Opal Bearden to celebrate upcoming 90th birthday
Opal Bearden will celebrate her 90th birthday from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, at a gathering hosted by her family at the First Christian Church in Gainesville.
She was born Feb. 21, 1929, in West Frankfort, Illinois, the oldest of William and Hattie McCollum’s five children. In 1947, Opal married Bill Bearden when they were both 18. Their first son was born a year later, in 1948. Soon afterward, they moved to San Diego, California, where Bill worked as a carpet layer and Opal enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom for their growing family, which by 1955 included another son and a daughter.
When their youngest child, Sue, was in high school, Opal went back to school at Southwestern College in Chula Vista, California, outside San Diego. She became a licensed vocational nurse and worked the “graveyard shift” (11 p.m. to 7 a.m.) in the intensive care unit at Paradise Valley Hospital until about 1983, when she developed back problems and became disabled.
As a youngster, Bill had been fascinated by pilots who had come to his hometown, offering rides for those who bought war bonds. He earned his own pilot’s license a few years later, in 1948. In the early 1980s, he became an FAA examiner and opened a flight school. Opal and their children later joined him in working there, contributing to the success of the business.
Soon after her husband’s death in 1998, Opal moved in with her daughter and son-in-law, Sue and Todd Herning, and in 2004, they moved together to Ozark County, where, after a short time of “retirement,” the Hernings opened H&W Automotive with their son, Jimmy Wynn and his wife Liz.
Opal volunteered at the Ozark County Volunteer Library and Senior Center for several years – until she broke her hip. She is also a breast cancer survivor.
Today, Opal’s oldest son Dale lives in Sedrowooley, Washington, with his wife, Roxanne. Her middle son, Don, died in 1999. She also has seven grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren, and she’s eagerly awaiting the arrival of her first great-great-grandbaby in September.
She enjoys being involved in the activities of the First Christian Church and looks forward to greeting friends and family members there at her 90th birthday celebration. Family members ask that no gifts be brought, but greeting cards are especially welcome. Those who aren’t able to attend may send cards to Opal at 1321 State Highway 5, Gainesville, MO 65655.