Geneva Rae Lancaster Watkins


July 10, 1926-May 13, 2019

Geneva was born the seventh of ten children to Walter and Dessie Lancaster in Mountain View, Arkansas. She grew to be tall and athletic with a keen intellect and an even keener desire to excel. She graduated valedictorian of her high school in Paul’s Valley, Oklahoma, where the family relocated when Geneva was a child. If her situation had been different; if she’d lived in a time and place where young women went to college, she undoubtedly would have shone in the world of academia. She had a razor-sharp mind that thrived on stimulation and she was adept at puzzling out solutions to practically any conundrum. In later years, she once used a tree branch to reinforce the innards of a drapery rod and Kotex pads as stuffing on a reupholstery project! When she was 18, she was in a horrific car crash in which her beau was killed, and she suffered a terribly broken leg. A large metal plate was used to hold her bones together and she spent a year in a body cast while her body mended. This tragedy might have instilled a helpless hopelessness in some, but in Geneva it only served to fuel her determination to break free from the expectations of her family and culture and, instead, find her own path. She worked at Tinker Air Force Base during WWII and went on to study cosmetology and become a beautician. In 1949, She was living and working independently in Miami, Oklahoma when she met Lloyd Watkins. After a whirlwind romance, they married a month later, and soon after moved to Tahlequah, Oklahoma where Lloyd attended college and Geneva stayed home and cared for their firstborn, Stephen Michael. Melissa Ann, her second child, arrived three years later and when Melissa was just months old, Lloyd’s work took the small family to Alaska. All those years working on the family farm instilled in Geneva a work ethic that served her well in Alaska with its extreme demands of temperature, and scarcity of commodities. Her natural determination and grit helped her acclimate to the territory’s small villages, and it seemed there was nothing she couldn’t do. Geneva’s third child, Laura Jane, was born in Alaska and six years later, once again following Lloyd’s work, the family moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Once Laura was in school, Geneva began taking classes in tax preparation and in a few years managed her own branch of H&R Block. Her expertise and attention to detail made her a favorite of customers and she had a loyal following of “regulars”. Geneva did not suffer fools lightly and would stand up to anyone. When she was attending cosmetology school, she once pulled a straight razor on a man who harassed her during her commute. Then, there was the drunken officer from the local Air Force base in Alaska who tried to force his way into the house while Lloyd was out of town—he found himself eyeing Geneva from the business end of a gun barrel and quickly departed. And the two youths who tried to intimidate her from their car one night while she was driving home? How could they have anticipated that at the next red light the middle-aged woman would grab a tire iron, come back and dare them to get out of their car? Geneva was fierce, and determined, and sometimes defiant. If you didn’t know her well, it would be easy to believe that was all she wasyou would be wrong. She loved deeply, if not overtly; she was utterly loyal, and harbored a tender, sensitive soul that only the luckiest were allowed to glimpse. She was our Polaris, our north star, and even when dementia took away much of her fight, a softer light continued to shine forth allowing us to glimpse yet another facet of this remarkable woman. She is survived by one sister, Catherine; a son, Stephen Michael (Roseann), and daughters, Melissa Ann, and Laura Jane Murray (Michael). Grandchildren: Molly, Alex, Gillian, Andrew, Geneva, Ryan, Nick, Matthew, Thomas, Brianna, Jacquelyn & Miranda. And great grandchildren, Jaxen, Isaac, Oscar, Gus, and Jeremiah. A memorial service will be held at 10:00 AM on Friday July 19th at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church; 1310 N. Sioux Avenue, Claremore.

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