BY JACLYN ROSE –
A 1965 graduate of Smithville High School, Wanda Tunnell has been a resident of Smithville, Oklahoma all of her life. In 1968 she married Alex Tunnell and though, according to her, their 47 years of marriage have not been a bed of roses, love is what has sustained them; that, and the ability to figure stuff out with both sides working together.
The Tunnell’s have three daughters: Tina Hudson, Kim Larucci and (the late) Tanya Denton before adding a son, Aaron Tunnell, to their family ten years later. “I loved raising them, we were more like friends. My husband worked on the pipe line for a long time and that was hard at times,” said Tunnell. The couple now have nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild added to their family.
For 14 years, Tunnell worked at Polk County Developmental Center, Inc., a wonderful local entity. According to PCDC’s Mission Statement they are “a not-for-profit corporation organized for the purpose of providing services to the intellectually disabled citizens of Polk County so that they may live as independently as possible in the least restrictive environment.” Likewise, the PCDC Mission Statement says, “As a diverse staff we come together in our belief that we are the instruments of an organization founded and dedicated to dignity, compassion and quality for all. We stretch out our arms to lend a hand, point out the right direction for an opportunity to nurture our clients and strengthen our family. We proudly hold hands to embrace the future of our community in order to help each family flourish,”
The PCDC Resale Store was opened in 1985 to provide work-training skills for the adult clients; there, Tunnell worked alongside the clients. “I worked right with them showing them what to do and where to put stuff in the store. I loved it and I loved every one of them and every minute I spent with them. Every day you would hear, ‘I love you, I love you, I love you.’ I never hated to go in to work. The only regret I have is that I did not start working with the disabled when I was 19 or 20 years old. I so wish everyone could spend several days with them, I think it would change many opinions,” explained Tunnell.
In August of 2015, Tunnell had to have surgery on her shoulder, which required her to retire from PCDC, but she goes back as often as possible to visit her friends. “PCDC is a wonderful place, every one there is treated so good, everybody is good to everybody. They are all easy going and I would only have to tell them one time how to do a job and they could then do it. They all really love to be bragged on and the supervisors are all for the clients, that’s their purpose and that’s the best part,” Tunnell said.
“I love Polk County, I love everything about it, the people, the climate and that it is a small town with a lot of freedom,” said Tunnell.