Cover photo for Edna Mae Chittum's Obituary
Edna Mae Chittum Profile Photo

Edna Mae Chittum

May 3, 1924 — April 28, 2024

Coffeyville, Kansas

Edna Mae Chittum

Edna Mae Chittum, beloved mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and great-great grandmother and a pillar of the Coffeyville community for more than 70 years, passed away April 28, five days shy of her 100th birthday. 

Edna Mae Brookshire was born May 3, 1924, in Agra, Oklahoma, to Denzil and Minnie Mae (McIntosh) Brookshire. Her dad was a roustabout in the oil industry in Covington, Oklahoma, and lost his job and most of his savings when the stock market crashed at the start of the Great Depression. Edna Mae later said all he had left was “$100, a sick wife, two kids, and a cow.” He bought a team of horses and rented a “poor old worn-out farm” in Ripley, Oklahoma, for $50 a year.

They grew Spanish peanuts, watermelons, and pumpkins, and Edna Mae recalled her fingers bleeding from picking cotton and carrying a gunny sack on her back. “If you got down on your knees, your knees hurt, and if you bent your back, your back hurt,” she said. “It was hard work.” She didn’t like milking the cow or killing chickens much better. The Dust Bowl of the 1930s made it that much harder to earn the $50 to make rent. They had no running water, no outhouse, no toilet paper (not even a Sears catalog), no living room furniture, no radio, and no trash can because they produced no non-organic waste and tossed the rest in the stove for heat. They called their gravy “three sixty-five” because they ate it every day. 

Edna Mae begged her parents to let her go to church and in 1934 began attending the Nazarene church in Cushing, Oklahoma, where the Brookshire family would in the early 1940s buy a farm that remains in the family to this day. After her dad got a temporary job at the refinery, he bought Edna Mae a piano in 1937. She took a few lessons for a quarter each or occasionally in exchange for a jar of fresh cream or some babysitting. She graduated from Cushing High School in 1941, and when her family sold the horses and packed up to work in the factories in California at the outset of World War II, their pastor asked her if she’d stay if he found her a job. She started work at the Cushing Daily Citizen the next week setting Linotype letter by letter, and from time to time, filling in as a reporter asking neighbors about goings-on in the town.

Edna Mae met her sweetheart Arva Dale Chittum at a drugstore soda fountain in Cushing when they were both 19 years old. “I met the nicest boy with the funniest name,” she told her mother. “Arvie” had been born two months before her five miles down the road in Tryon and was delivered by the same Dr. Anderson. 

When Arva enlisted and shipped out for Europe shortly after they met, Edna Mae moved to Oklahoma City to work for an advertising agency and later the telephone company, and they wrote letters to each other every day. Arva survived more than 30 missions as a ball-turret gunner in the B-17 and kept a picture of Edna Mae in a metal match case in his pocket, which saved him from serious injury when he was hit by flak over Nazi Germany. When he returned from the war, they married on May 27, 1945, in Cushing, and a family friend sang “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” at the wedding. Arva enrolled at Oklahoma A&M to study agriculture on the GI bill, and they lived in Stillwater until he graduated in 1949. They moved to Nowata while Arva taught school and then to Coffeyville in 1952 when he took a job at Continental Can Company. They bought a two-bedroom house at 809 Trumbo in a new development at the edge of town where they raised six children. 
As a girl, Edna Mae dedicated her life to Christ, and she served Him faithfully the rest of her life. She was a member of Coffeyville First Church of the Nazarene for 71 years. She played the organ and piano there for decades, served on the board, taught Sunday School, cleaned the church, and helped build the church building in the early 1980s, along the way visiting with and witnessing to countless people in need. She played organ for the minister J.J. Steele live on KGGF radio for many years.

She loved visits from her family when she would sing and play piano, tell old stories, make malts, and play Sorry with her many great-grandchildren. She volunteered for years in her daughter Sherri’s kindergarten classroom as a reader or to help make homemade butter or pumpkin pies. The Chittum family wants to especially acknowledge Edna Mae’s close relationship with Sherri and Sherry Spears, who helped her live independently for decades and gave her many more quality years of life, and her friendship with Taylor Baxter, who was also indispensable in recent years.

Edna Mae had a love for life and a charisma that drew in everyone around her. She had a magnetic smile and laugh and a mind that remained remarkably sharp to the end. She made all those close to her want to be better because the thought of disappointing her was unbearable. But she was also the most forgiving and understanding woman. She was the epitome of Christian love.

She is survived by her six children, David, Alan, Paul, Carleta (Deetz), Gayla (Sunderland), and Sherri; an honorary daughter, Sherry Spears; daughters-in-law Sandra, Fe, and Charolette; son-in-law Rick Deetz; eight grandchildren; 23 great grandchildren; one great-great grandchild; and countless friends. She was preceded in death in 2003 by her husband, Arva.

Mom, Grandma, GG: What a life you lived! We will treasure your memory for all of our days. May the Lord keep your spirit alive in this world through us and through all whom you have touched.

We will celebrate Edna Mae’s 100th birthday as planned from 2 to 4pm on Saturday, May 4, at Coffeyville First Church of the Nazarene’s activity center. The funeral will precede the celebration of her life and will be in the church’s sanctuary at 11am. Burial will follow the funeral service at Restlawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Coffeyville. The family has requested Memorial Contributions to be made payable to Coffeyville First Church of the Nazarene-Children's Ministries. To leave an online condolence, share a memory or view live streaming, scroll to the bottom of Edna Mae’s obituary page at https://www.fordwulfbrunschapel.com/and click on the live stream box. 

Ford-Wulf-Bruns Chapel is honored to be entrusted with celebrating the life of Edna Mae Chittum. 

 

   
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Past Services

Funeral Service

Saturday, May 4, 2024

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Central time)

Coffeyville First Nazarene Church

2300 W 1st St, Coffeyville, KS 67337

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