Gemma (Jirak) Davies passed away Saturday, three days after the death of her beloved husband and soul mate, Ed Davies.
The youngest of eight children, Gemma Jirak was welcomed into the family of Henry and Lillie (Holub) Jirak on January 17, 1943, in the Bohemian farming community of Pilsen.
In spite of the death of her mother before Gemma was 2, her childhood was filled with imaginary play, hunting arrowheads and fishing down on the creek east of the farm. She longed to learn and eagerly attended Pilsen Catholic grade school, where nuns had a profound influence on her. Her innate curiosity and life-long passion for education was illustrated early when she won a set of encyclopedias in a contest by submitting the winning question. Moving on to Lincolnville schools after eighth-grade, Gemma flourished in the upper grades singing in choir, acting in school plays, serving as senior class president, and graduated valedictorian of her class in 1960 from Centre High School.
During high school, she began dating Ed and married him in Pilsen on July 23, 1960. A large - and memorable – polka wedding dance followed at the Starlight Ballroom. Ed and Gemma welcomed their first son, Lloyd, the following year before moving to Lawrence. In 1962, a second son Bryan was born and in 1966 a girl, Jennifer.
Gemma worked full-time most of her life. She worked many years as a medical secretary for a distinguished forensic orthopedic surgeon in Kansas City, Missouri. That position, which significantly shaped her life, brought her into contact with a number of Kansas City Chief’s football players and a range of influential attorneys. Her boss and mentor recognized and nurtured Gemma’s skill, intellect, and grit. Spurred by her ever-expanding world experience, Gemma doggedly pursued her bachelor’s degree part-time as she worked and cared for her family. She received her undergraduate degree from Emporia State University followed by a master’s degree in social work from the University of Kansas. Gemma relished her vocation as a social worker for Prairie View in Marion.
Despite health struggles that burdened their later years, Gemma and Ed took opportunities to enjoy an Alaskan cruise during retirement, visit Vermont in the fall, and escape to Montana on a fishing expedition led by her nephew.
Gemma was a skilled quilter and expert pie-maker, and above all, an avid reader. It was not unusual for her to devour a large stack, twenty or more, library books weekly and she instilled that love of reading in her children. Gemma found solace in watching the birds at her feeders and was delighted by her dog, Muffin. Gemma’s faith in God handed down from her father was the treasure she passed on to each of her children.
Gemma leaves behind her three children, Lloyd Morgan Davies II and his wife Robin of Marion, Bryan Henry Davies and his wife Carole of Marion, and Jennifer Montgomery and her husband Barry of Lincolnville, Kansas. She was preceded in death by her father Henry Jirak and mother Lillie, her brothers Silvin and Marion, and sisters Joan, Verna, and Wilma. She is survived by two sisters, Rita Molner of Seattle and Millie Vinduska of Marion. She leaves six grandchildren: Nicholas and Samantha Davies, Megan and Emily Davies, and Conner and Josh Montgomery and 34 nieces and nephews.
Memorials can be made to Holy Family Parish and Caring Hands Humane Society, Newton, Kansas.