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Vivian Lucille Lehman Whisler, known as Lucille, Mom or Grandma Lucie to all who loved her, died on December 6, 2019 in Lander, Wyoming, after a life of adventure and love and joy and challenge.
Lucille was born on March 21, 1936 in Belton, Missouri, to George and Vivian Lehman, and grew up in Kansas City. She graduated from Center High School in 1954, and attended Baker University in Baldwin, Kansas. In January 1957, she married Garold Austin Whisler Jr., her sweetheart since junior high school. They moved their growing family to Las Vegas, Nevada in 1962, and to Mt. Charleston in 1972. On retiring in 1996, she and Garold moved to Lander.
Lucille was happiest in a room full of live music, especially if the musicians were friends, family, and students. As a music teacher at Mt. Charleston Elementary School, she insisted that every student could sing and play, and by the time she was done, they could. She was director of children’s choirs in many churches over the years, providing a safe and fun place for children to learn that they were musicians. At Spring Mountain Youth Camp, she applied the same philosophy when teaching drama to high school-aged juvenile offenders, directing them (and their probation officers) in full productions of Gilbert and Sullivan classics.
Although she played literally thousands of organ and piano solos in the form of preludes, postludes, offertories, and interstitial music in many different churches, Lucille thought of herself as an accompanist; her music was not a ‘performance’ but a service and a gift to her fellow musicians, to her congregation, and to God. She also played with the Fremont County Orchestra for many seasons.
It would be dangerous to mistake her powerful faith for docile piety. Lucille was not afraid to speak truth to power, in the school hierarchy, in the church or in society at large. She believed the Gospel injunction to “love your neighbor” was not a feel-good suggestion but an emphatic call to action, so she took every opportunity to care for people at a practical level. She dug holes for outhouses, built porches, and shingled roofs on reservations, farms, and churches from Kentucky to Mexico and Northern California. She worked for many years as a volunteer ambulance driver and EMT for the Mt. Charleston Volunteer Fire Department. She served on the boards of the Lander Care and Share Food Bank and Frontier Home Health and Hospice. She also spent countless hours volunteering for the Lander Jazz Festival and the International Climbers Festival. She was loved and admired in her role of Coach at Curves Gym – dispensing encouragement, laughter and inclusion.
Lucille’s hands never stopped moving. If she wasn’t playing the piano (or the organ, the harpsichord, the triangle or, for a while, the guitar) then she was knitting or sewing. Knitting was her love language. She usually had several knitting projects going at once, so that her husband, children and grandchildren were always guessing which of the sweaters or hats she was working on would show up under their Christmas tree. And she loved a joke. If it was a story – great – but a practical joke was even better, especially if it involved firecrackers. If Lucille was holding a garden hose and said “Knock, knock,” your best option was to run.
Lucille taught us to love better through the unwavering and unending love she shared with Garold. Over seven decades of change, adaptation, work and success, the constant in their lives was their partnership.
It is flat out impossible to list Lucille’s family because she believed family was defined by love. Last summer, speaking at The Houlihan Narratives in Lander, she asked everyone who considered themselves to be her family to stand up, and not a single person remained seated. Lucille was preceded in death by her beloved parents, George and Vivian, her youngest sister Janice, and her son in law, Todd Skinner. She is survived by her husband Garold, her brother Bill (Irene)Lehman and sister Debbie Bailey, her children Garold Whisler III (Royce Briggs), Scott (Mollie) Whisler, and Amy Skinner, and her grandchildren Elise Whisler, Hannah Skinner, Sarah Skinner, Jake Skinner, and Austin Whisler.
A memorial service and celebration will be held on June 21, 2020 at 2pm at the Museum of the American West in Lander, WY. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Frontier Home Health and Hospice, 230 North 1st Street, Lander, WY 82520; or to Lander Care and Share Food Bank, 281 Garfield St., Lander WY 82520 (or by PayPal at landerfoodbank.org/index.php/donations). Or just give two good hours to someone you love that you haven’t seen in a long time.
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