Bessie Borgra – West Salem

Bessie Borgra, 80, of West Salem, died on June 7, 2019. She was born February 17, 1939 the daughter of Edna Dunn Farmer and Joseph Farmer in Ware, IL.

Bessie was a life-long resident of West Salem, where she raised daughter Jennifer with her husband Richard Borgra.

She was known throughout the land for her weekly newspaper column “Buzzing With Bess,” in which she chronicled hometown life and the foods she loved to cook. It was cooking that made Bessie happiest and especially sharing her extraordinary culinary talent with her family, friends, and community.

Bessie loved gardening and her beautiful flowers were the envy of the local garden club, even though it was her husband Richard who reportedly made the garden magic happen.

Bessie loved classical music, but also enjoyed popular music including Elton John and even Meat Loaf.

Bessie was a devout Catholic and attended several Catholic churches over the years. She worked at Champion Laboratories in the payroll department, then the West Salem phone company in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Bessie was fierce for her causes and a trailblazer for women. She was the first woman elected to the Edwards County School Board, and held seats on the West Salem Library Board, bank board, West Salem Village Board, Edwards County Historical Society, and the West Salem Medical Board. She was very proud of her part in bringing the West Salem Medical Clinic and ambulance service to West Salem.

The West Salem firemen were also among her favorites to support and help in any way she could.

Survivors include her husband of 58 years, Richard Borgra; daughter Jennifer Borgra of Evansville, IN; a sister, Norra Harris of Herrin; and beloved grand dog Daisy. Her parents, Edna Dunn Farmer and Joseph Farmer; a sister, Helen Emery; and a brother, Joseph “Bucky” Farmer, preceded her in death. Miss Pippin and Gus Gus, her grand dog Scotties and frequent characters in her column writing, preceded her in death as well.

A Celebration of Bessie will be held Saturday, June 15 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Ingram-Meridith Funeral Home in West Salem. Prayer service will begin at 2 p.m. with Gary Hall officiating, followed by “comedy hour” with Harvey Fenton. The sharing of fond memories is welcome after. Memorial checks may be made to the Volunteer Firemen’s Association of West Salem, and envelopes will be available at the service.

Online condolences and fond memories may be shared with the family at

Ingram-Meridith Funeral Home of West Salem is honored to be entrusted with the local arrangements.