On August 3, 2021, Gloria VanNatta passed away peacefully after suffering from Alzheimer’s for several years. She was born February 5, 1934, in Clovis, New Mexico to Dolores Marie Sandoval and Mervin Thomas Gentry. Gloria was married to John Roe on September 12, 1953. They had four children, John Thomas, Theresa Lee, Nannette Marie, and Timothy Patrick. They later divorced. On May 24, 1997, Gloria married Billy Gene VanNatta. Along with Gene, two more children were added to the family, Pam and Michael. Gloria and Gene were sealed for eternity on January 27, 2001, in the Church of Jesus of Latter-Day Saints Dallas Texas Temple.
At the difficult age of 16, Mom had a crisis of faith and was introduced to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She, along with her sister, Betz, joined the church. Later they traveled to Salt Lake City to receive their patriarchal blessings. While there, they met President David O. McKay. Mom’s faith never wavered, she loved the church and its teachings. During her lifetime, she served in many positions which include Dance Director, Single Adult Representative, Temple Worker, Service Missionary, and probably her favorite, Primary Teacher.
Mom was always very active, way ahead of her time when it came to fitness. Six weeks after giving birth, she would start working out with the Jack LaLanne TV show every morning. During her 20s and 30s, she was an avid bowler. We don’t know how many leagues she joined, but she spent many days a week at the bowling alley. Her trophies filled up an entire bookcase -- Mom’s most prized trophy was for bowling a perfect game. Tennis was another sport she enjoyed. She was a tennis instructor for the YWCA.
Her biggest passion was probably gardening, she didn’t just have a green thumb, she was a master. There were plants everywhere, the patio was like stepping into a rainforest. If your plant was in trouble, Mom would save it. Everywhere she lived, it was important to have space for her plants.
Ballroom dancing became a passion after her children left home. She met Dad while dancing, and they fit together so well, eventually he asked her if he could have that dance for the rest of his life. The two of them continued to light up the floor for many years. Even adding square dancing to their dance card.
Mom’s greatest pleasure was being a grandmother, affectionately known as “Makka”. She and Dad never missed any major life event of their numerous grandchildren or great grandchildren. Their support and presence is fondly remembered by all.
Among her many hobbies were ceramics and sewing pillowcases. Mom painted Christmas ornaments, holiday decorations, nativity sets, and many more objects. We are still enjoying her creative efforts. Pillowcases became the main gift as time went by. She couldn’t pass up a fabric or quilt store without looking for some new themed fabric for pillowcases. Even the staff at the independent living would receive a pillowcase for themself or someone in their family.
We believe Mom’s great accomplishment was her resilience. Her mother died when she was only seven years old. From then on, life was challenging. In the mid 1960s, Mom was left to raise her four children alone without any marketable skills. Among her many jobs were assembly line, cleaning offices at night, office clerk, with her last job as Manager of Beehive Distribution in Dallas, TX. Throughout all of this, she raised four successful children. Mom beat the odds.
Mom is survived by her children, John (Diane) Roe, Terri (Steve) Kuykendall, Nann (J.R.) Martin, Tim (Liz) Roe, Pam (Gene) Mason, and Michael (Alvina) VanNatta; fifteen grandchildren, thirty great-grandchildren; one great-great grandson; and her sisters, Penny Jean Clark, April Gentry, and Pasty Romero. She was preceded in death by her husband, Gene; nine siblings; one granddaughter; one great-granddaughter; and one great-great granddaughter.
We would like to thank Nann and J.R. for their dedicated, loving service caring for Mom these past few years. Their tireless efforts allowed Mom to live the best life possible. They endured numerous trips to Walmart! We would also like to acknowledge the care and compassion she received at Legend at Rivendell Memory Care and Rivermont, and from the staff of Transitions Hospice.
There will be a private family burial August 20, 2021 at Fort Sill National Cemetery. The following evening, Saturday, August 21, 2021, we will celebrate Mom’s life with an “After Party,” invitation only.
To plant a tree in memory of Gloria Elizabeth Gentry Roe VanNatta, please click here.