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Velma A. Biddle

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

Velma A. Biddle was born on August 8, 1909 at the family farm in Trumbull, Nebraska to Arthur and Elsie Biddle. She died on January 3, 2013 at age 103 in Ft. Collins, Colorado.

She was preceded in death by her three younger brothers, Vern, Larwill and Joel.

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, Colo., 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, Wyoming. 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 and great nephews and nieces 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 cancelled, 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.”

Her nieces and nephews left behind are Sharon Gray of Ft. Collins who provided Velma with much love and care during the last three years of her life; Arthur Biddle of Arvada, Colorado; Tim Biddle of San Rafael, California; Larwill Biddle of Peoria, Arizona, Nancy Giles of Grand Junction, Colorado; and numerous great and great-great nephews and nieces. Ms. Biddle was preceded in death by her niece, Charlotte Burke.

Ms. Biddle has established college scholarship funds in her name for deserving students with financial needs at Hastings College and at the Holyoke, Colorado and Powell, Wyoming high schools. Those wishing to make contributions to any of those scholarship 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, Nebraska 68154 and; Velma Biddle Scholarship, c/o Summer Maloney, 545 East Hale, Holyoke, CO 80734; and Velma Biddle Scholarship, c/o Mary Lewis, 160 N. Evarts, Ave., Powell Wyoming 82435.

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

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8 comments

  • posted by Jennifer and Mason

    May 02, 2013 12:11 pm

    We first met Velma when we moved into the house she was born in. She brought her family out to see the old farm right after we moved in. What a joy she was, explaining to us how the house used to be, and recollecting her childhood here. She visited us a few times here on the farm, always smiling and amazingly full of energy, startling us with her joyful jaunt upstairs and her recitation of poetry. You were a blessing to have known, Velma, and an amazing woman! All our best to Velma's entire family.

  • posted by Kerry Schmidt Spears Class of 1968

    February 16, 2013 7:17 pm

    Velma Biddle was one of the warmest and intellectually curious people it has been my pleasure to know! When I was inPhoenix as an Air Force officer (and coincidentally buying milk from her brother's dairy farm), she came to visit me. The first thing that she said was to compliment me on my highly polished leather shoes! As a former military member she knew the importance of that small detail! We remained in touch for many years! As others have said - she really was a treasure!

  • posted by Randy Jones

    January 22, 2013 7:31 am

    A great motivator as a teacher and person. I was priviledged to have her as an English teacher and year book advisor.She brought out the best in each of us.

  • posted by Anne Paddock Norskog

    January 15, 2013 9:22 am

    Miss Biddle was a wonderful, wonderful teacher in the Powell School System. On the day JFK was murdered she came from her class weeping and said, "Our dear President has been shot and killed--the whole world weeps his loss--including me." She quietly wiped her tears with a lace-edged handkerchief. She was a treasure.

  • posted by Hub Hart, Lt Col, USAF (Ret.)

    January 11, 2013 3:08 pm

    I never will forget her work with classmates to make the Panther annual the best! She was a jewel of a teacher at PHS-'one-of-a-kind'! Peace be with you, Miss Biddle...

  • posted by Tom Strong, Class of 56

    January 11, 2013 12:38 pm

    A great teacher and person. I had her for both Math and English while in Powell High School from 1952-1956.

  • posted by Stephen Catterall, Class of 1970

    January 11, 2013 9:02 am

    I was fortunate to have a wonderful visit with Miss Biddle three weeks before she died and introduce her my high school age son. She was as charming as ever, curious about our lives and those of classmates. She is a testament to the impact a teacher can have on our lives.

  • posted by Duane Clifton, Chief Petty Officer, US Navy, Retired

    January 10, 2013 6:28 pm

    Miss Biddle, you have been such a wonderful person. you have enlightened so many people. May you rest in peace.

    Duane Clifton, Powell High School, Class of 1957.

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