Tahlequah Daily Press

November 27, 2012

Loretta Dunham


TAHLEQUAH — Services for Loretta Dunham will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 28, at 11 a.m., at Reed-Culver Chapel, with Rev. Charles Duvall officiating. Visitation will be held on Tuesday, from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m., at Reed-Culver.

Interment will be held at Tahlequah City Cemetery. Services are under the direction of Reed-Culver Funeral Home of Tahlequah.

Loretta Dickenson Dunham was born on Aug. 27, 1921, in Durant, to Frank Gideon Dickenson and Martha Evans Dickenson. She passed away in Tahlequah on Nov. 23, 2012, at the age of 91.

The Dickenson family moved to Tahlequah when Loretta was a teenager. There she met Ralph Dunham and they were married on Sept. 13, 1940. In the late 1940s, Loretta and Ralph took a working vacation to the shipyards of California, where Loretta worked as a welder and picked fruit in the lush orchards. Upon their return, her work focused on her family, until she took a position at Northeastern State University, where she worked until her retirement years.

For Loretta, retirement was an opportunity to really get down to work. She began by opening Little People Daycare with her daughter Denyce. There she became known and loved by hundreds of Tahlequah kids who still call her “Grammie.” Even after the daycare center closed, she was still winning the title “Best Cook” in the Best of Tahlequah contests because of the wonderful home cooked meals the children enjoyed.

Later she went to work again, joining forces with Denyce, as co-owner and cook at Ford’s Alley in downtown Tahlequah. By this time, she was about 80 years old and still going strong. Loretta had to take some time off when her husband Ralph became ill. She cared for him in their home until his death in 2001.

Loretta’s neighbors on north Vinita Street will remember seeing her outdoors most days working on the landscaped home place where she and Ralph lived together for 61 years. She loved plants, gardening and trees, and never tired of using her green thumb to beautify her surroundings. The original four acre spread had expanded to eight acres and seven rental homes that Loretta managed and maintained for several more years.

Strength is perhaps the best word to describe this amazing woman. She believed in building and repairing things by hand. She had the courage to face every crisis head on. She represented love and security to her children and grandchildren and the many other children she took under her wing. She would be the first to say that her great abundance of strength came from her faith in God, and she strived every day to adhere to that faith by treating everyone she met with kindness.

Loretta is survived by her sister, Donna Byrd of Springfield, Mo.; daughter, Reta Land of Tulsa; and grandchildren, Laura Smith and Jack Land IV; son, Roger Dunham and his wife Mary Dunham of Skiatook; and grandchildren, Roger L. Dunham and Carl Dunham; daughter, Debbie Duvall and her husband Murv Jacob of Tahlequah; and grandchildren, Jana Jacob, Nick Duvall, Holly Jacob and Roxanne Duvall; daughter, Denyce Dunham-Finch and her husband Joel Finch of Tahlequah; and grandchildren, Charlynn Dry, Bethany Neet, Rita Looney, Joel Finch Jr., Robert Finch, Augusta Finch and Sarah Finch; and 14 great-grandchildren.

Loretta was a member of the First General Baptist Church of Tahlequah.

Reed-Culver Funeral Home, 117 W. Delaware, (918) 456-2551.