Memories of Lela Mildred (Bowman) Omta
God called Lela home, at age 93, on July 17, 2020, after a lifetime in His service. She passed away in Grand Rapids, Michigan, from congestive heart failure. She was born minutes after her twin sister, Lila, on a farm in Sabetha, Kansas on July 12, 1927, the youngest child of Elmon and Sarah Bowman. Her life began in the Dust Bowl with the Great Depression shaping her formative early years and ended during a global pandemic. As a result of the depression, her parents had to sell their farm in Kansas, and in 1936 the family moved to Boulder, Colorado, then 3 years later to Sunnyside, Washington, seeking employment for her father. As the youngest of 8 children in a boisterous family, Lela had to fend for herself and never shied away from hard work, lending a helping hand or from expressing her strong opinions. Her early education began in a one-room schoolhouse in Kansas. She insisted on graduating from high school (in Sunnyside), the first in her family to do so, and one of her proudest moments was when she became a bank teller. Eventually she could fill most of the positions at the bank and was even instrumental in helping bank officials solve an embezzlement by a fellow employee.
In 1947 in Sunnyside, WA, she married her husband, John W. Omta, a veteran of WWII. She gave encouragement as he pursued a successful accounting career and built his business. Over the years she volunteered at her church, many civic organizations and charity groups, served on the hospital board and made many quilts for the local mission. Defying the norms of the 1950’s, she was a “working mother” at the bank while raising her children and taking care of her elderly parents. After 31 years of marriage her husband, John, died at age 54 in a tragic plane crash. After this devastating loss she eventually moved to Bellingham, WA. She began to volunteer at natural disaster sites across the US, Mexico and Papua New Guinea for the Red Cross, CRWRC (now World Renew), and also locally for Love INC, earning many service awards along the way. She was unfailingly generous with her time and money, helping anyone she knew who was struggling. Her family will always be thankful for the integrity and spiritual heritage she and John passed on to the next generation. She loved quilting and her family and many friends have been blessed with colorful quilts to remember her by. She especially enjoyed daily walks, hiking in the mountains near Bellingham with friends and also stamp collecting.
She was preceded in death by her husband, John, her parents and all 7 siblings. She is survived by her children: Patricia (Gerard) Venema of Grand Rapids MI, Michael (Claudia) Omta of Mesa AZ, Stephen (Jody) Omta of Camas WA, and Timothy Omta of Mesa AZ; 9 grandchildren: Sara (David) Siegal, Emily Kuffner, Daniel (Ann) Venema, Stacey (Scott) Padgett, Scott (Heather) Omta, Lindsay (Eric) Olberding, Nicholas Omta, Marco Omta and Priscilla Omta ; 7 great-grandchildren (plus 2 more on the way); 2 brothers-in-law, Byron Omta and James Omta, both in Oregon; and many nieces and nephews along with their children.
A memorial service will be held at a later date in Sunnyside WA where she will be interred beside her husband. Memorial contributions in her honor may be made to World Renew (https://worldrenew.net) at 1700 28th St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49508 (1-800-552-7972 or 616-224-0740) or to the American Red Cross (https://www.redcross.org)