Thelma Richins Upshaw was born in Virden, New Mexico on December 1, 1930 to George Arthur and Leah Naegle Richins. She grew up without indoor plumbing, electricity, television or telephone, not to mention microwave ovens, computers, satellites, internet, cell phones, GPS, email or Facebook. She lived on a farm just to the north of Lordsburg, NM with dirt roads, cattle, horses, chickens.
Her mother died when she was five and she was raised by her Dad and Step-Mother, Lenore, along with one brother, three sisters and one half-brother. In 1948 Thelma, and girlfriends, Joanne Kerr and Arabella Strasser Hill drove from Lordsburg to dance with the cowboys from Animas where she met her future husband, Bert James Upshaw. She graduated from Lordsburg high school and married Bert on March 10, 1950.
Thelma is survived by her sons, Bert J. Upshaw Jr. of Aubrey, TX, Rick Upshaw of Animas, NM, Mark Upshaw of Alpine, TX, Gary Upshaw and wife Lisa of Weatherford, TX, and Dell Upshaw and wife Melissa of Nevada, TX, daughter, Ilynn Upshaw Priebe of Longview, TX, thirty grandchildren, sixty-five great-grandchildren and two on the way, two sisters, Betty Burke, and husband Tom of St. George, UT, Lucille Flint, and husband Don of Provo, UT, and sister-in-law, Ida Bohling of El Paso, TX. She was preceded in death by her husband, Bert; her parents, George and Leah; two brothers, George Arthur Richins Jr., and Lineer George Richins, and sister, Leah Rachel Blair and a great granddaughter Rhyan Ray Upshaw.
Bert was mobilized with the New Mexico National Guard in 1950 for the Korean Conflict and was sent to Fort Bliss. There, Thelma gave birth to their first child, Bert James Jr. After Bert’s release the couple moved back to Lordsburg, where they were living when Rick was born and then Silver City where Mark was born, then to El Paso where Gary was born, followed by Las Cruces and finally back to the Animas Valley and in Cotton City in 1961 where they farmed, ranched and worked until 1979. Dell and Ilynn were both born during this period.
Thelma served in many callings in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but she liked Young Women’s best. One of the projects she worked on during her youth is preserved by The Church Historical Society in Salt Lake.
In 1979 her and Bert moved to Dallas Texas area to work and live until Bert’s retirement in 2005.
Bert and Thelma were called on a mission to work in Laotian Branch of The Church in the Richardson Stake in 1994. They served for four years there and enjoyed learning a new culture and language without having left the country. Thelma played the piano for Sacrament, was the Relief Society President, Primary President and Librarian. She would quote several Laotian words the rest of her life to include: Pumbanthukkhong mo mon (Book of Mormon) and Phrachao (Heavenly Father).
In 2005 they move to Alpine, Texas where Thelma helped to raise some of her grandchildren including Jeremy, Jared and Cristi. Her most oft-quoted scripture was Matthew 5:44 “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”
Thelma continued to serve in the Primary and went to church every Sunday. Bert passed away in 2012 and she remained in Alpine until she moved to Aubrey, TX with son BJ in 2019 to live with Jared and Dinah. BJ cared for her daily until her passing, on July 10, 2020.
Her funeral service will be held in Virden, NM on Sunday, July 19 at 1:00 p.m. Arizona time. Interment will immediately follow. She is survived by two sister’s, Lucille and Betty, six children, thirty grand-children and sixty-five great-grand children.
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