Verna Stell, the loving, humble, and dedicated wife, mother, grandmother, and great grandmother of the Stell family, passed away peacefully on Friday, February 5th, at the age of 92.
Verna was born in Ardmore, Oklahoma in 1928. When young, she moved to Carlsbad with her parents, CD and Bonnie Beam. They opened Beam's Beauty and Barber Shop on Mermod Street. Verna always had a strong work ethic. In addition to helping her parents at the shop, she worked at the Caverns Theatre from age 14, and enjoyed the income to buy the first clothes that reflected her lifelong commitment to fashion.
In high school, Verna began dating her high school sweetheart, Joe Stell Jr., who was a talented athlete. As Joe neared graduation, he had multiple offers to play football and chose Southern Methodist University, where he attended and played football for a year before deciding Dallas was too far from Verna. So, Joe transferred to University of New Mexico (UNM) in Albuquerque to play for the Lobos, and he and Verna were married in August of 1948.
While Joe was playing college football and earning his degree at UNM, Verna worked in Albuquerque to support their new family until the births of their first two children, Jim and Cathy. After his graduation, Joe was offered a coaching job in Deming, so the family moved to the Deming area and added daughters JoBeth, and Linda.
Eventually, the family moved back to Carlsbad, where Joe taught and coached for thirty-seven years. The life of a coach’s and administrator’s wife meant Verna held the responsibility to maintain the family and homefront during the times that Joe was watching films, overseeing practices, and coaching games. Verna dedicated herself fully to being a loving and caring mother and supportive wife. Although she was unceasingly busy, she always found time to read to the children, teach them about nature and cook fantastic meals. When the kids were old enough to attend school, Verna decided to follow in the footsteps of her mother, Bonnie, and become a “beautician.” Verna and Bonnie worked together in the family beauty salon for a number of years, and later Verna worked as a legal and business secretary in Carlsbad.
As the kids got older, Verna strove to create a home where her children and their friends knew that the door was always open, and that all would find a loving and warm welcome (and often a delicious bite of cake or another treat prepared by Verna). In addition to being a gifted cook, Verna always had discerning taste and took great pride in finding antiques, natural and simple treasures, and maintaining a beautiful garden and home.
When Joe was elected in 1986 to represent District 54 in the New Mexico legislature, Verna quickly adapted to support Joe’s role. For the next 21 years they commuted to Santa Fe for legislative sessions. Together, Verna and Joe worked hard for Carlsbad (and the entire state) for many years on numerous issues, particularly those related conservation and water rights. She and Joe toiled side by side on both of their ranches, and found ways to collaborate with the Bureau of Land Management on several early rangeland conservation efforts that have since been implemented across the state.
Verna was also dedicated to charitable causes and making the world a better place. She was active with the Sheriff’s Possiettes, The Boys & Girls Club, The American Cancer Society, The Women’s Club, North Mesa Senior Citizen’s Center, and the American Contract Bridge League. Throughout the years, Verna was a doting matriarch, and was always there to support her expanding family of children and great grandchildren. Verna also cared for her mother, Bonnie Beam (97) and mother-in-law, Louise Stell (95) until their passing. Verna dearly loved playing bridge, and she and Joe both prized and nurtured many lifetime friendships.
In 2007, Joe and Verna retired and moved to their smaller ranch that "had an asphalt road.” She and Joe worked hard building everything "from scratch” with help from beloved friends and family. Verna and Joe celebrated 50, 60, then 70 years of marriage, and had reached 72 by the time Joe passed in October.
Verna’s legacy remains one of devoted support and love for her family and friends. Never one to seek attention, Verna graciously took on the roles and responsibilities that she was given throughout life and dedicated herself to serving others in whatever way she could. She was conscientious, sincere, warm, moral, and humble in all things, and was never afraid to make difficult decisions. More than that, she was fiercely committed to doing what was necessary in order to support and encourage those around her to achieve their very best. She set a powerful example of devotion and love for all who knew her, and created the stable foundation of love and caring from which our family grew across multiple generations.
Verna is survived by her son Jim (and Janine) Stell of Gainesboro, TN, daughter Linda Stell of Carlsbad, NM, and sons-in-law Grant Kinzer and Jim Hawk. She is also survived by six grandsons; Jeremy, Jimmy, Kye, Drew, Cody, and Jordan; four granddaughters, Jennifer, Endee, Kacie, and Jacquelyn; four nieces and nephews, Rhonda Stell, Phil Stell, Diane Peachey, and Jere Stell; as well as 16 great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her husband, Joe M Stell Jr., and daughters Cathy (Kinzer) and JoBeth (Hawk).
Due to the ongoing situation with Covid-19, services to honor Verna’s life will be set for a time in which family, friends can safely gather to celebrate her legacy. If you wish to be notified of plans for this celebration of life, please follow the Joe and Verna Stell Legacy Page on Facebook, or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are also seeking photos and stories, so please share any remembrances through the above means.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Joe & Verna Stell Charitable Fund within the Carlsbad Community Foundation Inc., 114 South Canyon, Carlsbad, New Mexico 88220 or online at www.carlsbadfoundation.org.