Thelma Louise Poff, longtime Ripley area educator, died surrounded by family at her home Thursday February 1, 2018 of a generously used and worn out heart. She was 95. Born in East St. Louis, Illinois to the late Clarence and Emma Petry, she possessed a childlike sense of fun and joy in life, a thirst for learning and a love of teaching that shaped her near century of adventures.
When she was 20 years old, Thelma met a handsome dark haired serviceman, Nathan Poff, and in six months they were married. While Nathan served in WWII, Thelma worked in a munitions factory in St. Louis and also completed classes at Summers College of Commerce. After the war, the couple moved to Ripley, Ohio. In 1953 Nathan’s youngest sister, Dorothy died, leaving her husband, Hobert Daulton and their three children. Following Dorothy’s death, the two families moved together into the large white house on Second Street in Ripley and Thelma became mother to five children between the ages of 4 and 9.
The household was nearly bursting with kids, school activities, hobbies, crafts, music, friends, and most of all, love. Mom never objected to one more aquarium, arrowhead collection, art project or pet in the crowded house. She encouraged reading and learning for everyone, and regularly drove all her kids to visit Cincinnati’s museums and library, and even taste a bit of culture at a downtown restaurant, returning home with a stack of books to last each child for a month.
After the last of her five kids entered high school Thelma began her studies to become a teacher, the profession to which she would remain dedicated for most of the rest of her life. By taking evening classes and driving endless miles to Morehead State University, Miami University, University of Cincinnati, and Mt. St. Joseph over a period of twelve years she earned both her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Education. She began teaching in 1964 and taught in the Ripley and Higginsport elementary schools for 23 years. Following her career in the classroom she became coordinator of the Title 1 Reading Program for the Riply-Union-Lewis-Huntington school district, a position she served in until the age of 88. She is known throughout the Ripley area for her impact on generations of learners.
Thelma loved to travel, and organized family vacations to destinations in all directions – Niagara Falls, New Orleans, Mt. Rushmore, Florida. In the summer of 1963 she took the family to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. The Outer Banks became a favorite vacation spot and the family has returned every year since. Four generations have now visited and will continue to return to this special place in her memory for many years to come. During their "empty nest" years, Thelma and Nathan visited every state except Alaska, many times traveling with her sister Shirley and her husband Bob. Thelma fulfilled a dream of travelling abroad when at age 82 she went to England to participate in a reading educators’ forum at Oxford University.
Thelma was a long time member of the Ripley First Presbyterian Church, and served in many of the church offices. She and Nathan became the church’s historians, and she loved portraying Jean Rankin in giving talks about church founder John Rankin and Ripley’s part in the Underground Railroad. Thelma loved performing in general and enjoyed community theater, square dancing and clogging. She loved puns, wordplay, and jokes, especially risqué ones, which she would start telling, forget and then depend upon Nathan to deliver the punch line.
She maintained her playful nature to the end, joking with her doctors and nurses, who would come to her hospital room looking for the little lady who didn’t look or act her age.
Thelma was an accomplished crafter and seamstress, and enjoyed making dresses and outfits for generations of kids and grandkids. She began many family traditions which will be carried on by current and future generations. She mastered the art of friendship, and enriched our lives through the relationships she developed on every outing and family vacation. It was her nature to easily forge friendships which were many and long lasting.
Her later years were spent enjoying her grandchildren and great grandchildren, and she was never too old for adventure.
She was preceded in death by her brother, Tony Petry, brother-in-law, Hobert Daulton, son-in-law, Robert Scheibly, and infant daughter, Karen. She is survived by her beloved husband, Nathan Poff of Ripley, Ohio, brother Pete Petry, sister Shirley (Bob) Simmermon, children Tim, Denise, Betty, Barry (Pat), and Barney (Mary), 7 grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren.
In her memory, the family asks that you spend time with your children, take a long walk on the beach, and make a toast to enduring friendships. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you gift a book to a child or another loved one.
A celebration of life is planned for Sunday, March 25th 2018 at the Ripley First Presbyterian Church following Sunday services. The family invites you to come and share your memories of our beloved Wife, Mother, Sister, Aunt, Grandma, Gigi, Friend, and Teacher.
Note: If you can read this, you should thank a teacher (perhaps Mrs. Poff)