Cover photo for Deborah Sue Koelling's Obituary
Deborah Sue Koelling Profile Photo

Deborah Sue Koelling

September 6, 1952 — November 4, 2018

Deborah Sue Koelling

Deborah Spangler Koelling died at home on Nov. 4, 2018, from complications of ALS. She was 66 years old.

She was preceded in death by her father, Charles Spangler, and by her grandparents, Everett and Ellen Spangler. She is survived by her husband, Robert; her daughter Glenn (Luke), of Albuquerque, New Mexico; her son, Everett (Mandi), of Denver, Colorado; her mother, Virginia Spangler of Murray, Nebraska; brothers Bill (Nancy) of Palo Alto, California; Henry (Tricia) of Topeka, Kansas; and Mark (Laurie) of Murray, Nebraska; and three nephews and three nieces.

Deb was born on Sept. 6, 1952, and grew up on the family farm in Murray, Nebraska. A month after she was born her father was stricken with polio, and although he was able to continue farming, she — and her brothers — grew up playing an important role in the operation of the farm. She was good with hogs, could disk a field, and had a deft touch in spraying the crops.

As good as she was on the farm, she was a born academic. She was her high school valedictorian and attended Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota.  After graduation, she considered law school before deciding to pursue a Masters and Ph.D. in English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. It was there that she met a fellow graduate student, Rob, and they married in 1977.

In 1979 she moved to Powell, when Rob took a teaching position at Northwest College. That first year she taught a class in Basin as an adjunct. She thought perhaps she might have a future at the college when, after she had been teaching for a month or so, the President of the college, SinClair Orendorff, said to her “I hear they think you are the greatest thing since canned beer down in Basin.” The next year she was hired as an English instructor at Northwest.

In 1984 she completed her Ph.D. in early American literature and continued a long and distinguished career at Northwest. She held herself to the highest standards, and to the discomfort of some, everyone else too. She was fortunate to have had many students say she was the best teacher they had ever had. She was equally fortunate that only two threatened legal action.

She stepped away from teaching twice to serve as the college’s chief academic officer.  She also served as a consultant-evaluator for the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges, and she was a governor’s appointee to the Wyoming State Board of Education. In the community, she was an elder at Union Presbyterian Church. A firm believer in Jeffersonian democracy, she served as an election judge for years, a duty she took great pride in.

For all her professional accomplishments, her greatest loves were her family, her dogs, her home, and her garden. She loved growing things and making things. She quilted, she tied flies, she knit, she baked bread and cakes and pies, she brewed beer, she grew flowers, she gardened. And she did it all well. A batch of her vanilla bourbon Christmas stout rarely survived her annual Christmas party. Once, at a potluck, a guard was posted over one of her pies to make sure no one went for seconds before everyone had a chance at a slice.

She had a fiercely analytical mind. She believed in reading instruction manuals and following recipes, at least the first time around. She respected those with expertise, be they doctors or landscapers, academics or plumbers. She read the ends of novels first, because she was more interested in why things were happening than in what was happening. She read graphic novels and Jane Austen, and she loved all types of film, from science fiction movies to Masterpiece Theater to Game of Thrones. She was happiest with a husky or golden retriever at her feet while she knit and watched TV.

Her children, Glenn and Everett, were her greatest pride and joy.  Her biggest sorrow was that she would not be on this earth long enough to watch their lives unfold as adults.

Cremation has occurred, and her ashes will be interred at Crown Hill Cemetery. For an urn she requested her favorite yellow cast-iron enameled Le Creuset Dutch oven.

Services are Friday, Nov. 9, at 1:30 p.m. at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Powell. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be sent to Crisis Intervention Services, 335 N. Gilbert Street, Powell, WY 82435.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Deborah Sue Koelling, please visit our flower store.


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