November 26, 2013 5:49 AM
July 20, 1924 - November 20, 2013
Thelma Wilkes made her transition peacefully of natural causes at her home on Wednesday, November 20, 2013. A native of El Dorado, Arkansas, Thelma was the twelfth child born to Lucy and Robert Benson. She graduated from Smackover Training High School in Arkansas. In 1944 she relocated to Berkeley, California and married her late husband, Rev. L. Leander Wilkes. The couple remained married for 61 years. To this union, five children were born, Deidre Gail, Lucy Naomi, Leonard Bruce, Jamaal Keith and Leo Benson. Two children, Leonard Bruce and Lucy Naomi preceded her in death. Thelma furthered her education in northern California before relocating to Ventura, California in 1959. She became a congregant at Olivet Baptist Church where she served as First Lady for ten years, was an active member of the local Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and Church Women United. She also enjoyed volunteering with numerous community organizations. In 1965, Thelma was honored as 'Mother of the Year' for Ventura County.
In 1969, her family moved to Santa Barbara, California where she served as First Lady of Second Baptist Church for 35 years and thereafter remained active as a church Mother and with the Women's Ministry. Thelma was employed for 25 years at the University of California at Santa Barbara working in accounting, the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), and financial aid until her retirement in 1991. She believed working with students was a wonderful experience and used that opportunity to encourage young adults to finish their education and give back to their community. She enjoyed traveling within the United States and abroad, tending to her rose and vegetable gardens and pursuing her deep interest in people and the world around her.
Devoted to her family, Thelma is survived by her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, sister, Lucille Riggins, and a host of nieces, nephews, other relatives, and friends.
The family is most thankful for your love and support during this difficult time.
Arrangements entrusted to Welch-Ryce-Haider Funeral Chapels.