RETA LAVON WINN SMITH
Reta Lavon Winn was born to Morris Alton and Mary Perry Winn on August 17, 1921 while her father and grandfather were working on the project that became known as Pelican Lake in Duchesne County, Utah. Her birth was assisted by her grandmother, Effie Mae Weeks Winn, and when Effie registered the birth, she inadvertently recorded it as August 16, 1921. As a result of this recording, Reta had two birthdays.
Reta joined an older sister, Mae and was later joined by Vaudis, R Vee, Eldon (Tug), MaryAnn, and Gwenda. As a child born during the Great Depression, Reta traveled and lived many places in Utah and Idaho with her family as her father took whatever work was available. The family eventually bought a home in Neola, Utah. As a result of the family travels, Reta never went to the same school two years in a row. Reta loved school and spoke often of her first-grade teacher, Miss Richens, who taught her to read. Reta would come home, put the bench by the stove, and read her book to the little boy her mother was babysitting. Reta later worked as an aide in the school library.
As a young girl, Reta would go with Dr. Miles on the back of her horse to deliver babies. Dr. Miles would leave Reta with the new baby and mother for a week and then come back, check the mother, put Reta up on the back of her horse and take her back home.
As a teenager, Reta joined the NYA (National Youth Administration) and earned certificates as a Governess and Practical Nurse. Reta worked in the hospital on 21st south in Salt Lake City. When she graduated from NYA she came back home to work and brought a white satin high school graduation dress for her sister, Vaudis. Vaudis got married in the dress and then went ahead and finished high school.
During the WWII years Reta worked for Ogden Arsenal loading bullets (first in the orange powder section and then when her white hair and eyeballs began to go orange, they put her in the black powder section. One day, some people came in and did some testing for eye-hand-foot coordination. Reta exhibited exceptional aptitude and was hired by ITEL McCullough to weld filaments in radio and radar tubes. Reta enjoyed the years working in Salt Lake City at a time when dinner and dancing were very popular. She remembers going with a group of other young people to help build a synagogue, dancing at the Great Salt Lake Saltaire, and dancing one night up main street in Salt Lake City from 21st South to Temple Square.
She married Gerald Jesse Smith (Jake) on October 17, 1942 in Salt Lake City. They were married by Judge/Bishop Harper. They were later sealed in the Salt Lake City, Utah Temple on September 18, 1964. Reta and Jake loved to dance together and in addition to being dance directors for Ashley Ward, they danced in the Salt Lake City centennial dance contest. Reta arranged to have dances for her children and their friends in her tiny home. At one time there were five squares square-dancing in her living room. Reta and Jake had six children, Wilma, Gerald (Jerry), Linda, Alta, Jesse, and Louise. Reta often remarked that she married an airplane mechanic – little did she know that underneath those coveralls beat the heart of a farmer. Reta agreed that she would live on whatever money Jake provided and they made their life in Duchesne and Uintah County. Reta’s life was not without sorrow. She was in a bad car wreck when she was 13 and told she would never walk again. She did walk again (and Dance!) but suffered the rest of her life with arthritis throughout her body. Their oldest daughter drowned at 2 years old. She was widowed at 56 and worked and kept her home, farm, and sheep. Reta served for over 20 years as secretary to the Uintah Basin Wool Growers Association (Wool Pool). She built a new kitchen and dining room on her house and built many sheds to make her sheep farm more workable.
She was endlessly creative and created many necklaces and earrings of beads and feathers. She had an eye to picture how things would look and created many beautiful flower beds. Her lovely flowers decorated many graves every Memorial Day.
In addition to her “Sunday School kids” and her “Mutual kids,” her cub scouts were a real pleasure as she taught them to broad jump, make stilts, roll when they fell, sing, dance, make stage sets for their skits, and their costumes. Reta also held many jobs as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She enjoyed her job as a Relief Society Visiting Teacher, Junior Sunday School Secretary, and Mutual Director.
She most of all enjoyed her children and family. Her strong testimony of Jesus Christ strengthened and sustained her all her life.
She will meet her parents, her husband, her oldest daughter, and two grandchildren on the other side of the veil. She leaves behind five of her children: Gerald (Melody), Linda Nay, Alta Nowak, Jesse, Louise (Brady) Richens as well as many Grandchildren, Greatgrandchildren, and Great-Great Grandchildren.
Funeral Services for Reta will be conducted Saturday, September 23, 2023 at 2 PM at the Ashley 2nd Ward Chapel. 3040 North Hwy 191 Vernal Ave
Viewings will be Friday 6-8 PM at the Blackburn Vernal Mortuary and Saturday 1-1:45 PM at the Church
Burial will be in the Neola Cemetery.