Thelma Imogene (Ridgway) Hehn, beloved mother, grandmother, great grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin, friend, and neighbor to everyone she knew, died early Saturday morning, June 11th, at McCrite Plaza at Briarcliff in Kansas City, Mo. at age 102.
She was born September 27, 1919, on a farm southeast of McLouth, Kansas, the daughter of Guilford and Alice (Osborn) Ridgway. A close neighbor, Helen (Edmonds) Hehn was the attending midwife. Early day McLouth physician Dr. Milton Cain was called to the farm, but Helen Hehn had to deliver the baby before his arrival.
Thelma attended Wildhorse School through 8th grade and then went to McLouth High School, graduating in 1937. Upon high school graduation, she studied for, and passed, the Kansas State Teacher Certification for the 1937 fall school term.
Her first teaching assignment in Jefferson County was at the old O’Neil Country School. Later, she taught at the Hebron and Wildhorse Country Schools. Much of this time she rode her horse, Brownie, to teach classes at the schools. Later, she drove a black Model A Ford. Her final Jefferson County teaching assignment was in McLouth, teaching 1st and 2nd grades through the Spring of 1947.
On June 28, 1947, she married Forest Valentine Hehn in the McLouth Church of the Brethren. Forest’s mother Helen was present to see her son marry the baby she had delivered 28 years earlier.
Immediately following the wedding, Thelma and Forest moved to Lawrence—where he began his lifelong work as carpenter and that Fall, she started her duties teaching at Lawrence’s Kennedy Elementary School. She spent the remainder of her career as a substitute teacher within the Lawrence School District.
Their daughter Barbara was born in 1950. She married Mike Purdon in 1977. They had three children, Kathryn Brown (Adam), Erin Martin (Phillip) and Michael Scott Purdon (Patricia). Barbara Purdon, also a teacher, taught first grade her entire career at Jefferson West Elementary School, from 1972 until her passing in 2009.
Thelma and Forest were married for 62 years. Forest died in 2009. They were longtime members and supporters of the River City Church (formerly the Lawrence Free Methodist Church).
Thelma was a loyal KU Basketball Fan and never missed watching her Jayhawks on television throughout the season and post-season. This year was a particular highlight for her to watch her beloved Jayhawks win the national title.
Thelma is survived by her three grandchildren Kathryn Brown (Adam), Erin Martin (Phillip) both of Kansas City, and Michael Scott Purdon (Patricia) of Perry; five great grandchildren Lucille Purdon, Hazel Purdon, Victoria Brown, Phillip John (PJ) Martin, and Charlotte Martin; a sister, Bonnie Radford; son-in-law Mike Purdon; and numerous cousins, nephews and nieces, and brothers- and sisters in-law.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Guilford and Alice Ridgway; husband, Forest Hehn; daughter, Barbara Purdon; and brothers, Thurman and Glenn Ridgway.
Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Warren-McElwain Mortuary, Lawrence. Visitation will be Thursday, June 16th, from 5-6:30 PM at Warren McElwain. Funeral services will be held at 10:00 AM Friday, June 17th, at River City Church, 3001 Lawrence Ave., Lawrence; burial will be in McLouth City Cemetery.
Thelma’s family would like to gratefully acknowledge the loving care she received the past two years at Neuvant House in Lawrence, and more recently at McCrite Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri, with the support of Kansas City Hospice and Palliative Care. We also express our appreciation for all of Thelma’s friends and relatives who showered her with visits, cards, and calls during the past two years.
The family suggests memorials in Thelma’s honor to either Kansas City Hospice and Palliative Care or River City Church, sent in care of Warren-McElwain.