Nelda Van Dyke, beloved wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, great-great-grandmother, sister, aunt, and devoted friend was called from her earthly home of 102 years to be with her Heavenly Father on April 20, 2021. Her life, her determined spirit, and her love of God, family, friends, and community, will be celebrated with a private family service.
Nelda, the daughter of Alvin and Bessie [Darden] Hicks, was born February 3, 1919, and raised in the small west Texas town of Munday. She married her Tahoka High School sweetheart Jim Van Dyke on December 7, 1935. Nelda and Jim were blessed with two sons, Joe and Eddie. Nelda never failed to impart that she was greatly blessed to have watched her sons grow up, marry, and raise their families. In the special Brenham Banner Press “People Profile” article entitled “Van Dyke Still ‘Walking Tall with a Purpose’ as 90 Nears,” Nelda shared one of her most consistent goals learned during the early years of her life was “trying to keep a positive outlook on life…keep smiling and believing that God has a purpose in our lives….” Nelda developed this philosophy from her life experiences learned when “times were hard.” Her mother died from tuberculosis when Nelda was 4 and her younger sister and brother were 2 and 9 months old. Her father’s sister took the three small children to live with her for several years. When Nelda was 8 years old, she and her sister returned to live with their father after he remarried. Following the 1929 stock market crash, the Great Depression struck, and the family lost their home in Midland. Eventually they moved to Tahoka when Nelda was in the eighth grade. It was there that she met “the love of her life,” Jim. After they married in 1935, their love grew, their family expanded, and the depression deepened. Both Jim and Nelda searched for and took any jobs they could find, including hoeing cotton for 75 cents a day. On their 6th wedding anniversary, December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked. Jim found work at the naval base being built in Corpus Christi. The days that followed were dark and dreary, living with blackouts and rationing of food and gasoline, but many lasting friendships were made. When the war ended, the next jobs and next move was to Lubbock. Unfortunately, the economy took another plunge when the sand and dust started blowing as a prolonged drought hit the area. Once again hard times surrounded Nelda’s family. Determined to find new horizons and opportunities, the family headed to Odessa, where the oil boom provided jobs to all who would come. A job followed by promotions for Jim brought a transfer to McAllen and then to San Antonio. Jim, Nelda, Joe, and Eddie all thrived there. Following graduation, Joe joined the navy to see the world. Eddie attended Texas A&M on a football scholarship. Each of the Nelda’s sons found the love of his life and got married. Then in April 1969 tragedy hit when Jim, age 51, died from a heart attack. It was, Nelda wrote in her book ‘The Flying V,’ “the blackest time of (her) life.” As months passed, Nelda floundered. Finally, she returned to work for her former school district. She threw herself into her work and was promoted several times. She became involved in the school secretaries’ association on the local and state level. In 1979, she was installed as the President of the 5,000 member state organization of TESA [Texas Educational Support Staff Association]. In her article “Leaves of Gold” Nelda wrote, “One of the happiest times in my life was in 1979 when I was elected president of TESA.” In this challenging position, Nelda made many lasting friendships all over Texas.
The same year she retired (1984) the State Board of Education appointed Nelda to the TRS-CARE Advisory Committee. In addition, she also had the honor of being the first TESA appointed Legislative Consultant, representing TESA at the Texas Legislature and other educational associations. In 1999 the name of the special TESA award given annually to the “Educational Employee of the Year” was changed to the “Nelda Van Dyke Award” to honor Nelda’s extraordinary ongoing dedication, leadership, service and example. In 2013-2014, Nelda was again showered with respect as she was chosen by her peers to be the recipient of this award named in her honor.
In addition, when Nelda retired from the school district, she made a permanent move to Brenham, becoming Eddie’s and Sally’s next-door neighbor.
Nelda, preferring in one of her many wonderfully written TESA magazine and newsletter articles to personally redefine “retirement” to mean “transition – going from one state of being (busy) to another,” continued her statewide service to TESA and also worked with dedication several days a week with son Eddie, joining his staff at Van Dyke-Rankin Insurance Agency. She also became energetically involved in multiple meaningful commitments and activities in her new hometown becoming active in the Brenham First Baptist Church’s Joy Sunday School class; teaching a well-attended and rewarding weekly Bible study group at Kruse Village; and developing a popular and humor-filled clown act with her dear friend Ina Hermann. She participated in Brenham’s Louise Giddings Retired Teacher Association, the Washington County Heritage Society, and served as treasurer of the Fortnightly Club. Nelda also continued to be an avid lover of watching sports. She claimed she never missed a college or pro football game on television. Just as was the case when sons Joe and Eddie were growing up, for years she enthusiastically attended as many of her grandchildren’s and great-grandchildren’s live athletic and special events as was possible.
Nelda was preceded in death by her parents Bessie and Alvin Hicks; her beloved husband of 33 years, George James “Jim” Van Dyke and his parents Joe and Bess Van Dyke; and her brother Tommy Hicks.
Nelda is survived in life by loving family: her sons and daughters-in-law Joe and Doris Van Dyke of San Antonio and Eddie and Sally Van Dyke of Brenham; her four grandchildren and their spouses Heather Van Dyke Thielemann [Arlen], Jarvis Van Dyke [Christy], James Van Dyke [Elise], and Cyndy Van Dyke Flores [Augie]; great-grandchildren Dillon, Addie, and Shea Thielemann, Jackson and Ellie Van Dyke, Shelby Flores, Lauren Batey, and Kyle Van Dyke; her sister Ina Bess Hicks Whitaker; her sister-in-law Bobbie Hicks; four great-great-grandchildren; and numerous great-nieces and nephews.
The family wishes to extend their sincere appreciation for the loving care provided by Kruse Village Skilled Nursing staff and the Brazos Valley Hospice staff.
Pallbearers will be Jarvis Van Dyke, Jackson Van Dyke, Arlen Thielemann, Dillon Thielemann, James Van Dyke, Kyle Van Dyke, and Augie Flores.
Funeral arrangements are entrusted to Memorial Oaks Chapel, 1306 West Main Street, Brenham, Texas. Visitation is Saturday, April 24 at Memorial Oaks from 10am – 6pm. Family members will not be in attendance. Nelda’s funeral service will be a private family service and burial on Sunday, April 25, 2021 in Brenham, Texas. The service will be live-streamed on Sunday, April 25 at 1:30pm on the bottom of this page.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Nelda’s memory to the Brenham ISD Foundation, 2211 S. Day #330, Brenham, Tx 77833; or First Baptist Church – Brenham, P. O. Box 600, Brenham, Tx 77834.
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