March 22, 1943 - Nov. 29, 2012
CULBERTSON, Nebraska -- Gayleen Lou Fries, age 69, passed away on Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, at her home near Culbertson, Nebraska, after a courageous battle with cancer.
Gayleen was born at Kearney, Nebraska, on March 22, 1943, to Alfred V. and Irene D. (Helzer) Woodburn. She attended the Gothenburg Public Schools K-12 and was 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.
Gayleen taught one year (1965-66) at Sidney, Nebraska. On Aug.6, 1966, she married Stephen Flood. The couple moved to Kearney where Gayleen accepted a graduate assistantship at Kearney State College while pursuing her master's degree. She then taught two years in the Kearney Public Schools and instructed night classes in speech at Kearney State before the couple moved to Monroe, Iowa (1969-73). As a teacher of English, speech and drama, Gayleen directed many theatre productions at Monroe and chartered the school's Thespian Society.
In 1972, the couple was blessed with the birth of their son, Michael Sean.
Wanting to be closer to their families, Steve took a teaching position at Trenton, Nebraska, and Gayleen taught speech at McCook Community College (1973-77). When the opportunity arose to live in her hometown, Gayleen accepted a contract to teach at Lexington Senior High and Steve at Gothenburg. During her 18-year tenure at Lexington, she 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. 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.
She 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, Gayleen married Steven R. Fries and moved to the 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, Gayleen 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 Pastors Jeff Thurman and Lance Clay. She and Steve completed the Alpha course and participated in Walk to Emmaus. Gayleen served as an Agape in 2010 and was scheduled to be a leader at Chadron in August before her health limited her activities.
She was a past E.M.T. and rescue squad member and community choir soloist. A 33-year P.E.O. member, Gayleen 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 beautiful clothes fashioned by her mother. In later years, Gayleen's 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.
Gayleen loved the beauty and serenity of the farm, as she watched the deer, pheasants and wild turkeys playing in the pasture north of the house or the birds nesting in the eaves of the back porch. 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.
Gay and Steve enjoyed traveling to South Africa to visit Steve's daughter, Steffenie, and to Hawaii. They also loved camping and taking trips together pulling their fifth wheel. They were in two camping clubs: Excel Club, for which Gayleen and Steve 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.
Nothing pleased Gayleen more than being with family. She cherished birthdays and holidays for special gatherings to be together and to wrap her arms around her grandchildren.
Survivors include her loving husband Steve of Culbertson, son and daughter-in-law Mike and LaRae Flood, Kearney, step-daughter Steffenie Fries and her fiance Noel Gurwick, Washington D.C., step-son and daughter-in-law Travis and Suzanne Fries, McCook, and six beloved grandchidren: Olivia, Leah, Josslyn and Ambrie Flood, Kearney, and Emma and Benjamin Fries, McCook. Gayleen is also survived by three siblings: Kathleen Turnquist and her husband Donald, Hutchison, Kansas, Dr. Donald Woodburn and his wife Vicki, Lincoln, and Phyl Wooodburn, Wahoo; brothers-in-law Tyrone and his wife Donna Fries, Plattsmouth, Wayne Fries, Leander, Texas, Harvey Fries, Kansas City, Missouri, Russell Fries and his wife Ruth, Smithville, Missouri and several nieces and nephews.
Gayleen leaves behind many beloved students and colleagues, including her close friend and judging partner Linda Crandall.
She was preceded in death by her father in 1976 and her mother in 2002.
Memorials may be specified to the Gayleen Fries Scholarship Fund at the University of Nebraska-Kearney Foundation or to the donor's choice.
Herrmann Jones Memorial Chapel is in charge of arrangements.