Wilma J. (Willie) Scheel
Wilma (Willie) Jean Scheel, 77, of Boise, Idaho, passed away peacefully at her home with her family at her side on May 22, 2020, after a long battle with chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML). Willie was born in Rupert, Idaho, to Elmer and Luella Anderson on July 28, 1942, the fourth of five children. From the moment she was born, Willie was energetic, curious, and quick-witted. Her mother frequently sent her out in the fields to “help” her father where she could burn off energy and keep her father company with her constant chatter. Willie’s ebullience made it easy for her to meet and maintain lifelong friends. She had a smile that radiated warmth, a laugh that exuded joy, and a contagious exuberance for life!
The value of family and hard work was instilled in Willie at the young age of 11 when her father suddenly died. Willie helped her family by working on the farm, cooking meals, and taking care of her younger brother, Steve, while her mother worked outside the home. Willie also worked at the local drug store to bring in extra money. She received excellent grades in school and graduated from Minico High School in 1960. Although interested in pursuing further studies, Willie intended to work for the IRS after graduation to assist her mother financially. Surprisingly, the owner of the local drug store, Mrs. Benward, offered to help Willie with her college tuition. Willie accepted Mrs. Benward’s generous gesture and passed this kindness on to other children throughout the years with an understanding of hardship learned only through experience.
While at the University of Idaho, Willie majored in English and minored in Spanish. She joined the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, and often told stories about the playful fun of her university “family”. It was through her Kappa roommate that she met the love of her life, James E. Scheel, a basketball player from Wendell, Idaho. Willie was smitten with Jim the minute she met him! According to family lore, Willie was often sent to entertain Jim while he waited for Willie’s roommate to get ready for a date. Although friends first, Jim and Willie fell in love quickly: they simply knew they were meant for each other. They were pinned in February 1963 and engaged the following year on Valentine’s Day. Willie graduated Phi Beta Kappa and married Jim shortly after graduation on June 20,1964, in Rupert, Idaho.
After graduation, Willie was offered a Fulbright Scholarship to continue her studies overseas. With Jim as her priority, Willie elected instead to accompany her love to Seattle, Washington, where Jim attended medical school and Willie taught English at Meadowdale High School in the Edmonds School District. Their son, Jeff, was born during their time in Seattle. Their first daughter, Sheila, was born two years later while Jim was in residency in Portland, Oregon. The family moved to Jerome, Idaho, in 1970. Their second daughter, Cindy, was born a few years later. Committed to family and hard work, Willie managed her husband’s medical practice in Jerome while raising three young children. In 1975, the family moved to Twin Falls where Jim continued to practice while Willie focused on the family and her community. She returned to the classroom in 1986 where she taught Spanish and English as a Second Language at Robert Stuart Junior High School. Jim and Willie left Twin Falls in 2003 and relocated to their current home in Boise.
Willie loved spending time out of doors with her family and friends. On these adventures, she built memories, created traditions and formed lasting friendships. Willie hunted deer in the South Hills, fished for steelhead in British Columbia and on the North Fork of the Salmon River, fished for trout with the family at Henry’s Lake, combed the beach on the Oregon Coast, and camped any place their Prowler trailer could be parked. She made these family outings memorable by reading books to pass time on the car ride, by baking fabulous goodies, and by playing numerous games. No matter where the adventure took the family, there was always laughter, good food and fun.
Willie loved music! Whether she was leading the children’s Christmas program at church or awakening her children with a good morning song, Willie was always singing a song or humming a tune. Music permeated every aspect of her life. In church, she joyfully worshiped through song, something people around her loved to hear. At home, Willie stacked the record player with her favorites to accompany the family’s day of baking, and on birthdays, she even had a special rendition of “Happy Birthday”. Music was a natural expression of the joy and love she had for living and an expression of her incredible faith in the Lord.
While living in Twin Falls, Willie was an active member of Ascension Episcopal Church and the Cursillo community. She helped with the annual holiday church bazaar, taught Sunday School, and led children’s Christmas programs. Willie’s faith was unwavering, and it carried her through both difficult and wonderful times. When diagnosed with leukemia, Willie said, “Well, this is going to take a lot of prayer.” She rarely complained, always trusted that the Lord and his angels would carry her, and often turned to prayer as a source of comfort, peace, and gratitude.
Besides her love of the Lord, Willie, also loved being a mother and a grandmother. She often referred to being a grandmother as her favorite hobby! Willie, called “Nini” by her grandchildren, wore a necklace with charms for each grandchild. Nini proudly shared stories about each grandchild as she showed the necklace to others. Her grandchildren loved to point to their charms and hear about themselves from their grandmother’s doting perspective. Willie’s legacy of unconditional love, her commitment to family, her unwavering faith, and her joy of living will live on through her children and her grandchildren.
Willie is survived by her husband of 56 years, Jim, and her three children, Jeff (Ana) Scheel from Rochester, Minnesota; Sheila (Perry) Giffen from Boise, Idaho; and Cindy (Corey) Anneke from La Crosse, Wisconsin. She is survived by all 7 of her grandchildren, Alex and Nick Scheel; James, Austin, and Katelyn Giffen; and Riley and Cade Anneke. One of five children, Willie is survived by her sister, Carol Brown, and her brother, Steve Anderson. She was preceded in death by her parents, Elmer and Luella Anderson, and her brothers, Robert and Meldon Anderson.
Funeral arrangements are being handle by Bowman Funeral Home. A public visitation will be held on Thursday, May 28 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM. The family asks that social distancing be practiced, and masks be worn. A private service and burial will follow. Willie will be laid to rest at Morris Hill Cemetery in Boise. The family is planning a Celebration of Life service for a future date that is more social-friendly.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts can be given in support of CMML research at Mayo Clinic where Willie participated in a clinical trial and was one of the longest survivors of this rare cancer. Donations can be made by phone, online or by mail.
By phone: call 1-855-852-8129 to talk with a Gift Processing Associates who can take a donation securely over the telephone.
Online: contribute at https://philanthropy.mayoclinic.org/donatemc
Under “tribute information” please indicate the gift is “In memory of Willie Scheel”
Mail: checks can be written directly to Mayo Clinic and mailed to Mayo Clinic Department of Development, 200 First Street SW, Rochester, MN 55905
In the memo line of the check, please indicate that the donation is “In memory of Willie Scheel”.