Ellen L. 'Jo' Condra
1916 - 2012
Published: December 19, 2012
Ellen Louise "Jo" Condra, 96, died at her home in Springdale on Dec. 15, 2012. She was born July 18, 1916, in Wichita Falls, Texas, to James Hugh Carithers and Hattie Belle Connalley Carithers.
She grew up in Bentonville and was one of two surviving members of the Bentonville High class of 1934.
For over 70 years, Jo Condra was a working woman in a man's world. Early in her first marriage her husband, James Lane Morriss, fell ill with tuberculosis and was hospitalized at the TB sanatorium in Booneville. She took over his job, a newspaper distribution route for the Fort Smith Southwest American, and for the next three years logged 100,000 miles a year in a Chevrolet coupe hauling newspapers and mail sacks to towns all over Benton and Washington Counties from Fayetteville to the Missouri line — traveling narrow highways and muddy rural roads.
Her husband died in 1941. She continued the newspaper job until shortly before she married Paul T. Condra of Fayetteville in January 1943 in Tucson, Ariz., where he was in Army Air Corps pilot training. She traveled with him to various posts in the U.S. until he went overseas as a B-24 bomber pilot, stationed in North Africa and Italy. He was wounded during a bombing raid in 1943 and returned to the U.S. to recover, then continued in the Air Corps until late 1945.
They returned to the area in 1946 and opened Stout-Condra auto parts store, with silent partner Bob Stout, on downtown Emma Avenue in Springdale.
Paul Condra died in 1956 and she assumed management of the business. Although she had no management experience she decided to make a go of the store rather than sell it. "I had to do something because I had two boys to rear," she told Southern Automotive magazine in a 1975 interview. I decided to run the store myself and I don't mind admitting I was scared to death."
During the next three decades she built the business into a solid operation, developing a customer base among auto dealerships, service stations and corporate repair centers in Washington and Benton counties. She was a charter member and held various offices in the Automotive Wholesalers of Arkansas Association. In 1986, she sold the business to Crow-Burlingame of Little Rock and it is now the Bumper to Bumper store in Springdale. However, she didn't retire; instead, at the request of the ownership, she worked part-time in her former business until her health failed in September 2012.
In addition to her parents and her two husbands, she was preceded in death by her only brother, James H. Carithers Jr., in World War II; one son, David Paul Condra; and one granddaughter, Laney Morriss.
Survivors include one son, James L. Morriss Jr. of Fayetteville; five grandchildren, James L. Morriss III (Trey) and wife Melody of Maumelle, Kristy Condra of Springdale, Shana Clark and husband Anthony of Fayetteville, Preston Condra and wife Kelly of Bedford, Texas, and Melissa Foxx of Alma; five great-grandchildren, Adam Morriss and wife Kim, Matthew Morriss, Dakota Downum, Hannah Morriss and Peyton Downum.
A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22, at Sisco Funeral Chapel in Springdale. Family will greet friends after the service.
Arrangements by Sisco Funeral Chapel.
Thanks to caregivers Roseanne Leverich and Donna Lassiter and to the staff at Circle of Life Hospice.
Memorials may be made to Circle of Life Hospice, 901 Jones Road, Springdale 72762, or to a charity of choice.