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Shella Lea Thornton Massey

October 4, 1932 – March 28, 2022


Shella Lea Thornton Massey, age 89, of Galveston, Texas, passed away on Monday, March 28, 2022. Shella was born October 4, 1932, in Abilene, Texas, and was the eldest daughter of Shella and Cleon Thornton. Shella attended schools in Abilene, Colorado Women’s College in Denver, Colorado, and graduated in 1954 from Baylor University with a BA in performing arts. It was at Baylor University that she met the love of her life, Air Force Lt. John Conrad Massey, a native of Houston, Texas. Married in Abilene in June 1954, the couple moved to Elmendorf Air Force base, Anchorage, Alaska.


After being stationed in Alaska and Portland, Oregon, Shella and John returned to Abilene, raising three daughters: Julia Ann (Robert) Bopp, of Carson City, NV; Georgianna Lea (Dr. Jackie) Mullins, of Galveston, TX; and Shella Rhetta Hogan, of Yreka, California. In 1968, the family moved to Twin Falls, Idaho, where John was the manager of the Idaho Department Store. Shella pursued her passion for early childhood education and as the Director started a Montessori styled school at the First Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho. With their daughters grown, John and Shella moved to Napa, California, in 1978. There John managed Carither’s Department Store. In 1982, the couple moved to Grand Junction, Colorado, where John managed the Keith O’Brien Department Stores.


After retirement, the couple returned to Houston, Texas, in 1988, to be closer to family. Shella returned to her passion of early childhood education, expanding the Presbyterian school to include programs for two and three year old children. Shella was active in her churches First Presbyterian and later St. Andrews Presbyterian Church and her P.E.O. Chapter in Houston. Shella took joy in life and shared that happiness and gratitude of life with those she came to know. After John’s death in 2017, Shella moved to Galveston, Texas, to be near her daughter Georgianna until her passing.


Throughout her life, Shella always excelled in her creative endeavors, and inspired not only her three girls, but all of the children whose lives she touched through the years. Her beautiful paintings are proudly displayed in her daughter’s homes, her gardens over the years were spectacular in both form and function, she kept her family well fed with healthy homemade meals, her home was immaculately kept and decorated, she was truly Daddy’s soul mate, and many an evening was spent gathered around the old upright piano with her playing either hymns or classic folk songs from the Fireside book and all of us singing along. We lived a safe and happy childhood because of our mother.


Shella was proud of her family, especially her grandchildren John Bopp (husband Sebastian Pajares Arana), of Barakaldo, Spain; Sarah Mullins of Houston, TX; Kathryn (husband Kyle and their daughters Eloise and Madeline) Hunt of Pope Valley, CA; Emily (husband Westbrook and their son Conrad) Weaver of San Diego, CA; Annie Mullins of Oklahoma City, OK; and Mary Megan (husband Ben) Friedman of Bellaire, TX. Shella is survived by her younger sister, Betty Ross Crowe of Abilene, TX; and brother Dr. William (Carolyn) Thornton of New York, NY.


Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared below for the Thornton Massey family.