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Walter Theadore Scheets

Walter Theadore Scheets of Houston, Missouri, was born November 6, 1913 to Walter Benjamin and Ida Elizabeth Pruitt Scheets at their home near Yukon, Missouri. He passed away February 23, 2015.

Ted, also called “W.T.”, had two brothers, John and Randle, and three sisters, Ethel Bandy Baker, Myrtle McKinney, and Viola Erwin.

Ted had a servant’s heart throughout his life. That, combined with his strong work ethic, allowed him to play major roles in the lives of many.

As a child, Ted often helped his mother provide food for the family from her large garden and from the wild. He even climbed to the tops of tall trees to gather wild grapes, and he shelled black walnuts for her special cake. Life was hard in those days, and resourcefulness was necessary.

As a ten-year-old, Ted worked part-time as a farm hand for Tom Ice, a neighbor. At 14, by himself, he planted five acres of corn, using a horse-drawn plow and harvested about 240 bushels, which was a significant yield.

At 15, Ted began driving the truck for his dad’s store at Yukon. Since this was one of the few vehicles in the area, he drove the family and neighbors to church and to “singings,” often making two round trips. Wood benches were placed in the back as seats for the passengers. The truck had no heater, no starter, and bad brakes.

As a young adult, Ted continued farming and driving into St. Louis for his father and his brother John, who jointly owned the Scheets and Son store at Clara, Missouri. He hauled livestock, poultry, and eggs, and brought back feed and supplies.

Ted also served the community as a businessman. In June 1940, with only $625 and already a John Deere dealer, Ted opened W. T. Scheets Hardware in Houston. Because the country was still recovering from the Depression and would soon enter World War II, obtaining merchandise was difficult. He was never able to have a grand opening because of his weekly trips to St. Louis.

From the 1940s to 1965, Ted sponsored annual John Deere Days to promote his business. New products were showcased, prizes were awarded, and a free movie was offered to all. There are still John Deere tractors in use in Texas County that Ted sold. He later became the New Holland dealer and added brands of small engine equipment. His small business grew to a payroll of ten employees.

Ted’s servant-heart also led him to serve his community. During World War II Ted was appointed to the Rationing Board in charge of non-highway gasoline and fuel. After the war, he played a key role in developing Houston’s infrastructure. While he was on the city council, Houston chose to buy its own electrical system. The city streets needed to be graded and paved so Ted and the late Si Ferguson, another local businessman, located a used road grader and went together to get it for the city. The city also needed a sewer system. Since he was hauling livestock for local farmers to St. Louis on a weekly basis, Ted arranged to pick up the needed sewer tile. Finally Houston had a municipal sewer system.

In 1943, Ted joined the small group of volunteer city firemen. The department owned one hose-carrying truck, no pump, and a hose with a one-inch nozzle. Ted received permission from the city council to sell fire dues for protection to homeowners outside city limits. The insurance company balked at this idea. As a result, Houston Rural Fire Department was developed in 1952. The late Warren Gobble called Ted the “father of the Houston Rural Fire Department,” which was believed to have been the third rural department in Missouri. Ted was co-chief of the department for many years and served as the city fire chief until 1959. When Ted suffered smoke inhalation in the fire that destroyed several businesses on Grand Avenue, he had to resign from both departments.

Ted chose to faithfully serve the Lord. On December 10, 1931, he was baptized in Big Creek at Barricklow along with 42 others. In spite of a thin layer of ice, no one became ill. In 1953, Ted and Lorene joined Houston Christian Church. He was a teacher and Sunday school superintendent for many years. Ted served on the board of Cookson Hill Children’s Home. He and Lorene were active in the Gideons, along with their good friends, Ansel and Blanche Coats, providing Bibles to school children, hospitals, and motels. After retiring, Ted and Lorene wintered in Texas for 23 years and were quite active in their church there.

Ted served his family well also. In later years he devoted much time to caring for Lorene throughout her declining health. He continued to do so until he was 99, when she passed.

In his last years, Ted worried about not being able to serve God as he had before. Family assured him that his responsibility now was to continue to be the man of God that he had been and to pray. He prayed fervently for his family, for the church, for the nation. His favorite verse was II Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

Ted was preceded in death on January 17, 2012 by his wife of 67½ years, Lorene Shelton Scheets; their son, Charles Michael; his parents; his brothers and sisters; and a great-grandson, Brandon Tucker McNew.

He is survived by their children, Helen Marie Branson (Gene) of St. James, Missouri, Ila Jean Farris (Earl) of Houston, Missouri, and Walter Bruce (Andi) Scheets of Houston; 11 grandchildren, Eric Farris, Tim Branson (Amy), Tabbi McCallister (Terry), Brant Farris (Christy), Jarid Scheets (Jennifer), Deborah Kleinheider (Jeremy), Heather Chowning (Steve), Vanessa Farris, Ty Scheets, Tanner Scheets (Chyenne), and Camryn Scheets; 23 great-grandchildren, Alexandra, Nicholas, Isabella, and Dimitri Farris, Nicholas Portincaso (Kristen), Janissa Portincaso, Kaelen and Kaleigh Ireland, Brittany and Tyee McCallister, Logan and Morgan Farris, Riley, Katy, Hally, Charlie Jo, and Ellie Scheets, Madison and Colby Kleinheider, and Tristan Leier, Karissa, Marcus and Alexis Driver; two great-great-grandchildren, Addison and Aiden Portincaso; a sister-in-law, Norma (Shelton) Hunter; numerous nieces, nephews, and a host of other family members.

Ted received many awards throughout his life, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from Houston Chamber of Commerce, the Outstanding Republican Award 2013 from Texas County Republicans, and resolutions from the Missouri House of Representatives and Senate.

His final and greatest honor and reward will be, however, hearing the words “Well-done, good and faithful servant.”

Memorials may be made to Texas County Gideons.

Services were Friday, February 27, 2015, at 11:00 a.m. at Houston First Christian Church, with Pastor Don Elliott, Pastor Randy Scheets and Dr. Howell Burkhead officiating. Pallbearers were Eric Farris, Timothy Branson, Brant Farris, Jarid Scheets, Ty Scheets and Tanner Scheets. Burial was in Pine Lawn Cemetery under the direction of Evans Funeral Home.

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