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Wilma Jean Kyle was born January 8, 1933, in Talihina, Oklahoma to Lula Olivia and Pryor Nathaniel Holder. She led a life full of love, compassion, and service, impacting countless people on her journey. She went home to be with the Lord on September 15, 2022; she will be desperately missed by her close family and friends.
Wilma was born on a farm in Oklahoma where she spent the first 10 years of her life. As a child of a sharecropper, Wilma helped with daily farm chores, such as tending plants and livestock. Some of Wilma’s best stories originated from her life on the farm. Wilma enjoyed this idyllic life until the dust bowl prompted her family to relocate in 1943. Wilma and her family traveled to California where the San Joaquin Valley reminded them of the farm life back home. This would be where they settled, permanently. Wilma and her sister Betty spent the remainder of their childhood years happily in Visalia, California. Wilma, always astute and quick witted, had a love for learning and reading from an early age. She was the first person in her family to go to college, attending College of the Sequoias and then San Jose State University. Wilma was a hard worker who also knew how to have fun. She worked her way through college as a waitress while she studied home economics and business before ultimately falling in love with a career in teaching. After earning her teaching degree, she taught in several central valley schools. Wilma had always dreamed of teaching abroad but made a promise to her mother that she would not leave the United States. In 1959, her love of adventure took her to teaching position in Anchorage, Alaska. In Alaska, she supported our armed forces through USO. This is where she met her future husband Donald Lloyd Kyle. Wilma was deeply fond of the beauty of Alaska and her time there, often referring to Alaska as “God’s Country.” When she learned that she was expecting her first child, Wilma moved back to California, so that she could be close to her parents. Wilma had taught in McFarland before going to Alaska and returned to a teaching job at Kern Avenue Elementary school. Wilma loved the small close-knit community of McFarland and knew that was where she wanted to make her forever home. When she found her dream home on Harlow Avenue, she would drive by daily and imagine the life she would make for her and her children in that beautiful space. Wilma spent the remainder of her career living and teaching in McFarland, devoting her life to raising her children Debbie and Don and impacting hundreds of students. She took on the role of mother and father after her divorce and was active in her kids’ lives. Wilma was determined to ensure that her children had the same experiences as traditional two-parent homes. She was a scout leader, and her house was a place where the neighborhood kids would regularly hang out.
Wilma was passionate about teaching. She believed that teaching came alive through art, music, and science. She was a progressive educator who believed in having her students experience learning by doing. Wilma touched many lives; she was a strict teacher, who did many fun projects with her students. Some of those projects included cooking, incubating baby chicks, and various art pieces. Wilma spent countless hours preparing her classroom for her students.
Wilma loved to cook, and she shared this love with her friends and family. Her family constantly called her to get her famous recipes. She regularly invited her grandchildren over for mouthwatering dinners of roast beef, mashed potatoes, and cobbler. Even on her deathbed, Wilma wanted to be in the kitchen making dinner for the family. Wilma loved to read, sew, knit, and crochet. One of Debbie’s favorite memories was often waking up and finding that her mom had made her a new dress for school. Wilma loved to travel and was fortunate to visit many countries including the British Isles, Hong Kong, and Israel. She combined her love of travel with her sense of service by taking mission trips to Poland where she helped young children learn English.
Wilma was an active member of the Wasco Church of Christ. She loved being able to participate in Ladies’ Bible class after her retirement, and often acted as the class leader. Their group supported many missional activities including an orphanage in Mexico, providing schools supplies to orphanages, and supporting pregnant women, often knitting baby blankets with matching slippers for the mom. Wilma understood the challenges of being a single mom and wanted these women to feel cared for. Wilma lived her life to serve others. She routinely gave beyond her means to help those she viewed as less fortunate. It was often said that Wilma would give the “shirt off her back” to help someone in need and go without essentials to ensure others were provided for. Her heart was huge, and her love was strong.
Wilma is preceded in death by her parents and her sister Betty Ruth Castro. She is survived by her children Debra Wilson and Donald (Jane) Kyle, ten grandchildren and sixteen great grandchildren. Wilma had a passionate love for her family and was very proud of their accomplishments. Wilma always made the time to send a card with cash and a call to sing her infamous birthday song.
Wilma believed in living life to the fullest and did not want an elaborate funeral. She felt that she spent her time with her loved ones while she was alive.
Graveside services will be held Saturday, September 24, 2022, at 1 pm at Greenlawn Southwest. Wilma didn’t want flowers, so in lieu of flowers she requested that you donate to your favorite charity in her name. She supported many charities focusing on Veterans, Unwed mothers, orphans, and the homeless. Wilma enriched the lives of all those she touched and will live on in our hearts forever.
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