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Thelma Sayler

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Thelma Sayler

Thelma Sayler, 89, of Murdo died Sunday, February 9, at her daughters house in White River.

Visitation will be held from 5-7 p.m., Wednesday, February 12, at Murdo United Methodist Church.

A Prayer Service will be held at 7 p.m., Wednesday at the Church.

Funeral services are at  2:00 p.m., Thursday, February 13, at Murdo United Methodist Church. Burial will followed at the White River Cemetery.

Thelma was born September 3, 1924, in Lynch Nebraska to Mads and Ruth (Christensen) Nielsen. On March 27, 1927, she moved with her parents and younger sister Donna Faye, in a Model T along with 24 chickens, to a one room “shack” six miles north of White River. In 1936, Mads tore down an old house 15 miles north, and hauled the lumber in the Model T using it to build a new house. They moved in the day before Christmas. For Thelma it was a mansion with her own bedroom. With no boys, the girls helped with the farming and ranching and chores around the house. 

Thelma liked to recall how she and Donna Faye with their mother, during the dirty thirties, used their aprons to shoo away the Mormon crickets in order to save their garden, and how they crushed thistles to feed the cattle to keep them alive. When they started school, Mads hauled the girls with the team and wagon to the highway, and they then walked the next two miles to town. 

Thelma graduated from White River High School in 1942. After graduation, she traveled with her Aunt and Uncle, sitting on a chair in the back of their pickup, to Oregon to work in the ship yards as a welder during the war. In 1945, she married Helmuth Bucholz (deceased 1966). Daughters Karen and Sharon were born in Portland, Oregon. In 1949, they moved back to White River and lived in the “now” two room shack that was still in her parent’s yard. A couple years later they moved a half mile north to the Old Rassy Place. 

In 1953, she accepted a teaching position at the Cottonwood School that was two miles northwest of their home. In 1954, she began teaching in Jones County, first north of Draper, then in Okaton. When she first started teaching, she worked without a teacher certification for several years. She started taking summer classes at Black Hills State Teacher College, eventually earning her Bachelor’s Degree in 1969.  In 1961, the family moved 10 miles north of White River on the “Teddy Fredrick’s Place”. It was then she began teaching the 2nd grade in Murdo. Following Helmuth’s death in 1966, she stayed on the farm, did the farming and continued teaching.  

In 1971, she married Arthur (Tuffy) Sayler who moved to the farm with his two sons ten year old Will and nine year old Rob. She continued teaching in Murdo until she retired in 1987.  After retirement Thelma continued to work at the school, substitute teaching and doing volunteer work for the teachers as well as providing goodies for kids and staff. 

Thelma and Tuffy enjoyed many trips across the U.S. and around the world, as well as those made with sister Donna Faye and other friends and family. Tuffy passed away in 2007. Thelma stayed on the farm until New Years Eve, 2014, when she began her brief stay in White River with her daughter.  

Thelma was a lifelong member of the Cottonwood Ladies Aide. She enjoyed volunteering at the Mellette County Museum & Library, the Grand Stand Committee, Blood Drives and participating in other numerous activities and associations. She was a long time member of the United Methodist Church in Murdo. One of her greatest joys was teaching and working with her students, then teaching those student’s children and grandchildren.  

Survivors include two daughters:  Karen (John) O’Bryan, White River and Sharon (Bill) Brooks, Olympia Wash.; stepsons: Will Sayler, Pierre, and Rob (Audra) Sayler, Rapid City; one sister Donna Faye (Bud) Stromer, White River; nine grandchildren:  Jamie Sumners, Dustin Sumners, Danae Sumners, Christina (Jamie) Engelhaupt, Lori (Brett) McFall, Scot and Olivia Brooks, and Sydney and Kelsey Sayler; 14 great-grandchildren; one great-great-grandchild; and a very special friend and high school sweetheart Bob Miles, who has provided companionship and care during the last two plus years. 

Thelma was preceded in death by her husband Arthur Sayler, her parents Mads and Ruth Nielsen and brother-in-law Herman (Bud) Stromer.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials be sent to the Cancer Foundation.

Arrangements have been placed in care of Isburg Funeral Chapel. Online condolences may be made at www.isburgfuneralchapels.com

 Box F, White River, SD 57579 • 605-259-3642 • mcnews@gwtc.net

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