Thelma Stevenson Versaw, 1910-2003

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Thelma Stevenson Versaw passed away Sept. 21, 2003, in Albuquerque, N.M. She was 93.

Thelma was born Jan. 23, 1910, to Martin and Alice Strain in Gregory County, S.D. She grew up on land homesteaded by her parents on newly opened Sioux Indian land in Tripp County, S.D., and later in White River, S.D.

She married "Steve" Stevenson in 1927. They began their family in South Dakota during the Great Depression and the dust bowl. During their 48 years of marriage, they lived in South Dakota, Iowa, Colorado, Minnesota and Kansas.

While serving the Hayden Congregational Church, the Stevensons bought property in the Hahn's Peak area, where they built a cabin that served as their summer home until 1975.

Thelma was a housewife and mother throughout her marriage to Steve. She also took college correspondence courses and attended Kansas State Teachers College in Emporia, Kan. After being certified to teach elementary school, Thelma taught in Council Grove, Kan., and Grand Junction from 1958 to 1968.

She wrote a weekly nature column for the Steamboat Pilot from 1968 through 1975. In 1976, Thelma published "Historical Hahn's Peak," her book chronicling the history of the high Colorado country where they spent summers. In 1979, she earned her bachelor's degree from Colorado State University, where she majored in social science.

Thelma married Lawrence Versaw in 1980, and the couple enjoyed 12 years together. They explored Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota and Nebraska, where they took photos, painted pictures and searched for genealogical data.

Following a series of falls and cerebral incidents that left her blind, Thelma moved to Albuquerque in 1997 to be near her daughter.

Thelma leaves behind the legacy of a full life well and faithfully lived, a treasury of stories and memories of a liberated woman long before the term was coined.

She was preceded in death by her first husband, the Rev. Wilfred S. Stevenson; her second husband, Lawrence Versaw; two brothers and a sister.

Thelma is survived by her three children, Joanna Sampson of Boulder, Phoebe Becktell and her husband, Marv, of Albuquerque, N.M., and Schuyler Stevenson and his wife, Sally, of Boulder; a sister, Ramona West of Enumclaw, Wash.; eight grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren, one great-great-grandchild; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Cremation has taken place. A celebration of her life was held in Colorado, where her ashes were returned to the earth to re-enter the circle of life. The family suggests that memorial contributions be made in her memory to further educational causes or environmental stewardship.

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