Ima Leta Jean died of cardiac arrest on November 2, 2020, in Forth Worth, Texas. She was 86.
Leta was born in 1934 in Osceola, Texas. One of nine children in the family of Charles and Pearl Jean, Leta grew up on a small farm near Covington, Texas. Leta graduated from Covington High School in 1952, where she played guard on the girls’ basketball team.
After graduating from high school, Leta high-tailed it up to Fort Worth, the city she called home for most of the rest of her existence. Leta and friends saw Elvis Presley perform at a local fair, standing on the back of a flat-bed truck, singing for a few hundred fans (well before Elvis rocketed to fame). Leta also knew a young Willie Nelson, who grew up nearby.
Leta’s first job was as a switchboard operator for the phone company; while there, she once got into a brief phone argument with the famous movie star, Joan Crawford. Apparently, Crawford was playing celebrity boss and Leta was having none of it.
In 1956, Leta married Laurence Vacker, a Navy veteran and architecture student at The University of Texas at Austin. While living in Austin, Leta and Laurence had their first child, Barry D. Vacker. After Laurence’s graduation they moved to Fort Worth, where they had a second son, Lynn C. Vacker.
On November 21, 1963, Laurence worked for an architecture firm in a Fort Worth skyscraper near the Texas Hotel. Leta and Laurence stood behind the velvet rope and got a close-up view of President Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy as they exited their limousine to enter the lobby of the Texas Hotel. Of course, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas the next day. Found among Leta’s mementos were magazines chronicling the tragedy as well as the Apollo 11 moon landing.
While married, Leta and Laurence raised their two sons. The boys never knew a time they were not expected to be successful and to always work hard toward their goals. For that, and many other virtues, her sons will always be grateful. Barry has been a university professor for 25 years, and Lynn is a long-time manager with Motiva Energy (formerly Shell Oil).
Leta was super-proud of her middle-class suburban home. It was always spotless. Beds were made every day, clothes washed, etc. Leta let her sons wear the coolest fashions for kids and teens. Leta and Laurence took family vacations to the Alamo, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Disneyland, San Francisco, Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, and the Grand Canyon.
Leta was an incredibly optimistic person and hard worker, even into her 80s. After attending a business and accounting college in Fort Worth, Leta had several careers. She worked in a bank for over 20 years, in a medical clinic for 20, health insurance for another 15, and, bored of retirement, worked as a greeter at the nearby Walmart. Laurence and Leta divorced in the late 1970s. Leta subsequently had two short-lived marriages, neither as enduring as the one to Laurence.
Leta believed in God, but rarely went to church. Leta’s real religions were shopping, the Dallas Cowboys, and the STATE OF TEXAS. Since Laurence and Barry graduated from The University of Texas, she was also a fan of the Longhorns. But, nothing rivaled her love for all things Texas.
Leta also went on a few ocean cruises and trips to resort cities in Mexico. She once journeyed to see the Mayan ruins.
When her sons visited her, she liked to cook steaks or her unique style of fried chicken. It was always followed by Texas cantaloupes or watermelons and some Blue Bell ice cream. As Leta aged, her inner beauty and optimism always shined through.
All of the above is how her family and friends remember her.
Leta Jean is survived by her two sons, Barry (and his partner Gail Bower) and Lynn, two sisters (Robbie Holt and Wanda Fechtner), one brother (Hollis Jean), two grandchildren (Lynn’s son Justin and daughter Lauren).
A graveside service is scheduled for 11:00 am Wednesday, November 11, at the Blanton Cemetery. Masks are 100% required and physical distancing will be enforced. Marshall & Marshall Funeral Directors in Hillsboro are in charge of arrangements.
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