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Verma Rhea Lovelace Keeling

VERMA RHEA Verma Rhea Lovelace Keeling passed on Sunday, July 15th, 2012 with her only family, daughter Karen, holding her hand. She was born February 24, 1921 in Mercury, Texas, the youngest of the 8 children of William Ernest and Elizabeth Garrett Lovelace whom all passed before her. At age one, her family moved to nearby Brownwood, Texas where she graduated from Brownwood High School and where the Lovelace family was a beloved and respected local treasure. At age nineteen she became engaged to Edward Word Keeling of Bangs, Texas, a son of her mother's best childhood friend, Safronia Ann Lee Keeling and wife of John Jay Keeling of Bangs, Texas. Verma and Edward were married December 21, 1941. That same day, she left with Edward to Midland, Texas where he was a butcher with Safeway grocery stores. With Ed's enlistment in the Marines in June 1942, Verma accompanied him to San Diego and became a riveter at the Lockheed plant (all 5'1" of her). After Ed shipped out to the South Pacific, Verma returned to her hometown doing clerical work and cashiering and volunteering with the USO. Upon Ed's return from WWII, he continued transferring throughout west Texas as a butcher with Safeway while Verma held various clerical positions through 15 more relocations, until they settled in Carlsbad, New Mexico and Verma had their only child, Karen Ann, and became a stay-home mother. After Ed accepted a position with the one franchise of the Piggly Wiggly Shop Rite grocery chain in Albuquerque in 1955, she and Karen followed her husband's grocery career through 14 more moves throughout New Mexico and Texas as the chain grew to 292 stores and he became President/CEO. To support her daughter she began founding Girl Scout Troops and led them in every school Karen attended, and supported Karen in dance, art, and theater classes. When she gave Karen her first horse at age 10, she became the consummate "stable mom" and remained so, even though as a child Verma had been injured by 2 horses, she supported her daughter's enthusiasm without limit. She ran the family's 900 acre Texas Hill Country ranch long-distance and managed the home stables of up to 8 horses while Karen was in school and Ed so busy with his executive tasks. She was active with every PTA, volunteered at every local hospital, and annually supported the neighborhood fund campaigns for the March of Dimes, believing that having a child with challenges required everyone assisting those parents. Verma and Ed divorced in 1974 and she and Karen finally settled in San Antonio, TX. With her daughter's support, she found her true self in working with the League of Women Voters, volunteering long hours at the Emergency Room at the Bexar County Hospital, then being hired at the family owned Frost Bros. department store in San Antonio, TX where she was quickly promoted from cashier to department head of handbags and scarves. During her happy tenure there she cultivated a following of many customers due to her diligence to their tastes and wants, and began assisting buyers in that department and in jewelry. When she finally retired at age 70, she returned to volunteering with the local Humane Society and joined her daughter in PBS fund drives and Meal-On-Wheels deliveries throughout the year. When her daughter was promoted and relocated to their beloved Santa Fe in 2002, Verma enthusiastically came as well, returning to one of their most beloved cities in the U.S. where they'd spent time annually from 1955 until 1970. Shortly thereafter, Verma began experiencing severe strokes and was diagnosed with multi-infarct dementia. She remained high functioning and the independent steel magnolia she'd always been and after moving into long-term care in April of 2004 because of Karen's work schedule, she assisted the activities departments and care-givers at both Santa Fe Care Center and Casa Real. She always led with a smiling face, a gentle caress and telling everyone how well they looked and were doing. She exceeded her bounds of graciousness, when she insisted that Karen rescue her father, whom had outlived his step-family and bring him from Kerrville, TX to Santa Fe, so they could oversee his failing health in 2007. Edward died of natural causes in 2010 and Karen and Verma returned to their independent, joyous partnership they'd shared all their lives. There are no grandchildren. Karen is now without her dearest friend, her only friend from childhood, her spiritual and moral counsel, and will lovingly assume the chairwomen position of "The Cloud Watcher's Society" from her mother. Later on a spring day, a memorial service will be held in Santa Fe to celebrate Verma's love of all creatures, great and small, with 2 legs or more, from sky, sea or earth - - before her ashes are released near the Indian Creek Cemetery in Texas, so her spirit can join 5 other generations of her family, whom she loved so deeply. Mama, forever and always . . .
Published in Santa Fe New Mexican on Jan. 1, 1900
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