Shirley Ann Stead, 86 of Viola, passed away quietly Saturday, December 17, 2022, at Clarissa C. Cook Hospice House in Bettendorf, Iowa, succumbing to the dreadful effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Visitation is 12 to 2 p.m., Tuesday, December 20, at Dennison Funeral Home, Viola. A private family service will be held with burial in Viola Cemetery. Memorials may be left to the Viola Fire Department or the Alzheimer’s Association. Online condolences may be left at www.dennisonfuneralhome.com.
Shirley Ann Stead was born October 3, 1936 to Samuel Richard and Ila Maxine Overfield Creek in Alexis, Illinois. She was the second of 11 children born to them. Shirley would probably say she had a good life, if not an easy one. Being the second born in a family that size brought her extra responsibility in helping to raise them. Indeed, she was pulled out of high school before she graduated in order to assist at home.
Shirley married Rodney Jay Utz of Kellogg, Idaho, on August 28, 1954 in Aledo, Illinois, while she and Jay were attending Bible College in Springfield, Missouri. Together they had three sons, Floyd Richard, Randall Wayne, and Robert Kevin Utz. Jay was killed in a work accident on June 11, 1965, in Fairfield, Idaho, leaving Shirley with three children under the age of ten. She immediately restarted her education in Coeur D’ Alene, Idaho. After completing junior college there, she relocated to Illinois where the majority of her family still lived and finished her education at Western Illinois University where she graduated with a teaching degree. Shirley was especially proud of earning a Master’s Degree of Education some years later.
On February 11, 1967, she married Jerry Dean Stead of Viola, Illinois, who had been an old friend of the family. They had been married for over 56 years. Jerry had two children from a previous marriage, Sharon Marie and Joseph Dean Stead. Together, Shirley and Jerry raised the five children to adulthood. Along with their five children, Shirley loved her 12 grandchildren and her 22 great grandchildren very much.
Shirley taught High School English. She began her teaching career at Winola High School in Viola, and eventually retired from the Sherrard School District. In a practice that would be frowned on today, she had all five of her children as students in her classrooms. Even as her health deteriorated, she would say that “she still missed her students, well, most of them anyway.”
Shirley was an avid reader long after she had retired for as long as her health permitted. Her Bible was one of her favorite books. For many years, she read it cover to cover, over and over again. When asked why she read the same book so often, her response was that “she learned something new each time she read it.” She must have learned well. In one of her last hours, she said “she never found it hard to love everyone.”
Left to remember Shirley are her husband: Jerry, Viola; children: Floyd Utz (Joyce), New Windsor, Illinois, Randy Utz (Sharon), Roseville, California, Robert Utz (Emelyne), Seattle, Washington, Sharon Tahere (John), Walcott, Iowa, and Joe Stead (Tracy), Viola; daughter-in-law: Kim Utz, Sequim, Washington; 12 grandchildren; 21 great grandchildren; three brothers: Dave Creek (Laura), Manchester, Tennessee, John Creek (Becky), Lebanon, Tennessee, and Paul Creek (Anita), Alexis; two sisters: Ethel Creek Conard (Owen), Elephant Butte, New Mexico, and her baby sister, Mary Creek Shaw (Rick), Alexis; sisters-in-law: Gean Creek, Alexis, Shirley Creek, Galesburg, Illinois, and Shirley Creek, Kerrville, Texas. There are also dozens upon dozens of nieces, nephews, and cousins that will remember Shirley.
Shirley was preceded in death by her first husband: Jay Utz; parents; brothers: Stanley, Sam, Wally, and Phillip Creek; sister: Doris Creek Nichols; and one great grandchild: Posie Utz.
The family would like to extend their sincere gratitude to the Nurses, Doctors, and Staff of the Clarissa C. Cook Hospice House for their caring and compassionate treatment of Shirley and her family during these most difficult of times. It’s hard to imagine any better care anywhere.