Judith “Judy” Ann Thiel, 80, passed away peacefully on Tuesday, April 21, 2020, surrounded by family at her home in rural Lindsborg, KS. She was a retired school teacher and reading specialist at Washington Elementary School, where she had taught for over 30 years.
Judy was born on February 14, 1940, in Maude, OK, the daughter of Gae F. and Bethel G. (Austin) Bowers. She graduated from Gypsum Rural High School and received her bachelor’s degree from Kansas State University. Judy was united in marriage to Duane E. Thiel on June 12, 1964, in Salina, KS.
She was a member of the First Baptist Church, McPherson, where she served as a youth leader, Sunday School teacher, and Awana leader.
Survivors include: her loving husband of 55 years, Duane of the home; two daughters, Jo Dee Westbrook (Mike) of Loveland, CO and Christine Stewart (Jeff) of Gardner, KS; brother, Robin Bowers (Debbie) of Marquette, KS; five grandchildren, Taylor and Brock Stewart and Lucas, Allison, and Molly Westbrook; and many extended family and friends.
She was preceded in death by her parents and brothers, Clint Bowers and Gene Bowers.
A private funeral service will be held at 10:30 AM, Saturday, April 25, 2020, at Stockham Family Funeral Home with Pastor John Pattison officiating. Burial will follow at 12:30 PM at Temple Church Cemetery in Gypsum. A private family visitation will be held on Friday evening at the funeral home.
A Celebration of Life service will be held at a later date.
Memorial donations may be given to the First Baptist Church in care of Stockham Family Funeral Home, 205 N. Chestnut, McPherson, KS 67460.
Additional information written by Judy's family for the memorial folder:
Judith Ann Bowers entered this world on February 14, 1940. How fitting that the epitome of unconditional love was born on Valentine’s Day! Her dad was an oil man, a little rough around the edges but with a heart of gold. Her mother was a humble woman who treasured her family and made a mean cherry goop dessert. Growing up with three brothers, Judy was the spunky little runt. She could run a combine as well as she could a kitchen. She was a dynamo of activity who definitely held her own with the boys.
Judy met her future husband Duane when they were just thirteen. Duane first saw her when their one-room schools played against each other in a friendly game of softball. Duane took one look at those blue eyes and decided right there. He told his teacher that he was going to marry that girl someday. It took some convincing and wooing, but he eventually wore her down. Thirteen years later, on June 12, 1964, Duane got his wish - the dynamic duo tied the knot.
Tulsa was the wild frontier when the newlyweds, now an engineer and first grade teacher, moved to Oklahoma. They lived in a two-bedroom fixer-upper with lawn chairs for furniture just so they could be in the country. At night, they could look up through the rafters and see the scorpions running past. Judy had many adventures while in Oklahoma, and things always seemed to happen when Duane was away on business. Exhibit A: She had a run-in with a big black snake that was climbing on a screen door. Duane came home to find a minefield of divots in the lawn at the site of the battle --the snake lost. Exhibit B: She had to take care of a calf that had passed. What do you do when a 200-pound animal needs to vacate the premises? Judy hooked up a chain to the beast and dragged it away with the tractor. Judy was tiny, tenacious and knew how to improvise.
Judy had two daughters three years apart. She was without a doubt the GOAT (greatest of all time) who was a backbone of support to them both. They relied on her for encouragement and unconditional love. She always knew how to make everything right with the world. In everything from school, to church, to piano lessons, to baton twirling, to 4-H, Judy made sure that her girls were independent and capable – just like her. She would listen with love and patience and then give her standard advice when the hard times hit. . . “Go wash your face then go do something for someone else!” She led by example as she was always doing for others and she NEVER sat down. Her energy level, self-sacrifice and thoughtfulness were unparalleled. It took a lot to keep up with her.
Judy was a phenomenal grandma to her five grandchildren. She helped care for them when they were babies and helped to raise them as they grew into young adults. She was a constant source of support and love. She made the best oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and mac and cheese. Without a doubt, no one ever went hungry. She knew how to celebrate the victories as well as the challenges with phone calls, texts, and cards, always signed, “With Love and Prayers, Papa and Grandma.”
Judy’s faith and selflessness helped others to see what it meant to have a heart for Jesus. From the Board of Christian Education to leading Sunday School class with Duane, she tirelessly volunteered and served many with her leadership and love. Judy spent the night on church floors, rock-a-thons, and 22-hour, one-way bus trips across the country as a youth sponsor and with New Beginnings high school choir. This selfless love carried into the more than thirty-five years she dedicated to teaching, mostly first graders. Clearly patience was her long suit, as evidenced by her choosing six-year-olds (and Duane, too, for that matter). Teaching was her passion, and this was reflected in the countless hours she spent preparing and planning to teach her kids.
Judy and Duane retired together out on the ranch in Lindsborg, though neither of them seemed to understand the definition of retirement. She kept her “Thiel” in line up until the end. Judy loved him from the home-made root beer to the honeybees. Thiel made her laugh and her took care of her -- the perfect team. She was the glue that held us all together! We were so blessed to be a part of her life! Perhaps that is what makes saying “see ya later” so hard. We love you! To send flowers or a memorial gift to the family of Judith A. Thiel please visit our Sympathy Store.