Paula Kay Umphers, beloved sister, passed away at her home in Edmond, Oklahoma in May, 2013. She was 74 years old. She had for several years suffered the chronic pain of Rheumatoid Arthritis, depression and anxiety.
Born in 1938 to Roger Sanford Umphers and Lorene Sharp Umphers in Ardmore, Oklahoma, she spent her early years in Shawnee, then moved to Tishomingo in the third grade. She shone as a high school Homecoming Princess. In her senior year the family moved to Edmond, where she graduated and entered Central State College. She was a member of Pi Kappa Sigma sorority, and president for a year. Her B A was in elementary education, and she taught grade school in Wichita, Kansas until returning to college for graduate school at Oklahoma State (then A&M). Work beyond her MA resulted in employment as a psychometrician in the Tulsa Public Schools. She travelled to schools throughout the system administering diagnostic tests to children with special needs.
After ten years she again returned to school to qualify as a reading specialist. She especially enjoyed working with a man whose developmental issues had prevented him from ever learning to read. Then funding disappeared for hiring special teachers in public schools, and she found herself working as a classroom teacher in Midwest City. She taught until health issues forced her early retirement.
Paula was a gentle person, but could be fierce in the face of perceived injustice. Always generous, she sponsored several children in America and in other countries, and could be counted on to have a box to donate locally. She supported Habitat for Humanity and The Nature Conservancy.
She was often witty and playful; she created imaginative characters and stories. For a time she wrote children's literature-she was an excellent writer with a fine sense of humor. She loved words, and was a tough opponent at Scrabble. She collected books and tapes on many topics, notably birds, history, nature, and religious studies. In her later years she became a biblical scholar, and was especially interested in the ideas of Mary Baker Eddy.
Music was her special gift. She wrote her first song at four years old, astonishing all. She played piano beautifully until arthritis crippled her hands in her later years. Her musical tastes were wide-ranging, and she collected recordings from every genre from Springsteen to Stravinsky. As her world narrowed, music was her solace-as well as every public radio station in the metropolitan area.
She is survived by her sister, Linda Umphers Sherman of Eugene, Oregon; her nephews and their wives: Andrew Sherman and Jodi Sheeler, and Gregory Sherman and Jane Hogan; two grand-nephews Caleb and Milo and grand-niece Maisy, all of New York City; two cousins, Jackie Payne of Allen, Texas and Norma Barbisan of Eugene, Oregon; and her old friend Roger Rush of Eugene, Oregon.
A Graveside Service will be held Wednesday, July 10 at 10:00 a.m., facilitated by Baggerley Funeral Home. A Memorial Service will be held at a later date. Contributions may be made to Habitat for Humanity or The Nature Conservancy.