Florence Teten Cummings, 84, a native of Cedar Bayou, died March 16, from Alzheimer’s Disease in Baytown.
She was preceded in death by her husband of 64 years, John Kay Cummings. Born on a dairy farm in Cedar Bayou in 1935, she was the last of eight children born to Bessie Ayrhart and Frank Teten of Goose Creek, Cedar Bayou, and Hardin. Her grandparents, W.A. and Lillie Ayrhart arrived in Goose Creek in 1917, setting up a dairy farm and then a boarding house and grocery store on Cedar Bayou Road.
Florence lived on Cedar Bayou Road until she was 5 when the family purchased a large farm in Hardin. While her mother ran the farm, her father worked at Humble Oil and Refinery as everything from a laborer to a boiler maker. She attended elementary school in Hardin, junior school in Cedar Bayou, and graduated from Hardin High School, the only child of Frank and Bessie to earn a high school diploma. Florence went on to take several courses at Houston Business College and Lee College where she learned basic office skills of the mid-20th century: shorthand, basic accounting, and typing. Before her children began arriving, Florence worked at the Brunson Theater, Goose Creek Grain, and Piggily Wiggily in Liberty.
Florence eagerly dove into domesticity when she married John in 1954 upon his return from military service in Korea . They had been introduced on a blind date at a Sun Oil Company Picnic before he shipped out. A few dates later, she promised to wait for him while he served his country. The pride of their young marriage was to be able to move into a newly constructed home of their own before their first child arrived in 1957.
Life on Cedar Bayou-Lynchburg Road less than a mile from the upper banks of Goose Creek was optimistic and filled with family and church in the 60s and 70s. Florence and her family attended Coady Baptist Church where she was active as a Sunday School teacher, a Girls in Action and Acteen leader and the occasional Vacation Bible School teacher. Regardless of the task that needed to be done, Florence was game, even if it meant learning how to drive a rickety old school bus so that kids from church could have transportation to summer camps and field trips to Astroworld or the Houston Zoo. Camping and field trips were often financed by bake sales that Florence organized with other women of Coady Baptist Church. Florence continued her faithful service to youth, the Southern Baptist Women’s Missionary Union, and the choir at Wooster Baptist Church. There she helped lead mission trips and skiing trips for youth. She and John spent their last years as members of the congregation at Cedar Bayou Baptist Church
By 1974, with all of her children in school, Florence decided to go back to work. At first, she considered being a school bus driver, but then decided working in school cafeterias was the best fit for her and her family. John would get the kids off to school in the mornings and Florence would return from work before the kids stepped off the bus in the afternoon. She worked in four different cafeterias – Highlands Junior, Highlands Elementary, Gentry Junior and Sterling High School - eventually becoming a manager at every school level and directing the in-district catering services. Eventually, and with the encouragement of her supervisors, she earned food service certifications from San Jacinto College. Her ability to attend college classes and excel in them was a point of pride for a woman who had been a shy student when she was a child. Those classes enable her to take on more food service leadership roles in Goose Creek Consolidated Independent School District. Her experience as an adult student led her to inspire other women to seek education and leadership roles. More than one her “ladies” in the cafeteria attribute their own success to her encouragement. By the time she retired in January of 1995, she had mentored seven new cafeteria managers. She served as president of the Baytown School Food Service Association from 1985-1986. The association was devoted to professional development and raised funds annually for scholarships awarded to GCCISD seniors. In addition to her parents, Florence was preceded in death by four brothers and sisters-in-law, Bert and Ruby Teten, Earl and Betty Teten, Harry and Marie Teten, and Lee Ed “Tuffy” and Ada Lou Teten; and three sisters and brothers-in-law: Gladys and Edgar Glass, Grace and Charles Schieck, Mary and Clifford Griffin
Others who preceded her in death are her brother-in-law Bill Myers, nieces Teresa Myers Franklin and Elinda Fay Kidd Wetz, and by her best friend Sally Davis Glass who was married to her nephew, Eddie Glass.
Mrs. Cummings is survived by one daughter, Susan Kay Cummings and husband Gary Ervin; two sons, John Keith Cummings and wife Deanne Schustereit Cummings, and Alan Trent Cummings and wife Holly Pounds Cummings; one sister-in-law, Shirley Cummins Myers; four grandchildren, Ian Cummings and wife Shelby, Austin Sheley, Bryon Cummings, and Travis Cummings; and one great-grandchild, Denver Bryce Cummings. Other survivors include nephews Charles Cummins, Jesse H. Kidd Jr. and wife Ada, Albert Wetz, Butch Wetz and wife Amanda, Randy Myers and wife Dannah, Steven Frank Fitzgerald and wife Duaine; Bert Griffin and wife Linda; and Calvin Griffin. Surviving nieces are Brenda Myers Irby and husband Dan, Jerrilyn Fisher, Gaye Wetz and husband Chris Powell, Alice Wetz, Connie Griffith McMillan and husband Rocky, Elizabeth Cornish, and Helen Marie Teten Hanson. Surviving cousins include Howard Christopher Ayrhart III and Eddie Glass.
During the past year, Andrea Williams, her beloved caregiver, has provided compassionate, tender care. Andrea walked lovingly by her side on many, many walks. She brought bright smiles, much-needed comfort, and chocolate cupcakes that would often dispel fret and worry.
A graveside will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 21, at Hardin Cemetery. Because of social distancing required to prevent the spread of COVID-19, no funeral service or family visitation will be held. As you are moved, please donate in her name to the Alzheimer’s Association or the charity of your choice.
The Cummings family would like to thank the staff at Swan Manor Assisted Living and Faith Community Hospice for their professionalism and compassion over the past three years.
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