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Velma Biddle - January 03, 2013

In memory of a life so beautifully lived, a heart so deeply loved.

Velma A. Biddle was born Aug. 8, 1909 at the family farm in Trumbull, Neb. to Arthur and Elsie Biddle. She died Jan. 3, 2013 at age 103 in Fort Collins.

At age 7, her family moved to Colorado when land development opportunities occurred near Amherst. Velma’s life of excellence and achievement began in Holyoke where she was valedictorian of her high school class. She began her college career at the University of Colorado but later transferred to Hastings College in Nebraska where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics in 1931.

She always wanted to be a teacher. As a teacher following in the footsteps of her mother, she first taught mathematics in the Phillips County district schools until 1942. A highlight during these years was a 1936 six-week tour she took to Israel and other Middle Eastern countries with author and historian Will Durant.

In 1943, she was commissioned in the Navy and served in the Chief of Naval Operations office in Washington, D.C. Lieutenant Biddle was discharged in 1946 and began her outstanding 30-year teaching career in Wyoming. She taught for one year in Wheatland and was then recruited by the high school superintendent in Powell, Wyo. She taught math and English in Powell until her retirement in 1977.

In 1956, she received her Master of Arts degree in education from the University of Colorado. In 1973, she was named Wyoming Teacher of the Year by the Wyoming Education Association. For 10 years after retirement she was a popular substitute teacher in the Holyoke schools.

For many years after retirement she wrote newspaper reviews of the high school’s plays. One year, the entire play cast sent her a special letter thanking her “for being such a wonderful asset to each of our productions. Your reviews do so much to help the community understand and appreciate the performance.” They also thanked her for “the strong words of encouragement she gave to Mr. Ginapp and the cast.”

Ms. Biddle served in leadership positions for numerous community and professional organizations. These included the Delta Kappa Gamma educational honorary, the Wyoming Education Association, Future Teachers of America, Wyoming High School Press Association, Professional Business Women of America, Chamber of Commerce, American Legion, Holyoke Arts Council and numerous others. A highlight was her appointment as a Delta Kappa Gamma delegate to the World Confederation Teaching Profession Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Velma was a woman with many talents and interests. She loved nature and books. She was a long-time member of the local book club and she demonstrated her gardening, cooking and craft skills with numerous County Fair blue ribbons. Her turtle cookies were legendary and consistent winners.

Velma was an inspiration to her students and family. Her nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews all remember receiving those special boxes of her turtle cookies in the mail, her attendance at graduations and weddings, her enthusiastic participation in family reunions, her notes of encouragement and much more.

Her zest for life was illustrated four weeks before her 100th birthday. She was making cement stepping stones in her backyard for entry in the County Fair. Sadly, she fell while hauling a bag of cement in a wheel barrow and seriously broke her arm. Her 100th birthday party, which included about 60 people from out of town, had to be canceled, but within a year she was fully recovered and able to attend an outdoor Shakespeare production in Boulder on her 102nd birthday. She had attended these productions for many years, and the entire audience sang “Happy Birthday” to her.

A recent tribute to Velma by her great-nephew, Josh Biddle, captured the quality of her life beautifully. He wrote, “Winged wisps of white hair frame the wisest face I know. Deep wrinkles house a century of happiness, adventure and love. Sturdy hands proclaim a lifetime of hard work, passion and commitment. Your life has been a shining beacon on which I tact my path. Your spirit, like a lighthouse, reminds me of the beauty of home and the delight of the unknown.

“Our year together in Holyoke was marked by your generosity and love that will sustain me on my own life’s journey that I only hope will be as rich and fruitful as yours. Whether it was building ecosystems in juice jugs so we could watch the life cycles of caterpillars, collecting weekly wheat specimens to track the progress of the crop, reading poetry by candlelight when the sky stormed outdoors, playing almost a thousand games of cribbage, or hearing your numerous tales of international travel—that magical year sustains my soul.

“As the consummate optimist, you have instilled in me, your family, your students and friends a passion for knowledge, the joy of labor and the curiosity of the unknown. You are one of the most amazing and special persons I have known, and my life has been blessed to have you in it.”

Velma was preceded in death by her three younger brothers, Vern, Larwill and Joel; and her niece, Charlotte Burke.

Her nieces and nephews left behind are Sharon Gray of Fort Collins, who provided Velma with much love and care during the last three years of her life; Arthur Biddle of Arvada; Tim Biddle of San Rafael, Calif.; Larwill Biddle of Peoria, Ariz. and Nancy Giles of Grand Junction; and numerous great- and great-great-nephews and nieces.

Ms. Biddle established college scholarship funds in her name for deserving students with financial needs at Hastings College and at the Holyoke and Powell, Wyo. high schools. Those wishing to make contributions to any of those funds in her honor may do so by sending them to the following addresses: Velma A. Biddle Endowed Scholarship, c/o Hastings College Foundation, 11422 Miracle Hills Dr., Suite 550, Omaha, NE 68154; Velma Biddle Scholarship, c/o Summer Maloney, 545 E. Hale St., Holyoke, CO 80734; or Velma Biddle Scholarship, c/o Mary Lewis, 160 N. Evarts Ave., Powell, WY 82435.

There will be a memorial service for Ms. Biddle in Holyoke next spring.