Gloria Ann (Valka) Whiteley was born into a Czech-American community in El Campo on June 25, 1952. She was the second child of Annie Jennie Dornak Valka and William George Valka. Gloria spent her early years experiencing life within the large Czech community and by helping out on family farms when not in school. Gloria frequently recalled those days as ones that helped give her an appreciation for hard work and the value of family – and instilled in her a lifetime love of gardening. Gloria especially enjoyed her flowering plants, and could be found tending, cutting and admiring them year-round.
Of course, growing up in a Czech community meant that life revolved around the kitchen – and Gloria made that her domain. She worked alongside her grandmother, Frances, and her mother, Annie, to turn the harvest into tables full of delicious foods, including, of course, the baked goods for which Czechs are so well-known – kolaches. Until the very end, Gloria could still be found mixing up a batch of her special sugar cookies for her grandchildren and never failed to have at least a couple dozen kolaches frozen “just in case.” It remains unclear if Gloria could actually cook for less than a dozen people. Friends and family were always welcome at her table. Her strong connection to her Czech heritage remained with her throughout her life.
It was partly her skills with respect to dessert preparation – and partly a devastating set of emerald green eyes and platinum blonde hair – that ambushed a young Aggie named Mark in Beaumont. Although Mark was an employee of Gloria’s father, Bill, it was not long before they had fallen in love. They married Jan. 8, 1972 and began 47.5 years together.
The early days were lean. Gloria had supported Mark’s dream of opening his own business, but they had precious little between them other than a moody AMC Gremlin, a bit of optimism and a whole lot of grit. Soon after launching the business, Gloria became pregnant with their first child, Jason. In the two and a half years that followed, Mark’s business grew as did the family, as Gloria gave birth to second son, Adam and a daughter, Frances. Suddenly, the gamble to open the business was one that could not fail.
With a growing family, Gloria and Mark moved to Lumberton in 1979 where they enrolled their children in school and quickly settled into a community that would yield many lifelong friends. Gloria stayed busy over the next 20 years as a mom, a den leader, a coach and a wife. She ran for, and was elected to the Lumberton ISD School Board, where she advocated for student welfare and increased collegiate prep programming. Pursuit of education, in all aspects, was one of Gloria’s passions. She taught G.E.D. in Kountze for years before deciding to get her master’s degree from Stephen F. Austin and join the faculty at Lumberton High School and, later, Lamar Institute of Technology.
With her children grown and grandchildren arriving by the year, Gloria fully embraced the role of grandmother. Showcasing the cooking and baking talents that she first learned as a girl in El Campo to the delight of the grandkids (and despair of their parents). Gloria dazzled as the center of a family orbit that remained close in heart, even as it grew in number. She was the center of our universe.
Gloria was called home on Nov. 19, 2019. At the time of death, she was surrounded by her family and her friends. Survivors include her children, Jason Whiteley and his wife, Jana, of Rye, New York; Adam Whiteley and his wife, Cinnamon, of South Riding, Virginia; and Frances Currie and her husband, Paul, of Rowlett; grandchildren, Noah Whiteley, Dominik Whiteley, Anastasia Whiteley, Ethan Whiteley, Emma Whiteley, Ainsley Currie, and Carter Currie; brothers, Kenneth Valka and his wife, Beverly, of Belton and William Valka and his wife, Barbara, of Spring; and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins.
She is preceded in death by her parents and husband, Mark Wayne Whiteley.
A gathering of Mrs. Whiteley’s family and friends will be from 5-8 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 24, at Woodcrest United Methodist Church. Her funeral service will be at 10 a.m., Monday, Nov. 25, Woodcrest United Methodist Church, 1684 Highway 96, Lumberton. Her interment will follow at Guedry Cemetery, Batson, under the direction of Broussard’s, 1605 North Major Drive, Beaumont.
In lieu of flowers, the family respectfully asks that you consider a donation in the name of the recently established Gloria and Mark Whiteley Agricultural Scholarship. The Whiteley scholarship is a specially designated fund established to enable first-time young farmers to purchase an auction animal to raise. Checks may be mailed to P.O. Box 8551, Lumberton, Texas 77657.
Complete and updated information may be found at broussards1889.com.