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Verla Jean Achey Thomas, age 93, died peacefully at home surrounded by love on October 4, 2022. To the end, she remained faithful, grateful and joyful.
Born June 30, 1929, at Paola, Kansas, to Ray and Mary Ellen Russell Achey, Verla grew up in Paola and graduated from Paola High School with the Class of 1947, where her peers selected her as the graduate “most likely to succeed.” She was the first member of her family to attend college.
Verla was united in marriage to Ernest Louis “Arky” Thomas, on May 31, 1953, at her parents’ home in Paola. Together Verla and Arky raised two children, and resided the majority of their lives in Paola. She was preceded in death by her husband, Arky; her parents; and two siblings, Virginia, who died as an infant, and Harold, a longtime resident of Paola. She is survived by a daughter, Sarah, of Leawood, Kansas; a son, John, and his wife, Becky, of Baldwin City, Kansas; two grandsons and one great-grandson, Colin, his wife, Caitlyn, and their son, John Ambrose, of Cedar Park, Texas, and Clay and his wife, Tess, of Louisville, Kentucky.
A life-long educator, Verla graduated from Ottawa University with a degree in education. She taught for years in the Greeley and Paola public school systems, and at Holy Trinity Catholic School. In addition to teaching sixth grade reading and seventh grade social studies, Verla developed and implemented the gifted education program at both the Paola Middle School and Paola High School. In 1985, she was asked to present on the development of a gifted program in a semi-rural community at the World Gifted Conference in Hamburg, Germany. In 1987, she was selected as Paola Master Teacher of the Year. She thrived seeing her students succeed.
When her children were young, Verla was very involved in their activities, including serving as PTA president. Always supportive of the community she loved, she was a member of the First Presbyterian Church, Paola, where she served as a ruling elder; an active member of the Kansas Day Committee; past president of PEO Chapter DQ; and chair of the USD #368 Endowment Association Scholarship Committee. Verla also served on the first Board of community volunteers working to preserve the Ursuline Academy Auditorium for what is now the Paola Community Center, and she enjoyed volunteering at the Miami County Historical Museum.
In retirement, Verla and Arky traveled the world, making friends wherever they went, including several couples who later came from Scotland to visit them at their home in Paola. Verla also developed a passion for watercolor painting; her framed work not only fills the homes of family and friends, she created and donated a “Fruit of the Spirit” series of notecards as a fundraiser for the First Presbyterian Church, Paola, as the small congregation worked to successfully pay off the church’s mortgage.
Beloved by family and friends, Verla will be remembered for her positive and youthful attitude toward life and her generous and independent spirit. She lived a life of gratitude, recently saying “I have been so fortunate to have had such a wonderful life. There is nothing left on my list of things I wanted to do.”
A celebration of life will be held on Saturday, October 15, 2022 at 10:00 a.m. at First Presbyterian Church, Paola. Family will greet friends beginning at 9:30 a.m. Burial will be at the Paola City Cemetery.
Memorial contributions in memory of Verla may be made to the Paola USD #368 Endowment Association for the “Verla and Arky Thomas Scholarship”, 1115 E. 303rd Street, Paola, KS, 66071.