Ellen Theaola Gunkel Lynn was born on September 16, 1922 and passed away on February 9, 2020. She was raised in a large family in rural Eldorado, Oklahoma. She often said she couldn’t wait to grow up so she would be old enough to go to college and become a teacher. During her high school years, she met her future husband, Woody Lynn.
Theaola graduated from high school in 1941. Woody had moved with his family to Arvin, California and Theaola went on to college in Oklahoma. Just weeks before Theaola was due to graduate from college, the school superintendent asked her to work as a teacher. Although it was against her father’s wishes to take the job before getting her degree, Theaola agreed to take the teaching job, as there was such a shortage of teachers and because it was her Sunday school teacher who was making the request.
Woody served in World War II, and gave his car to his dad. On his return to Arvin he told his father he wanted to marry Theaola. His father told him, “Well, son, you better take that car back and go get her”. Woody set off to Oklahoma and Theaola quit her job to move to Arvin. Her father said, “you are not crossing the country in a car with him until you are married”. It took three days to process a wedding license in Oklahoma so her father, a minister, and Woody, traveled across the state line to Texas where Woody and Theaola were married immediately. Soon after, they drove to Arvin, California to begin their life together. They were married for 55 years before Woody’s death.
Theaola and Woody were the proud parents of two girls. Judy Ann was born in 1947, followed by Betty Jean in 1950. Though they were raised in California, Theaola wanted her girls to know and love the huge extended family back in Oklahoma. Most summers, the family traveled to Oklahoma where Theaola and the girls stayed for a month or more while Woody returned back to California. Theaola ensured that her girls got to know and love their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, even though they lived far away. Family just was a central part of her life and at the core of her great love for others.
The family took frequent trips to the Central Coast, fell in love with the area and bought a house in the late 1950s. Theaola taught elementary school for over 50 years and 25 years of those in the Lucia Mar Unified School District. When the economy worsened and nearly 100 teachers were threatened with layoffs, Theaola decided it was time to quit. She said her decision to quit was primarily because she was doing it for fun, whereas there were others who needed the job to support their families. After retirement she was a regular fixture at several schools as a substitute teacher and volunteer. This gave her the opportunity to teach her grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Theaola was a lifetime member of the Order of the Eastern Star #97 and served as a state officer. Theaola was preceded in death by her parents, Fred and Bertha Gunkel; her brothers Ewing (Ruby), Eugene (Lucille), R.J. and Jake; her sisters Gladys (Fate), Syble (Holly), Frances (Wimer), Elizabeth (Ralph); her husband Woody; her daughter and son-in-law Judy and Ken Harper.
She is survived by her daughter Betty (Mike) King and Betty’s two children Ellen (Rick) Ford and Eddie (Jenna) McCaa; stepdaughter Christi Kubel and stepson Brian King; Judy and Ken’s children Stacy (Tim) Iseminger and Jaime (Aubrey) Harper; and great-grandchildren; Lucas, Justin and Mason Juarez, Cara and Carina Ford, and Tayah, Dylan and Presley McCaa, Maiah Iseminger; Madeline and Julia Harper Johnny, Joshua and Jacob Kubel, Ethan Willems and Sheila King. She is also survived by two sisters: Geneva (Everett) Kirkpatrick of Amarillo, Texas and Ethel (Jack) Kinberger of Folsom, Louisiana; a sister-in-law: Jimmie Lou Gunkel of Fort Worth, Texas; and a host of nieces and nephews who adored her. Prior to the onset of her dementia, she was a keeper of the family history and a natural story teller. Several of her nieces have remarked that Theaola was the sister who reminded them the most of the character and sweet temperament of her mother, Bertha Gunkel. Theaola was a devout Christian and looked forward to eternity and the reunions in heaven with so many of her immediate and extended family.
Visitation will be on from 1 – 3 p.m. Monday, February 17 at Marshall-Spoo Sunset Funeral Chapel in Grover Beach. The funeral service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday, February 18, 2020 at Shadow Mountain Central Coast, 153 S. 9th St., in Grover Beach where she was a long time member.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Open Door Church Preschool, PO Box 693, Oceano, CA 93475 or Jack’s Helping Hand for children with cancer PO Box 14718, San Luis Obispo, CA 93406. Donations can also be made on line jackshelpinghand.org.
The family would like to thank Central Coast Hospice and the caregivers at Heritage House.
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