Winnifred Hannah Coe Verbica, born in San Jose, Calif., daughter of a fourth-generation California cattle ranching family in Santa Clara County, equestrian, wife, evangelical Christian poet, model, choral singer, kind mother, loving grandmother, and faithful friend, passed away Easter morning at about 2:30, in Tahlequah. She was 78.
She attended Evergreen Elementary, Roosevelt Junior High, San Jose High, James Lick High (1952; class treasurer; Delta Iota Chi sorority member; winner of the Bank of America Mathematics Achievement Award), Stanford University (BA, economics with honors, ’56, class treasurer), as well as Stanford Law School (one of two females accepted to her class, receiving accolades in moot court).
An accomplished horseback rider, Winnifred grew up on a commercial cattle ranch in the San Jose foothills. Some of the horses she rode included “Little Joe,” an Arabian-Quarter Horse cross, “Conejo,” and her favorite, “Trinket,” who would be ridden in later years by her daughter, Pearle. She spent time riding at Pine Ridge, now known as Henry Coe State Park, and Rancho San Felipe.
Not one to usually get into trouble, she undoubtedly received a lecture from a ranch hand after riding after a mountain lion in a full gallop, trying to rope it. Luckily, the startled cougar outran her horse.
Her early classmates and friends included residents from neighboring ranches and farms when the Silicon Valley was known instead as “the Valley of Heart’s Delight.” She is described by those who knew her in school as an academic star among her peers, who won hearts with her ready smile, contagious cheer, engaging intellect, unwavering kindness and stunning looks. Though college life put a damper on her ranch days, she and her sister, Nancy, brought their horses to school and spent time training at Stanford’s “Red Barn.”
One of her personal triumphs was rebounding back to health after being on the brink of death in her 20s as the result of a serious automobile accident. Despite suffering from an ocular malady for decades thereafter, she rarely, if ever, complained.
She spent some time on the East Coast in Boston and Cambridge, where she modeled furs and worked for an acclaimed professor of international economics at Harvard University.
She returned to California and went on to marry a tall and dashing former All-American baseball player from the University of Arizona, named Robert Verbica. Early in her marriage, she was active in PEO along with her mother, the Stanford Children’s Hospital Auxiliary, and a social bridge group.
As a couple, “Winnie” and Bob treated each other with unconditional love, mutual respect, and positive adoration, whether times were fair or foul. Together they raised two children, Pearle (Verbica) Salters, a former missionary in Tanzania and Kenya, and Peter, a financial adviser at Merrill Lynch, and went on to enjoy an expanded family of eight grandchildren, including Hannah, Daniel, Esther and David Salters, and Vanessa, an IT2 (AW) with the U.S. Navy, Madeline, Caroline and Elizabeth Verbica, as well as esteemed son-in-law, John Salters, a corporate pilot, and treasured daughter-in-law, Tiffany (Barthel) Verbica, a professional with a non-profit insurance group.
Winnie was baptized at Trinity Episcopal Church (now Trinity Cathedral) in San Jose on April 20, 1935, along with her sister Nancy.
Bob and Winnie were active in their church life, including St. Philips and St. Francis Episcopal Churches, as well many years at Los Gatos Christian Church (now known as Venture). Winnie developed close and longstanding friendships with members of these congregations.
After moving to Tahlequah, Winnie appreciated a multitude of friends, including residents of Go Ye Village and members of Tahlequah First Baptist Church.
She spent most of her life living in a two-story, brick colonial residence, originally built by her father. With its weeping willow trees and picturesque red barn, it made for a happy home nestled in the heart of San Felipe Valley. When her husband was out on the range, usually wild boar hunting in an open Jeep with his loyal golden lab, she would check in with him via shortwave radio, exchanging mutual affections over the airwaves.
An unabashed Republican, Winnifred supported a wide number of ministries and charities, including Africa Inland Mission Air, the Heritage Home, Los Gatos Christian Church and Go Ye Village, and was active in adult Bible studies, including the Bible Study Fellowship. She is remembered by many of the young women at church as a “prayer warrior,” who lent a sympathetic ear and voiced encouragement during times of tribulation.
Her father, mother, sister and husband, Henry Sutcliffe Coe, Pearle Hersey Coe, Nancy Patricia Coe, and Robert George Verbica, respectively, passed on before her.
Aside from her children and grandchildren, she is survived by her cousins, Thomas Upham and Norma Coe, and their sons, Charles Wolfgang and Thomas M. Coe and their families, cousin, Charles Willard Coe, cousins Bonnie Nazarenko and Irene Robinson and their families, as well as cousins Jeanann Jones, Donald Verbica and their families.
Winnifred lives on through her poetry, including her book, “Seasons.”
Her poem, “Build Me a Man,” is featured in the second edition of “Greece at Peace: Poems of Life, Love and Faraway Places.”
A memorial service in Oklahoma will be held to celebrate her life at First Baptist Church, at 2 p.m. Friday, April 5, 2013, at 201 Commercial Road.
Doctor Will Norton and Pastor Buddy Hunt will preside. Memorial donations, in lieu of flowers, honoring Winnifred’s life, should be directed to Go Ye Village for the “Golden Years Assistance Society,” 1201 W. Fourth Street, Tahlequah, Okla., 74464.
Green Country Funeral Home, 203 S. Commercial Road, (918) 458-5055.