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Ora Mcqueen

February 21, 1944 — July 3, 2023

Ora Mcqueen

Ora McQueen passed away on July 3, 2023

Funeral services with military honors are planned for 12 noon

 on Saturday, July 15, 2023 with visitation from 11 AM until the hour of service at Burns United Methodist Church.

Repass will follow service at 1 pm

Ora Dessia Smith McQueen was born on February 21, 1944, to the union of Theodore and Queen Esther Jackson Smith in Cotton Plant, AR. Ora graduated from Marian Anderson High School in Brinkley, AR. She continued her education at Philander Smith College in Little Rock, AR and Drake University in Des Moines, IA. While in school, she was very athletic and participated in sports like softball, track and field and soccer. Also, while in high school she helped organize school banquets and fundraisers as part of student council. In college, she formed the Young Democrats Club.

In 1975, Ora joined the U.S. Army and the Iowa National Guard working as a legal clerk with the 34th Military Police Headquarters Detachment. While in the military, she received the following commendations and awards: Rifle M-16, Marksman Badge, ACDUTRA Ribbon and a Humanitarian Medal.

Additionally, she was one of the first African American women to work for Look Magazine. She also helped usher in the Medicaid program for the State of Iowa while at Blue Cross Blue Shield. Plus, she worked as a vocational rehabilitation counselor, as a presentence investigator with the Iowa Criminal Courts, and at the Mitchellville Prison. Forever the pioneer, she created the AIDS/HIV Minority Outreach program at Planned Parenthood of Central Iowa. She also worked in a similar capacity with AIDS/HIV patients at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, TX.

From 1969 to 1975, she co-owned McQueen’s Pharmacy with then husband, Homer McQueen.

Ora was very active in her community and has been described as a lifelong community activist. With her participation in the Civil Rights movement, she met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As a college student, she worked with the American Red Cross as an instructor for trainers in AIDS/HIV, certifying many across the country. She worked with Women’s rights groups like the National Organization of Women and participated with the Million Women March on Washington, DC. Also, she assisted many immigrants with obtaining resources as well as those coming into Iowa from other states. Ora McQueen received the Governor’s Volunteer Award in 2008 after being nominated by the Iowa Domestic Violence Coalition. She was also a part of the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia as a delegate.

During her downtime, she loved to read, cook for and entertain family and friends, and complete crossword puzzles. She also enjoyed fishing, making quilts and gardening (having an amazing green thumb). She was known for her sense of humor and often pulling pranks such as sending her brother gag gifts while he served in Vietnam.

Ora Dessia McQueen passed away on July 3, 2023. She was preceded in death by her parents, Theodore and Queen Esther Smith; siblings: Cleora Smith, John Wesley Smith, Loretha Reid, Elfletta Smith, Earnest Smith, Lula Randle and Therloe Smith; and grandson, Gabon McQueen, Jr.

Left to cherish Ora in memory are her children: Melanie McQueen, Lee McQueen and Gabon (Brandi) McQueen, Sr; grandchildren: Shawntavia McQueen, Larry McQueen, Brandzarya McQueen and Dreylynn McQueen; siblings: Theopolis Smith, Ruthie Thomas, Janet Epps, Arnell (Debra) Smith, Gloria Lee, Elihue (Colleen) Shah, Yvette Williams, Vanquilla Smith, Arlean (Don) Williams and Maggie Green; along with a host of extended family and friends.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Ora Mcqueen, please visit our flower store.

Past Services


Saturday, July 15, 2023

Starts at 10:00 am

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Funeral Service

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Starts at 11:00 am

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


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