Baker City, Oregon
Velma E. Holcomb, 83, a 25-year resident of Baker City, died Sept. 1, 2006, of a heart attack.
Her funeral will be Thursday at 10 a.m. at the Baker City Christian Church, 675 Highway 7. Pastor Roger Scovil will officiate. There will be a reception at the church at 11 a.m. Burial will be at 1:30 p.m. at Eagle Valley Cemetery in Richland.
Visitations will be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. today at Coles Funeral Home, 1950 Place St.
Velma was born on Oct. 13, 1922, at Sunnyside, Wash. She was the eldest of two daughters born to Clyde Thomas Webb and Leona Middleton Webb. She grew up in Sunnyside with her younger sister, Maxine, surrounded by cousins and helping with chores on the family farm.
Through the eighth grade she attended a one-room schoolhouse at Outlook, Wash. From her home, she watched the sun set between Mount Adams and Mount Rainier every night, a scenic view she often recalled.
She graduated from Sunnyside High School in 1940 and worked as a secretary. She was noted for typing more than 84 words per minute at the largest insurance firm in town. After two years she was called to Christian service and registered at Northwest Christian College, traveling to Eugene in the fall of 1942. She married fellow student Ralph H. Holcomb of Baker City in 1945.
When Velma graduated at the top of her class from Northwest Christian College in 1947 with a bachelor’s of theology, she had already committed herself to sharing a pastoral ministry with her husband. She faithfully partnered in every aspect of their joint ministry throughout 61 years of marriage. She had served in numerous pastorates in the Northwest and beyond.
Their first church was at North Plains, where their eldest daughter, Bonnie, was born in 1948. Then they were called to Central Christian Church in Portland where their second daughter, Shirley, was born in 1949.
When Ralph enrolled at Butler University at Indianapolis, Ind., to complete a master’s of divinity, they served a small church at Windfall where their third daughter, Renee, was born in 1953.
After that, Ralph became a professor at San Jose Bible College in California and Velma worked actively with the Zeloti Fellowship, training and encouraging young ministers’ wives. She also worked as a census taker for the 1960 U.S. Census Bureau, and sold World Book encyclopedias from home in the mid-1960s.
Velma and Ralph returned to pastoral ministry by moving to the First Christian Church at Caldwell, Idaho. In subsequent years, they shared ministry at Concord Christian Church in Milwaukie, Lakewood Christian Church in Lakewood, Calif., and Madras Christian Church.
They started a Christian church at La Pine and moved to the Baker City Christian Church in 1981. They served as interim ministers at Santa Cruz, Calif., Reedsport, Mountlake Terrace, Wash., Kern Park in Portland and at Richland and Enterprise. At the time of her death, Velma was an active member of the Baker City Christian Church.
At each church, Velma taught adult and children’s Sunday school and Vacation Bible School, particularly challenging young people to high standards of achievement with arts, crafts, games and contests. Velma was appreciated as a highly intelligent woman who turned her intense energies toward homemaking and raising her three daughters.
She was an accomplished seamstress who outfitted her daughters throughout their childhoods, an organic gardener whose methods often transformed barren spaces into fertile home vegetable gardens and flower beds, and a master with handiwork who often taught others the arts of knitting and crocheting.
She drew upon numerous talents and skills to instill in her own and other children a love of literature, poetry, music, sculpture, art and travel. Recent pastimes were completing crossword puzzles and playing Scrabble and Free Cell solitaire (she won more than 11,000 games).
Velma had survived two previous heart attacks, including a free wall rupture in 1993 from which she miraculously recovered to the amazement of her doctors. After a year of back pain, she had been recently diagnosed and treated for advanced lymphoma of the spine.
She died just hours before she was scheduled to leave for her granddaughter’s wedding at Sacramento, Calif.
Survivors include her husband, Ralph Holcomb; daughters, Bonnie K. Holcomb, and her husband, William Silverman, of Bethesda, Md., Shirley Holcomb Duncan and her husband, Greg, of Castle Rock, Colo., and Renee Holcomb Wurgler and her husband, Joel, of Stockton, Calif.; grandchildren, Darcy Adams, Kristin Wurgler-O’Brien, Rachel Duncan, Erica Duncan, Sean Duncan, Emily Wurgler, Braden Silverman, Erin Wurgler and Jeana Duncan; three nieces and five grandnieces.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Baker City Christian Church, 675 Highway 7, Baker City, OR 97814.
Used with permission from: Baker City Herald, Baker City, Oregon, September 6, 2006
Transcribed by: Belva Ticknor