Sheila Fern DeWoskin
October 29, 1938 – October 29, 2017
Chula Vista – Sheila DeWoskin passed away peacefully on her 79th birthday after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. Born to Albert and Sylvia Katz DeWoskin in St. Louis, MO, Sheila was predeceased by her life partner of 35 years, Mary Spall, and is survived by sisters: Barbara Kramer, Gail Halinka, and Lynn Covarrubias in addition to many nieces and nephews.
Sheila graduated from SDSU with bachelors and master’s degrees in physical education. She taught P.E. in the Grossmont School District before retiring to settle with Mary in Prescott, AZ. She transitioned to become a financial planner and was active in her beloved Temple B’rith Shalom community. She returned to San Diego in 2010 to be close to family.
Her upbeat, sensitive and brave spirit will be greatly missed by many friends and extended family.
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Life Story for Sheila Dewoskin
Sheila Fern DeWoskin
Sheila was born to Sylvia and Al DeWoskin on October 29, 1938 in St. Louis, Missouri. Her parents were recent immigrants whose families fled from the Russian pogroms against the Jews. She was their second daughter, born two years after her sister, Barbara.
From the start, Sheila was the more shy of the two, and Barbara claimed the title of “leader” from an early age.
During World War II, the family lived with her aunts and cousins, since most of the men were helping the war effort. Sheila got used to living with her extended family.
Sheila entered school in St. Louis and soon showed her true academic colors. She was an apt scholar and earned high marks in most of her endeavors.
Before the end of the war in 1943, another sister, Gail, joined the family, followed by the baby Lynn, in 1948. Soon the family moved to California, leaving most of her relatives behind.
Sheila continued to succeed in school. She maintained high marks in her religious studies as well as excelling in sports. Her confirmation from Pasadena Jewish Community Synagogue was marked by academic distinction. So, too, was her graduation from Pasadena City High School in 1956.
After receiving a full scholarship to Scripps College in Claremont, CA, Sheila attended her freshman year away from home. During this time, Barbara had married and the rest of the family moved to San Diego.
For the remainder of her undergraduate education, Sheila re-joined the family to attend San Diego State, receiving a BA and a MA in physical education, as well as her teaching credentials.
Sheila moved out to start life on her own when she began teaching physical education in the Grossmont Union High School District. Her well-developed love of physical activity became a life-long passion, and she enjoyed a healthy life. She was game for most activities, hiking, swimming, basketball, tennis, softball to name but a few. She also maintained her love of animals, typically having at least one or two dogs share her life.
Sheila eventually shared a home with long-time friend, Rossi Newton, in the San Carlos area of San Diego. Both Sheila and Rossi once helped sail a yacht for singer, Glen Yarlbrough, from Hawaii to San Diego as a chance to have an exciting adventure. Even though she was two weeks late for the start of her school year teaching, she thought it was worth it (see following news article on the event).
Sheila continued to teach for various schools within the Grossmont School District over the next 13 years. She eventually met and fell in love with Mary Spall, and on October 12, 1973 they held a life commitment ceremony together. They moved to a 20-acre ranch in Aguanga, CA, still within San Diego County, where Sheila taught in a one-room schoolhouse and Mary drove the school bus.
In 1985 they decided it was time to retire from their education jobs, so Sheila & Mary bought a trailer, packed up the dogs and toured the US for a year to find where they would like to settle. They liked Prescott, Arizona the best and moved there in 1987.
Sheila and Mary found fulfillment in building their lives together in Prescott. Mary became an athletic director for Prescott Parks & Recreation and Sheila began working for the Yavapai Hospital as a technician. Both of them were able to pursue their interests, with Mary becoming a site supervisor for the Yavapai Archeology Association and Sheila strengthening her connection to Temple Brith Shalom, becoming its President and Board Member over the years. Both Mary and Sheila were active in the gay & lesbian community as well.
Sheila made yet another career change when she decided to become a financial planner. She took training classes and of course, she succeeded in obtaining her license. Around 1988 she worked with a friend and colleague, Arvilla, to establish her business in Prescott, and for the next 13 years served the community as a Certified Financial Planner.
Sheila studied and became a Bat Mitzvah in 1990, the Jewish coming of age ceremony, growing ever closer to the Jewish community in Prescott. She helped to form the Havra Kadisha for the area, which is the group that performs the rituals of blessing, sitting watch with and bathing the body prior to Jewish burials. She blew the shofar, the ram’s horn, each new year as part of the Rosh Hashanah service. She toured with the Temple-led group to Israel. She delighted in her participation and drew strength from her relationships at Temple Brith Shalom.
Sheila continued her outreach to her extended family and friends throughout her life. She was the person who could be counted on to travel out of her way to give someone a ride that needed it. She was the relative who would drive for hours to pick up a cousin she had never met but was sure she was related.
For Sheila family ties meant more than obligation, they meant true connection. Once when traveling in Russia before the fall of the Iron Curtain, Sheila left her “approved” tour to sneak to meet relatives she had only been told about. Luckily the meeting went fine and she was able to re-join her tour unnoticed.
Thus even though Sheila left her extended family in St. Louis, she remained close to her aunts, uncles, cousins throughout the years.
In 1987 Sheila instigated an annual “sister’s weekend” during which all 4 DeWoskin sisters would get together to improve their communication especially surrounding family matters. For the next 20 years the sisters rendezvoused over a weekend once a year, without spouses or children, and grew to understand themselves and one another better.
Sheila retired in 2003. By that time both Mary and Sheila had health difficulties. Then in 2008, Sheila lost the love of her life, Mary, who passed away at age 82. Sheila remained in Prescott with the help of family and friends until she moved to San Diego in 2010.