Wilma Pearl McKenna peacefully left this world in the evening on Monday, October 8, 2012 in Galveston. Her loving and devoted husband, John, was at her side.
“Ghee” was a dedicated and very special wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. She was a friend to many, and those fortunate enough to call her a friend knew they could count on Pearl for anything. If you were fortunate enough to ever have dinner at the McKenna’s, you experienced some of the best home cooking you could imagine. Her Bloody Mary’s were well-known around town, too! Pearl had an infectious laugh, kind heart, and sharp wit. She was a beautiful woman, inside and out, and her devastating stroke nearly two years ago only made her more beautiful. It may have robbed her of many things physically, but it never touched the incredible woman inside. She suffered with remarkable dignity, and now that suffering is over. We rejoice in this, knowing that she is in Heaven and free of her Earthly restraints, but she will be sorely missed by countless friends and family who will love her forever.
Pearl was born in Port Arthur, Texas on August 1, 1928 to Wilmer and Laura Choate. She was the middle child of three sisters. After graduating as valedictorian of Anahuac High School, Pearl moved to the island she loved to attend nursing school at UTMB. Her gentle touch brought comfort to many, and she had harrowing stories to tell about the Texas City Disaster and the scene at John Sealy Hospital caring for the injured while she was still just a student nurse. It wasn’t long before a young handsome medical student from Sherman came to town and swept her off her feet. John and his “little girl” Pearl fell in love and started a family. Those early years were exciting as they found themselves moving around the country frequently as John was a surgeon in the United States Public Health Service. They lived in New Orleans, Baltimore, West Memphis, and Norfolk before returning permanently to Galveston in 1964.
Pearl devoted her life to taking care of her family and friends.
Raising four children kept Pearl very active at St. Patrick’s Elementary School and then O’Connell Junior and Senior High Schools. She was also a member of the Women’s Auxiliary of St. Mary’s Hospital and served as president for a time. She was also an active alumnus of the UTMB School of Nursing. She enjoyed spending holidays with her family, having lunch with her friends, and watching sports with John. In recent years, everything stopped at the McKenna household at 6:30 every weeknight. It was Wheel of Fortune time, and the race was on to see who could solve the puzzles first. It depends on who you ask as to who won more often. Pearl and John also traveled throughout the world. Family cruises and church bus trips to the Louisiana casinos with friends provided many happy memories, as well.
Nothing brought Pearl more joy than the day she became a grandmother. She wanted to be called “granny,” but first-born, Matt, couldn’t quite get that out, but he had no trouble saying “Ghee.” So Granny Pearl became Ghee for all who followed. Her heart was broken when precious granddaughter, Andi, was tragically taken from us at the young age of twenty just over five years ago. She talked about the hole that never heals, but that you simply get used to being there. We rejoice in the reunion of Ghee and Andi Monday evening, and look forward to our own reunions with them one day.
Pearl is preceded in death by her parents, Wilmer and Laura Choate, sister, Jeanette Wiggins, and granddaughter, Andi McKenna.
Pearl is survived by her loving husband of 60 years, Dr. John R. McKenna, daughters and sons-in-law, Kathy and Alfred Rodriguez, Mary Ann and Mark Belcher, son and daughter-in-law, John and Sissy McKenna, and son, Jimmy McKenna. Pearl leaves behind her precious grandchildren Matthew Rodriguez (Meagan), Joel Belcher, Lauren Wells (Caleb), Laura Rodriguez, and Johnny McKenna, as well as great grandchildren Madison Belcher and Isabella Rodriguez. She is also survived by her beloved sister, Emilie Martin, and numerous nieces, nephews and other relatives and dear friends.
Visitation will be held on Friday, October 12 from 5:00 pm until 6:30 pm with a Rosary recited at 6:30 pm at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Galveston (1010 35th Street).
A funeral Mass will be held on Saturday, October 13 at 10:00 am at St. Patrick Church. Officiating will be Fr. John Paul Flajole. Entombment will follow at Calvary Catholic Cemetery.
Pallbearers will be Dr. Alfred Rodriguez, Mark Belcher, Matthew Rodriguez, Joel Belcher, Johnny McKenna, and Caleb Wells.
Honorary pallbearers are Ross Novelli, Dr. Bill Rankin, Frank Williamson and Henry Freudenberg.
Memorials can be made to Holy Family Parish (1010 35th Street; Galveston, TX 77550), Holy Family Catholic School (2601 Ursuline; Galveston, TX 77550), or O’Connell College Preparatory School (1320 Tremont; Galveston, TX 77550).