Virginia ‘Jean’ Burke Stokes Martin


(May 3, 1924 - Oct. 11, 2011)

Virginia “Jean” Ann Burke Stokes Martin died Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011 at the Valley View Care Facility in Fort Morgan, Colo., at age 87.

Jean was born May 3, 1924 by home delivery at the family farm in Powell, the second daughter of Ivo Wando Smith and George Burke of Nebraska. George and Ivo were married on July 1, 1917 and joined their families in farming the Powell Flats. Jean had two sisters, Catherine Olive (Peg) Burke Tippetts Pogue and Patricia Jane (Pat) Burke Kirkland of Chino, Calif.

Jean was raised on the family homestead east of Powell. She loved the out of doors and enjoyed helping on the farm where they raised beans, clover, alfalfa and sugar beets. As a youngster, Jean had a team of horses with which she mowed and harrowed. Her dad said she worked as hard as any hired hand.

She was schooled in Powell, graduating in 1942. Shortly after, she and her sister Peg went to Washington for work but soon both became homesick and returned to Powell. She helped on the farm while her father attended the state Legislature as a senator from Park County. 

She then took a job at Kopriva’s Department Store and later at Moyer’s Drug Store. Over a vanilla milkshake she met her future husband and love of her life, Wilbur Leon (Sonny) Stokes, who came from Louisiana with Manning and Brown Drilling to work at Elk Basin. They were married Aug. 28, 1943. 

She relished the gypsy life of the oilfield and the family followed the drilling rigs in their trailer home living in Hardin, Mont.; Sidney and Kimball, Neb.; Rangely and Vernal, Utah; Long Beach, Calif.; the Wyoming communities of Powell, Lander, Thermopolis, Gebo, Lost Cabin, Kaycee, Lucerne, Glenrock and Casper; Raton and Dulcie, N.M. and Fort Morgan, Colo. There were occasions when the family would relocate up to six times in one year, but Jean took great pride that her children never missed a day of school due to a move.

Traveling, enjoying new sights and meeting interesting people always brought Jean joy. She loved life, art and music and had boundless generosity to her many friends and family members. She and Sonny had two children: Gary Leon Stokes born June 16, 1944 and Barbara Ann Stokes Van Vuuren born Aug. 4, 1947. After losing Sonny on July 17, 1973, Jean spent several summers working at Lake and Fishing Bridge in Yellowstone National Park.

Jean met and married Howard (Woody) Martin of Fresno, Calif., in 1987. They enjoyed extensive RV traveling in their retirement and shared her memories of watching the NASA shuttle liftoff, excavating dinosaurs at Shell, touring Alaska, volunteering at the Fresno Zoo and ATVing in the California desert. Howard preceded her in death in 2001. Jean lived with and was lovingly cared for by her daughter in Fort Morgan. She leaves behind a legacy of a full and wonderful life.

Jean is survived by a son Gary (Vivian) Stokes of Alcova; daughter Barbara (Alan) Van Vuuren of Fort Morgan, Colo.; grandchildren Mike Van Vuuren (KaLani) of North Carolina; Scott Van Vuuren of Colorado; Todd Van Vuuren of Massachusetts; Leigh Stokes (Garth) Shaw of Utah; and Justin Stokes of Wyoming; great-grandchildren Kristin Van Vuuren, Kyle and Olivia Van Vuuren; Hannah and Liam Stokes Shaw and many beloved nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.

Jean was preceded in death by her parents, George and Ivo Burke; husbands Sonny Stokes and Howard Martin; sister Catherine Olive (Peg) Tippetts Pogue.

At her request, Jean was cremated and there will be no services. 

She will be interred in Fort Morgan Cemetery beside her first husband and her mother. Memorials may be sent to your favorite charity.