, Muskogee, OK


October 23, 2013

Betty Jo (Morris) Bales

1925 - 2013

Born at home on the family ranch near White Oak, OK, on March 17, 1925, Betty Jo Morris was descended from one of Oklahoma’s earliest pioneer settlers. She died in her sleep at age 88 on October 21, 2013 in Muskogee, OK.

Betty is preceded in death by her parents, Joseph Gordon Morris and Mary (McCoy) Morris; and her stepmother, Inez (Bowman) Morris. She is also preceded in death by her grandparents, Tom Morris and Sylvia (Ware) Morris.

Betty is survived by three children, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren: daughter, Kay Bales and Kay’s husband, Dennis Caughron of Tulsa, and their two children, Dr. Jay Caughron and wife, Dr. Joy Caughron, and Christianne (Caughron) Warlick and husband, Dr. Daniel Warlick, and their children, Miss Lila Kay Warlick and Miss Addie Ruth Warlick; daughter, Jody Bales Foote and husband, Dr. Joe Foote, of Norman and their three children, Jackson Bales Foote, Jan Morris Foote, and Joey Talcott Foote; son, Roger Louis Bales and partner Dr. Norma Neleigh of Chadron, Nebraska.

Betty’s great-grandfather, Walter Ware, as a young man, brought his cattle and his Irish ranch hands, by train, from Hannibal, Missouri to Vinita, Indian Territory. Walter Ware followed his sister to Indian Territory. His sister had journeyed to Indian Territory to marry Jean Pierre Chouteau’s great-grandson, Edmond Chouteau. Walter Ware established his ranch in Indian Territory on April 21, 1883. One hundred years later, Oklahoma Governor, George Nigh, proclaimed April 21, 1983, “Ware-Morris Pioneer Day” in Oklahoma. Joe Morris was featured in “The Tulsa World” on April 21, 1883. The 2,000 acre ranch in Rogers and Craig Counties is still in the Ware-Morris family.

Betty’s grandmother, Sylvia Ware (later, Sylvia (Ware) Morris), rode horseback, side-saddle, in her ankle-length skirt, across the ranch, to see the first Frisco train go through what is now northeastern Oklahoma.

When Betty was age 6, her mother, Mary (McCoy) Morris, died of pneumonia at a time when there were no drugs for pneumonia. Thereafter, Betty was raised by her father, Joseph Gordon Morris, and stepmother, Inez (Bowman) Morris. Raised on a ranch, Betty would milk the cows and gather the eggs before walking to the country, one-room school house that she attended.

Betty and her parents saw the newly-created Route 66 being cut through their ranch. Betty’s father saw Will Rogers on a dozen occasions when Rogers was in Chelsea to visit his sister. Betty’s father also saw Gene Autry, when he worked at the Chelsea train depot.

Betty was allowed to skip two years of school and graduated from Chelsea High School at age 16. Betty chose to follow in the footsteps of her aunt, Lucille (Morris) Blackwell, who had graduated from college in Springfield, Missouri, and was one of Oklahoma’s early, licensed school teachers.

Betty entered Oklahoma A & M College (now OSU) at age 16. Her rancher father sold two hogs for $16, which paid for her entire college wardrobe. After graduating from Oklahoma A & M College, Betty stayed in Stillwater and worked for the Department of Defense’s Veterans Benefits section (the predecessor to today’s Department of Veterans Affairs). It was there that Betty met husband-to-be, Louis Bales. Bales had just completed his service in the U.S. Army in Belgium during World War II. Bales had traveled from his home state of Ohio to Oklahoma A & M to obtain a chemical engineering degree by using the new GI Bill, that President Franklin Roosevelt recently had signed.  Noted Route 66 author, Michael Wallis, visited Betty’s father’s ranch and interviewed Joe Morris for background information for his book, Route 66 The Mother Road. Joe Morris told Michael Wallis of the many vehicles he helped pull out of the mud, before Route 66 was paved.

Betty’s daughter, Kay Bales, was featured in the April 27, 1985 edition of “The Tulsa Tribune,” when it published some of her ancestor’s old recipes.

“The San Diego Union” newspaper interviewed and photographed Betty’s father for a September 9, 1985 article entitled, “The Way West: Vivid memories are dusted off.” Morris was featured for not leaving Oklahoma during the dust bowl.

Betty and Louis Bales were married for 22 years, producing three children, and living most of that time in Ponca City. During a 1985 Thanksgiving dinner in Ponca City, with Jo and Inez Morris over from rural Chelsea, Joe Morris received a phone call informing him that the Route 66, two-story family home had burned to the ground. Joe was told that travelers on Route 66 saw the fire, pulled over and ran into the home to retrieve a freezer, and a few other items that could be saved. They left the items in the yard and drove on their way.

Betty enjoyed being a classroom teacher for over 30 years. At her teacher retirement party, her Principal stated that he “had never heard Betty Bales say a bad word about anyone.” She traveled to all fifty states and to many European countries. Betty was a lifetime member of AAUW, the First Presbyterian Church of Ponca City, and the OSU Alumni Association. She was an avid bridge player.

The family would like to thank Ponca City’s Westminster Village, Tulsa’s Montereau Health Center, and Muskogee’s Broadway Manor for their kindness and care of Betty.

Funeral services for Betty Jo (Morris) Bales will be held at 10:00 A.M. Friday, October 25, 2013 at the First United Methodist Church in Muskogee with Dr. Jack Kemper officiating. Burial will be in Floral Haven Cemetery under the direction of Lescher-Millsap Funeral Home of Muskogee.

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