Opal “Tootsie” King, 98, of Howard died Jan. 8, 2020, at Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center in Salida.
She was born March 6, 1921, in Kansas to Ben and Lena Ryman.
After high school, she attended college in California, majoring in art.
She was a personal friend of Walt Disney, who gave her an award to continue her art education. The award was not accepted, and she moved to Oregon with her parents.
On the advice of her parents at the beginning of World War II, she went to work as a riveter for Lockheed in California, instead of enlisting in the armed forces. It was at Lockheed that she acquired the nickname Tootsie.
As one of the original Rosie the Riveters, she made the entire tail section of America’s first jet plane, the PF-80. She and the other builders were able to watch the maiden flight.
It was also at Lockheed that she met her future husband, Ralph King. They were married Dec. 7, 1946.
The couple spent their first year of marriage in Buena Vista, cutting and selling ice for a living. They moved to Denver, California and Oregon before settling in Howard.
In addition to being a Rosie the Riveter, Mrs. King was a cashier, a teacher, a newspaper worker and an engineer working on the Pueblo Dam.
She also pursued Bible study classes at Liberty University.
Her family said she and her husband spent their lives loving and helping others in the name of Jesus Christ, a legacy that she carried on alone after the death of her husband.
She was preceded in death by her parents and her husband.
Survivors include her chosen daughter Janice Yalch of Howard and special friend Kenneth Kerrigan of Howard, numerous cousins and many others whom she helped over the years.
Her funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Jan. 18, 2020, at the Howard Log Cabin Church, 8754 U.S. 50 in Howard.
Interment will follow at Howard Cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Howard Volunteer Fire Department through Lewis and Glenn Funeral Home in Salida.
Arrangements are with Lewis and Glenn Funeral Home.
Online condolences may be offered at lewisandglenn.com.