Opal Irene Cowles, 91, of Des Moines, IA passed away on February 1, 2021. She was born on the family farm in rural Lucas County on May 8, 1929. Opal was the daughter of Charlie and Janie Thomas. Opal was the beloved wife of the Eldon Cowles.

Opal graduated from Corydon High School in 1947, where she excelled as a basketball player. She moved to Des Moines after high school and lived at the Business & Professional Women (BPW) Club while attending secretarial and stenographer classes. Opal met Eldon while she was in Des Moines. Their first date was at Riverview Amusement Park. Opal and Eldon were married on June 18, 1949, at St. Brendan’s Catholic Church in Leon, Iowa – walking each other down the aisle at their wedding. They were married for 68 years. Opal was the loving mother of seven children: Diane Cowles and husband, Kevin Minnihan of Ankeny, Iowa; Danny Cowles and wife, Judy of Milan, Missouri; Debra Dyer and husband, Thomas of Norwalk, Iowa; Donna Tracy and husband, John of Clark, Missouri; and David Cowles and wife, Ginny of Holts Summit, Missouri. Sons, Michael and Duane Cowles, and a granddaughter, Sheri (Cowles) Thudium, preceded Opal in death. Opal was a loving grandmother to 17 grandchildren, 30 great-grandchildren and 6 great-great grandchildren.

Opal was a wife, mother, sister, aunt, friend, role model, and the family matriarch. As a teacher and school superintendent, Eldon’s career took them to live in many communities in north-central Missouri and southern Iowa: Gorin, MO; Hallsville, MO; Milan, MO; Grant City, MO; Hamilton, MO; and Wheeling, MO. Opal was a stay at home mother until her kids had grown. She would organize and type all of Eldon’s correspondence working as his personal secretary. Opal always kept very busy, during summer school breaks the family enjoyed traveling around the USA. She also had various jobs while at home: caring for other young children and as a Tupperware sales lady. Opal was a devout Catholic and was a member of St. Brendan’s Catholic Church in Leon, Iowa. She served as a Eucharistic Minister. Opal was a woman of faith and lived her life exemplifying Christ.

All who knew her agree that Opal was an extraordinary cook and she loved to bake. She took great pride in passing along her skills and passion to her children and grandchildren. Opal was famous for her cinnamon rolls and chocolate chip cookies. She always had children and grandchildren helping her in the kitchen. One of her grandchildren recalled memories of spending summers with Grandma Opal at the farm. They delivered Meals on Wheels and weaved washcloths into gifts for charity – showing them the value of giving back to others and instilling a sense of volunteerism that continues in the family. Opal also volunteered in the organization and administration of the Pleasanton, Iowa 4th of July parade and races.

They moved back to the farm in 1989, near Pleasanton, IA. Opal was an active member of the S&C Club, a local lady’s group, the Davis City Garden Club, and the Iowa Retired Teachers Association. Opal was a valued member of the Leon community: she was a certified Home Health Aide for Decatur County Public Health, a cook at the Leon Senior Citizen Center and delivered Meals-On-Wheels “to the seniors” until 2014. Opal enjoyed caring for a large garden, canning many fruits and vegetables and generously sharing the produce and canned items with her family and friends. She was especially generous with her sweet pickles.

Upon retirement, Opal and Eldon enjoyed traveling to see friends and family or just to have fun. They went to Hawaii, Florida, Alabama, California, Texas, Missouri and many other states. Opal enjoyed spending time with her friends and family for fun and the opportunity to share stories and laughter. Opal and Eldon loved getting together with friends to go out for pizza or play cards. She always liked to be doing something. If it involved music, coffee, fun, talk, or food – she was ready to go. She always loved to exercise – walking a mile a day up into her 80’s. In fact, in 2015 she attended Zumba classes – and wore out the younger participants!

Preceding Opal in death were her parents; her husband, Eldon; her sister, Pearl (Wilbur) Kooyman; her brothers, Glen (Marion) Thomas, Dale Thomas, and Alvin “Tom” Thomas; and her sisters-in-law, Kathryn (Robert) McLain and Evelyn Irene Cowles.

She is survived by her sisters, Theobelle Ross and Bonnie (Lee) Roy of Des Moines; her sisters-in-law, Shirley Thomas of Johnston, IA and Peggy Thomas of Brookwood, AL; her children, grandchildren, many nieces and nephews, cousins and friends.

Opal always had a kind smile for all. She was full of joy and humor. She was always up for an adventure! All whom she touched with her smile, humor, kindness, and charm will miss her. Her passing is a great loss. Her children, sisters, in-laws, nephews, nieces, cousins, friends and their families will all miss Opal.

Mass of Christian Burial will be held on February 6, 2021 10:00 am at St Brendan’s Church in Leon, IA. Burial will be at Hamilton Cemetery in Pleasanton, IA.

The family would like to thank all who provided compassionate care over the years: the extraordinary staff at Calvin Community, 3801 Grand, and South-Central Home Health Care; Debbie Slaikeu, RN and her caring team from Unity Point Hospice; and Patty Russell, ARNP and her team from Team MD.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to St Brendan’s Church 1007 NW Church Street Leon, Iowa 50144 in Opal’s memory.