Mildred Kathryn Tomlinson Litton
Mildred Kathryn Tomlinson Litton was born on February 22, 1910 in Daviess County to Leonidas (Lon) Tomlinson and Cora Ethel Youtsey Tomlinson; the fourth of six children. Mildred attended school at Carlow and then Lock Springs, where she graduated with the class of 1928. During her high school years she met a young Davies County man named Charley Oscar Litton. They were married in Hiawatha, Kansas on March 30, 1929.
They began their married life in Kansas City, where Charley worked as a bookkeeper and stenographer for an automobile agency. With their roots in farming, they were glad to return to the Lock Springs area when Charley was given the chance to farm part of the acreage on his family’s former home. An accident with a gravel truck put an end to Charley’s farming and left him an invalid. They moved to a small house on the farm owned by Mildred’s father, and for the next several years Mildred supported them by milking eleven cows and selling eggs from her chickens. During the winter months she trapped and sold furs.
Charley eventually recovered and they resumed farming. In 1937 their son, Jerry Lon Litton, was born in that small farmhouse. The following year they were able to again take possession of the Litton farm and took over the 500 acres and a large house that was badly in need of repair. Over the next four years they worked hard to farm the land and renovate the old farmhouse, only to watch it burn to the ground in 1942. Mildred worked hard during those farm years – milking cows, driving a tractor and lending a hand wherever needed. Her greatest joy during that time lay in the raising of their remarkable son. They instilled in him their own beliefs in hard work, honesty and caring for others.
Jerry joined early in the farming operation, and when he graduated from College in 1961 he and his young bride, Sharon Summerville Litton returned to join as partners with Charley and Mildred in a new venture. The Litton Charolais Ranch was established in Chillicothe and Mildred’s new life began. The first years were filled with hard work as they struggled to make a name for themselves and for their cattle. Mildred’s roles included cooking meals for prospective buyers, helping in the ranch office, caring for the two grandchildren who made a welcome appearance in the family, and traveling with Charley on the show circuit, where the big white cattle made a national and international reputation for the Litton name.
The grandchildren, Linda Lorraine and Scott Stuart became Mildred’s new joy in life. She enjoyed many hours with them and joined them in fishing, playing games, and riding their mini Honda motorcycles over the ranch acreage.
In 1972 Jerry decided to enter the political arena and announced his candidacy for U.S. Congressman from Missouri’s Sixth District. Once again Mildred’s life underwent a change. She was introduced to the art of campaigning, entertaining politicians and attending fundraisers and coffees for the candidates. She and her good friend, Maxine Lamb, stuffed thousands of envelopes, delivered campaign material, posted information in card files, and copied hundreds of names and addresses. Ed Turner, Jerry’s campaign manager, jokingly called them his “Girlie One and Girlie Two”’ and said they could always be counted on to come through when there was work that needed to be done. Their efforts, along with the help of many others, culminated in Jerry being elected in 1972 and re-elected in 1974.
In 1976 Mildred and Charley lost their son and his entire family in a tragic plane crash. Jerry had just won the primary race as democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate. Mildred’s life was shattered, and Charley became her lifeline, as he struggled to care for them both. Charley established the Jerry Litton Family Memorial Foundation and began a program of extending help to the community and particularly to the Chillicothe R-II School District. He also became interested in having a biography written about their son, and he was able to persuade Mildred to help. She drew on her inner strength and began the process of returning to a normal life. She told many stories of Jerry’s life and history, taped many memories, and helped Charley proof read the chapters as they were written by a long time friend and ranch employee, Bonnie Mitchell.
In 1980 Charley lost his battle with cancer, Mildred was left alone. Once again she faced a devastating loss, but she immediately assumed the reins of the Litton Foundation and completed the effort begun by Charley to build a lasting memorial for Jerry, which culminated in the Jerry Litton Visitors Center at Smithville Lake. She then enrolled the Litton Foundation in a project to build the Litton Agri Science Learning Center for the FFA program in Chillicothe. That was followed by continued building at the learning center, assisting with the Jenkins Expo Building project and improvements for the Livingston County Fair facilities. Mildred’s heart had always been with the FFA program, from Jerry’s first years as a member and officer, Charley’s award of honorary American Farmer Degree, and her own certificate of appreciation, to the present day projects at the Learning Center.
She was a generous donor to many other projects, including the Green Hills Golf Course, Livingston County 4-H Foundation, Chillicothe YMCA, the Alpha Gamma Rho house at Missouri University in Columbia and scholarships to Chillicothe High School and the University of Missouri. In 2007 she was one of the first recipients of the Chillicothe Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award.
Mildred was a member of the Gallatin Presbyterian Church where she was a faithful attendee until confined to her home by ill health. Her faith was a great strength and support throughout her life.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Brothers Keith Tomlinson and Kenneth Tomlinson, Sisters Margaret Tomlinson, Winnie Hampton and Doris Webster, Husband Charley, Son Jerry, Daughter in law Sharon and grandchildren Linda and Scott. She is survived by several nieces, nephews, cousins and families, including Chillicothe residents Debbie and Lyle Jenkins and Pat and Jim Gates and Family. She is also survived by many Litton relatives who have always claimed her as their own “Aunt Mildred”. Nearby relatives include Victor and Mildred Litton and Jane and Fred Sweany, all of Lock Springs.
Funeral services will be held at United Methodist Church Chillicothe, Missouri at 10:30 am on Tuesday December 30, 2008. There will be a family visitation on Monday December 29th from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. at Lindley Funeral Home Chillicothe, Missouri. Friends may call on Monday December 29, 2008 at the funeral home from 12 noon until 9 p.m. Memorial contributions may be made to the Jerry Litton Family Memorial Foundation those may be left at the funeral home or mailed to Lindley funeral Home P.O. Box 47 Chillicothe, Missouri 64601. Interment will be at Resthaven Memorial Gardens Chillicothe, Missouri. Arrangements are under the direction of Lindley Funeral Home Chillicothe, Missouri.
Arrangements are under the direction of Lindley Funeral Home, Chillicothe, Mo.