Bess Cole Spiva was born on October 12, 1901, in Galena, Kansas to George Newton Spiva and Bessie Tamblyn Spiva. She was their middle child and had two siblings, Hubert and George Anthony. A year after her birth their family moved to Joplin, Missouri where they remained. She graduated from high school and obtained a degree from Monticello College in Godfrey, Illinois in June of 1921.
After a six month trip around the world with her family Bess married her high school beau Leroy Kittrell Timmons on September 2, 1922. They lived in Baxter Springs, Kansas for the next five years with a brief time in Joplin before they moved to Pittsburg, Kansas, where they raised their three children, Bob, George, and Judy.
Her husband died in 1954, after a long illness, at the premature age of 53. Bess never remarried, saying Leroy was the love of her life. As before, her time was filled with a multitude of activities and charities. Organizations she supported included The Salvation Army, United Way, Red Cross, PEO, Girl Scouts, The Humane Society, Alturas International, The Endowment Association of Pittsburg State University, and the Pittsburg Municipal Library. In addition, she was on the Mount Carmel Medical Center Community Relations and Marketing Committee and volunteered her time at the hospital regularly. She served as an elder at the Presbyterian Church in Pittsburg for many years.
Sensitive to the educational and spiritual needs of youth Bess set up the George N. Spiva and Bess Spiva Timmons Scholarship Fund’s at P.S.U. and built the Timmons Chapel on the University’s campus, all of which she actively and lovingly supervised. The all-faiths chapel was dedicated on October 2, 1966 and has been in constant use since.
In 1967, she established the Bess Spiva Timmons Foundation to enable her children and future generations to carry on an already existing program of assistance in areas of education, health, medical research, the arts, programs with minority focus, social services and ecology. Smaller and grass roots organizations were particularly targeted, as she stated that these could use the funds more frugally, and truly needed and appreciated encouragement.
Her life was filled with thoughtfulness and charity, often given anonymously. In her book “Yesterday,” written for her family to recall their legacy, she states that it was “a major blessing to grow up with the certain knowledge that ‘Man is the maker of himself,’ people are more important than possessions and a sense of humor is the salt of life.” She passed away on June 15, 1987 at the age of 86, leaving a legacy that is a major blessing for her family and others for generations to come.