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Sheila Angela Fulfer
June 5, 1934 ~ October 2, 2022 (age 88) 88 Years Old
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Sheila Angela Fulfer (née Sheila Keil Gillen) died October 2, 2022 in Pullman, WA. She is survived by her daughters Anne-Marie Fulfer and Mary Susan Fulfer, son-in-law Sunil Ramalingam, and grandchildren Emma Danielle Fulfer Ramalingam and Benjamin Keil Fulfer Ramalingam.
She loved music (particularly choral); sports, including swimming, water and snow skiing, and softball (as children, we spent many wonderful summer evenings under the grandstands watching the Women’s softball games); travel (she visited 6 continents); and being anywhere but in an office (she loved the several seasons she was part of Gloria Ferrer Winery’s production team). She also managed to fit in a few years crewing for a hot air balloon.
Sheila was born June 5, 1934 at the hospital in Ishpeming, Michigan, after a middle-of-the-night 70-mile drive in the rain over bad roads. Her parents were ecstatic to meet their first child, and the family soon returned to Ames, Iowa where her father, George, was beginning work on a Ph.D. in Plant Pathology. In April 1935, George died of infection following complications of an earlier appendectomy. Sheila was reared by her mother, Winnifred, whose career in the Oregon State extension service brought them west, first to Klamath Falls from 1938 – 1947 and then to Corvallis, where Sheila attended high school.
In Corvallis, Sheila’s interest in and love of music expanded; she already played piano and flute. She joined the high school choir, developing what would become her rich, alto voice. She asked the orchestra teacher if there were another instrument she could learn, and he produced a bassoon. When she applied to College of the Pacific (now UOP), she was offered a scholarship to play bassoon, so she moved to Stockton, California in 1952. After being graduated a proud Tiger in 1956, Sheila began teaching instrumental music in the area. In Stockton she met two important people: her lifelong friend and fellow bassoonist Elaine Parrish and her future husband Earl.
Sheila and Earl met in a Stockton choral group. They each had a remarkably beautiful voice, his a baritone and hers alto. Earl had converted to the Roman Catholics before they met, and Sheila converted just before they married in September 1960. They moved to Sonoma in 1963, bringing their protestant church choir experience to St. Francis Solano. In 1973 Sheila and Earl were founding members of the Sonoma Valley Chorale, for which Sheila was the Associate Conductor. The group was successful because of a combination of the two directors’ talents: Jim Griewe’s enthusiasm and charisma and Sheila Fulfer’s choral training and experience, which brought nuanced instruction and support to the members of the chorale. Sheila and Jim spent countless hours planning. Sheila would go to Byron Hoyt in San Francisco to purchase sheet music, and then they would choose what the Chorale would be singing.
The Chorale brought in several guests. Sheila was especially proud to renew her relationship with Jester Hairston, from her Stockton days, and bring him to perform with her group. The Chorale also hosted composer Gwyneth Walker, who wrote an original piece, “Come Life, Shaker Life,” for the Chorale and Maya Angelou, who narrated “Jonathan Livingston Seagull.”
Sheila was an involved mother supporting and cheering on her children in whatever they were doing from teaching each of us how to drive, assisting us in our numerous moves, attending every soccer game, play, and music recital, and volunteering as a chaperone on school field trips. As a musician and teacher, she ensured each of us knew how to read music, play an instrument, and sing (some in tune, others trying really hard). An only child, she marvelled at great sibling dynamics and was puzzled by sibling wars. She often told us how lucky we were to have each other and she was right about that. She was also funny, with a particularly dry, and sometimes biting, wit.
Sheila loved Sonoma, but in 2017 she moved north to be close to her Idaho family. She was preceded in death by her parents Winnifred Keil Gillen Fulmer and George Francis Gillen, her husband Earl Louis Fulfer, and her son John Steven Roberts Fulfer.
Thank you to the nurses and staff at Bishop Place and Kindred/Gentiva Hospice for their care of Mom in her last days; we know she liked to keep you on your toes. And thank you also to Corbeill Funeral Home of Pullman, WA and Duggan’s Mission Chapel of Sonoma, CA for your care of us after her death.
A service will be held in Sonoma at St. Francis Solano church on June 6 at 11 a.m. with a reception to follow immediately at the Sonoma Community Center Secret Garden.