Gayleen Fries, 69 - November 29, 2012Gayleen Lou Fries, 69, of Culbertson, formerly of Gothenburg, passed away Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, at her home near Culbertson after a courageous battle with cancer.
Memorial service will be conducted at the United Methodist Church in McCook on Tuesday, Dec. 4 at 10:30 a.m. with the Rev. Lance Clay officiating. Inurnment will take place at the Gothenburg Cemetery at 5 p.m.
Fries was born at Kearney on March 22, 1943, to Alfred V. and Irene D. (Helzer) Woodburn. She attended Gothenburg Public Schools K-12 and graduated from Gothenburg High School in 1961.
She continued her education at Kearney State College, earning her bachelor of arts degree in 1965 and her master of science degree in 1967. Both degrees were in education with specialization areas in English, vocal music, speech and drama.
Fries taught one year, 1965-1966, at Sidney, and on Aug. 6, 1966, she married Stephen Flood. To this union, a son, Michael Sean, was born.
She and her husband moved to Kearney where she accepted a graduate assistantship at Kearney State College while pursuing her master’s degree. She then taught two years at the Kearney Public Schools and instructed night classes in speech at Kearney State before the couple moved to Monroe, IA, from 1969 to 1973. As a teacher of English, speech and drama, she directed many theatre productions at Monroe and chartered the school’s Thespian Society.
Wanting to be closer to their families, her husband took a teaching position at Trenton and she taught speech at McCook Community College, 1973-1977. When the opportunity arose to live in her hometown, she accepted a contract to teach at Lexington Senior High and her husband at Gothenburg.
During her 18-year tenure at Lexington, Fries was well-known for her success in teaching literature, composition and Advance Placement English classes as well as for her extraordinary gift of bringing out the best in her students, family said. She earned many honors for her speech and drama teams including a state championship in Class A play production and Southwest Conference and district championships in both speech and play production. The shows she directed for Lexington High School were a source of pride and enjoyment for the school and community, according to family members.
Fries was a charter member and president of the Central Nebraska Forensics League. She hosted numerous speech and play competitions at Lexington including two state play production contests. Upon her retirement from coaching, the Nebraska Speech Communication and Theatre Association presented her with the coveted John Thurber Distinguished Teacher award.
On July 28, 1995, she was united in marriage to Steven R. Fries and moved to a farm northwest of Culbertson. She accepted a position to teach English at McCook High School, where she developed and taught advanced composition and advanced placement courses until her retirement in 2002.
During her teaching career, she was a member of the National Education Association and its state and local affiliates, Alpha Delta Kappa Teacher Honorary, Nebraska Council of Teachers of English, Nebraska Speech Communication and Theatre Association and Central Nebraska Forensics League. After retirement, she continued to be a certified speech and play production judge for the Nebraska School Activities Association.
She was also active in her church and the communities in which she lived. As a 56-year member of the United Methodist Church, she served as director of the adult church choir while in Gothenburg. In McCook, she completed five years of Discipleship studies under the Revs. Jeff Thurman and Lance Clay. She and her husband completed the Alpha course and participated in Walk to Emmaus. She served as an Agape in 2010 and was scheduled to be a leader at Chadron in August before her health limited her activities.
Fries was a past E.M.T. and rescue squad member and community choir soloist. A 33-year P.E.O. member and she served three terms as president of FA Chapter in McCook.
Her longtime hobby was one shared with her mother making porcelain dolls. She created over 65, each named and dated and dressed in clothes fashioned by her mother. In later years, her artistry was inspired by her sister, Kathy, as they designed special scrapbooks of family photos and keepsakes. She will also be remembered for her specially painted Halloween pumpkins, which she shared with family and friends.
Fries loved the beauty and serenity of the farm, and she enjoyed watching the deer, pheasants and wild turkeys playing in the pasture north of her house, and the birds nesting in the eaves of the back porch, said family members. Her abundant flowers and plants were her passion and a joy for visitors to see. She spent many hours working along side her husband, doing office work, taking meals to the field and all the supporting jobs that go along with life on the farm.
She and her husband enjoyed traveling to South Africa to visit his daughter, Steffenie, and to Hawaii, family said. They also loved camping and taking trips together pulling their fifth wheel. The couple were in two camping clubs, Excel Club, for which they served as co-presidents, and the Sandpipers Club. They were able to spend time in Arizona in the winter and had the opportunity to go to the Rose Parade, but the highlight of the camping experience was the people they met who became loving friends, according to family members.
She most enjoyed being with family as she cherished birthdays and holidays for special gatherings to be together, and to wrap her arms around her grandchildren, family said.
Fries was preceded in death by: her father, Alfred in 1976; her mother, Irene in 2002.
Survivors include: her husband, Steve of Culbertson; her son and daughter-in-law, Mike (LaRae) Flood of Kearney; step-daughter, Steffenie Fries (fiance Noel Gurwick) of Washington D.C.; step-son and daughter-in-law, Travis (Suzanne) Fries of McCook; six grandchildren—Olivia, Leah, Josslyn and Ambrie Flood of Kearney, and Emma and Benjamin Fries of McCook; three siblings—Kathleen (Donald) Turnquist of Hutchison, KS, Dr. Donald (Vicki) Woodburn of Lincoln, and Phyl Wooodburn of Wahoo; brothers-in-law—Tyrone (Donna) Fries of Plattsmouth, Wayne Fries of Leander, TX, Harvey Fries of Kansas City, MO, and Russell (Ruth) Fries of Smithville, MO; close friend, Linda Crandall; numerous nieces and nephews.
Memorials are suggested to the Gayleen Fries Scholarship Fund at the University of Nebraska at Kearney Foundation or to donor’s choice.
Herrmann-Jones Funeral Chaple of McCook is in charge of arrangements.