for Arvilla demonstrating the love of Jesus and His saving grace. Singing hymns in church with her dad and family also made a lasting impression on her faith story. Arvilla was also a kindred spirit with her Grandmother Fliginger. Her grandma would save copies of magazines just for Arvilla which was an extravagance that she appreciated. Her grandma also shared 10-cents each week from her egg money with Arvilla and Betty. Betty bought bubblegum and Arvilla spent her money at Picco’s Ice Cream Shop. Chocolate chip was her favorite flavor. The money might also have been spent on the Saturday movie. The matinee with popcorn included only cost a dime. Arvilla liked cowboy movies with Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. She and Betty would go home and act out movie scenes using their vivid imaginations as they played together. There were dolls (and kittens) to dress and monopoly or parcheesi to play, but Arvilla’s favorite was books. She was a good student and an avid reader, reading book after book. She even got a job in the library in order to have first crack at the available books, and to make a little money to boot. There is a saying that says, “You can never get a cup of coffee large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” That describes Arvilla.
Arvilla recalled helping around the house and completing certain chores each day of the week. She also became her dad’s favorite baker, learning to make cakes, pies, cinnamon rolls and cookies. Her dad’s praise meant the world to her and was part of the inspiration for her career choice.
Arvilla graduated from College High School in 1952 Her dad died when she was 19. This was a big loss for her, but she continued on in her studies. She attended Pittsburg State University and received a B.S. in Vocational Home Economics Education in 1956. While there, she was part of Future Teachers of America and vice-president of Home Economics Club. Arvilla then received the General Foods Fellowship and attended Kansas State University earning her master’s degree in Food and Nutrition. One of her accolades, making her “Google Famous”, is her 60-page thesis about angel food cakes. This required spending countless hours baking cakes in the test kitchen. Along the way, she perfected her recipe. We will miss her delectable light and airy angel food cakes. Arvilla also worked toward her doctorate in Child Development at Vassar and Texas Women’s University.
Her first teaching position was as an assistant instructor in Family Economics at K State. She then taught Food and Nutrition at Iowa State for four years, until she moved to be head of the Home Economics Department at Panhandle A & M in Goodwell, Oklahoma where she discovered two loves…..teaching children and her future husband. She established a preschool program, and found children to be her true calling.
Bobby West was a professor at Panhandle. They met at a faculty gathering to watch the Miss America Pageant. She watched him and he watched her. Bob was led to leave Panhandle to pursue a teaching position at Neosho, Missouri. He and Arvilla corresponded for four more years before marrying in 1966, in Pittsburg, Kansas. They celebrated 51 years together that were filled with love, laughter and fun.
The young couple moved to Stillwater, Oklahoma where Bob went into the home building business. Arvilla taught at OSU and directed the preschool lunch program. In 1968, daughter Susan Arvilla West was born, and Arvilla elected to become a full-time mother and homemaker. In 1970, Susan was joined by sister, Ericka Lynn West. In 1971, Arvilla’s mom and aunt moved to Stillwater so that they could be near and support this young family. They were important people in the lives of Arvilla, Bob and the children.
Both Arvilla and Bob passed the Real Estate Exam and became licensed realtors in 1974. They invested in rental properties and mobile home parks, eventually becoming the owners of Top Value Mobile Homes in Stillwater, Oklahoma in 1982. As her children grew and she nurtured their minds, bodies and spirits, she stayed busy and involved.
Arvilla joined the Extension Club and was P.T.A president, led Girl Scouts and Brownies, was a school volunteer and babysat children in the home. She was also part of the Christian Women’s Club and other community bible studies like B.S.F.
Arvilla joined the First Presbyterian Church in 1980. Her faith grew as she served her church as deacon and elder; as Stephen Minister and Kerygma Bible Study member; as Sunday School and VBS teacher; on Christian Ed Committee and in Presbyterian Women’s Group. She worked with a committee to help make the church accessible for people with disabilities. She also taught five years in the church’s Mother’s Day Out program.
Arvilla once wrote, ‘My church is a warm, loving community of Christians, who are working together to spread the good news of Jesus. It is a place to feed and refresh the soul”.
When she became home bound, she could often be seen singing loudly the hymns of Alan Jackson from the recliner in her family room with her kitty, Tinkerbell, on her lap purring along. She listened to her church on the radio, sent note cards with scriptures to those in need, discussed bible lessons with Ericka and was a prayer warrior for friends and family.
Gregory Gene Justice joined the family in 1990 when he married Susan. Meemer’s son-in-law, Greggie, brought her joy with his teasing humor and was an anchor in the storm after Bob passed away.
Nothing could have meant more to Arvilla than when she became a Mimi! Camden Gene Justice arrived in 1999 and will forever be her precious boy. Cassidy Morgan Suzanne Justice came to us in 2002 and will always hold a special place in her Mimi’s heart as her sweet Princess Flower. Arvilla delighted in these gifts from God.
Arvilla is survived by her daughter Susan (West) Justice (Greg); grandchildren Camden and Cassidy Justice; daughter Ericka West all of whom reside in Stillwater, Oklahoma. She is also survived by one sister, Betty (Fliginger)(Cowden) Bierbaum of Enterprise, Alabama and several cousins, nieces, nephews and a host of friends too numerous to name.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Harold Miller Marion Fliginger and Alta Arvilla (Johnston) Fliginger.
The family wishes to thank caregivers Sylvia Cox, Allie Hiatt, Joan Long, Gladys Morris, Shauna Pendleton, Brittney and Brandalyn Smith for caring for Arvilla with love, like she was their mom or grandmother. Thanks to the ER staff, 3rd floor ICU and main floor doctors and nurses, as well as, the hospice helpers who cared for mother and for us.
We will forever keep Arvilla’s spirit-given gifts of love and joy as a spark of light and inspiration in our futures. We thank you dear Meemers for your exuberant laugh and your contagious laughter. We are grateful for your hilarious sense of humor. We will miss your imagination and wit, your silly rhymes and dramatic antics. We benefitted from your wisdom and guidance. Thank you for truly listening and empathizing with each of us. We aspire to your faithfulness, generosity and compassion. We have been astounded and proud of your perseverance and overcomer attitude. We are indebted to you for your Christ-like love surrounding us and for your constant prayers about us and for your devotion to us!
Mimi, we will never forget: crazy games like Goofballs with the Cowden clan and Chex Mix; wagon rides, flying kites and bubbles; picnics and park visits; movies and tea parties; Sirloin Stockade and the red and white slide; home-made ice cream and your white icing; trampoline bouncing and swimming in the horse tank; the old red station wagon and sleeping bags; making crafts and painting pictures; snowmen and sandboxes,; singing and silliness; fishing and sightseeing; birthday marches and the angel song; zoo trips, circus acts and church carnivals; dying eggs, fireworks and pumpkin patches; thanksgiving feasts and that too-full feeling; Christmas at the farm and now Nila and Wayne’s; Saturday pancakes and popcorn and ice cream for dinner on Sundays; kitties and chickens; Bernie the Horse and George the rooster; Brownie Troops, piano lessons and dance class; Pistol Pete visits and homecoming parades; walk-around and the Cheese Festival; Fort Cobb Lake and trips to Texas; mall shopping and bargain hunting; church camps and paddle boats; playdough and train sets; Go Fish and Candyland; Tahoe, Disney and Panama City Beach; May Day baskets and Valentine hearts, etc, etc, etc. Arvie: you have been our JOY!
Romans 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer!
Love, Love, Love!