Thelma Louise Furgerson (nee Stephens), 92, passed away on December 19, 2017 at Mount Nittany Medical Center in State College, Pennsylvania.
Thelma was born to the late Issac Newton Stephens and Rosa Todd Stephens on October 5, 1925 in Suthards, Kentucky. An energetic tom boy growing up, she enjoyed horseback riding, swimming in the creek, and roughhousing on the family farm with her brothers, Louis, Newton, William and Jewell, and with her beloved sister, Hazel. (Thelma was the last to survive.)
In January 1945, putting heart above head, she eloped with a U.S. Marine, Truman Allison Furgerson, whom she had met three months before, and who was then back from the Pacific war and stationed in North Carolina. It proved to be storybook romance; the two formed an unshakeable, loving unity for over fifty years, until Truman passed away in 1995. Thelma will be buried next to her husband in Kentucky, the place they always regarded as home.
After the war, Thelma and Truman moved to Detroit, Michigan, where they were active members of Eber Memorial Baptist Church. There Thelma was employed for a number of years, first on an auto assembly line at Dodge Main, and later as a bookkeeper for Modern Industrial Engineering. But caring for her husband, family, and friends was always Thelma’s real passion. In love with married life, she enjoyed Saturday evening card games, extravagant hats, family gatherings (often in Kentucky), and the Detroit Tigers. As her own health became increasingly compromised as she grew older, Thelma continued to demonstrate caring and compassion for other elderly and infirm around her, fulfilling a life of loving kindness.
In her advancing years Thelma lived first with her son, Truman Allison Furgerson, Jr. (then a vice president of Balkamp) in Carmel, Indiana, and later with her daughter, Linda Furgerson Selzer (an associate professor of English at Penn State). Thelma took great delight in the achievements (and exploits) of her children and those of her grandchildren, Leigh Anne Furgerson Ihnken, Molly Selzer Mockus, and Margaret May Selzer. She is also survived by treasured in-laws, including her son-in-law, Jack Selzer, daughter-in-law, Denise Furgerson, and three grandsons-in-law—Greg Ihnken, Linas Mockus, and Edward Proulx. Although Thelma never met a baby she didn’t like, she considered her great grandson, Jackson Truman Inhken, an exciting and special blessing to her old age. She also enjoyed over her lifetime close relationships with a number of cherished nieces and nephews.
Optimistic by nature, with a twinkle in her eye and her heart on her sleeve, ever trusting in the goodness of others, Thelma in her last two decades enjoyed the lively camaraderie of many friends she made in her adopted home town of State College through the University Women’s Club, the Red Hat Society, Juniper Village, Centre Crest, Teaberry Ridge, and Faith Baptist Church. A life-long diabetic who bore her ills with patience, courage, and pluck, Thelma nevertheless harbored a sweet tooth—although in Heaven she will mostly be served Andy’s fresh tomatoes, Janet’s squash, and the Waffle Shop’s vegetable soup.
As a young woman in Detroit in 1946, Thelma was sung to by Frank Sinatra; at her 90th birthday party in State College in 2015, she was serenaded by a centenarian. At the ninetieth, Thelma was honored by her several bridge groups, by members of the Juniper community, by her other State College friends, and by her family members. She considered herself fortunate to have experienced a remarkable life: it began with the Model T and gave her a lunar landing; it began with the radio, and gave her family Face-Time; it began with loving parents and siblings, and gave her children and friends across generations.
Friends will be received on Friday, December 22, 2017 from 6:30pm until the time of the service at 7:00pm at Faith Baptist Church, 647 Valley Vista Drive, with Pastor Drew Fenstermacher officiating. Burial will be held at a later date in Kentucky. Donations may be made to Child Fund International in Thelma’s name at 2821 Emerywood Parkway, Richmond, VA 23294.