Barbara Oneta Sue Lee (Epperson) was born June 1, 1941 in Oilton, Oklahoma, to Roy and Velma (Young) Lee. Barbara was the youngest and has a brother, Carl, and sister, Ann. The family lived for a time in Littleton, Colorado, but then returned to Oklahoma where Barbara attended high school in Delaware. She always enjoyed any animals, but especially horses, and was caught more than once riding the neighbors’ horse bareback that she’d caught in the pasture, along with climbing and riding the oil field pumpjacks when she wasn’t even supposed to be near them. She played basketball in high school, which is where she met Wayne “Butch” Epperson. They were married in 1962 in the Church of Christ in Dewey, OK.
After Butch acquired several degrees at OSU, where they both attended college and Barbara helped with his degrees by typing his thesis and those of other students for extra income, they moved to Lawton in 1968 when he accepted a teaching position at then Cameron College. They had three children, Nikki, Dawn and Ethan, each four years apart. They joined Western Hills Church of Christ where Butch was a Deacon years ago, and Barbara helped with the production of the church newsletter by typing it and using a mimeograph machine to make copies for all the members. One of the first couples they made friends with at church in Lawton was Aretha and George Bower, and they remained friends to this day. While raising their family, Barbara also worked as a secretary, first for Anthony and Joan Libro at Equitable Life Insurance, then at Great Plains Women’s Clinic for Doctors Henley, Hillis and Montague. The Eppersons moved to Cache in 1971 where they had several acres and enjoyed raising horses with a few even becoming race horses that ran at Remington Park and in Raton, NM. Butch passed away in July 2007, but Barbara continued to keep her horses and Weimeraner dogs (who were almost like horses themselves). During these years in Lawton and Cache, Barbara made many life-long friends and a favorite horseback riding buddy, Mrs. Delila Snyder. They, along with other horse-loving friends, enjoyed numerous trail rides and adventures in several states, and oh, the tales they’d tell (and some stories they probably didn’t share)! With all 5’3” of her driving a pick-up pulling a trailer full of horses down winding roads around Versailles, MO and the like, there were likely mishaps at times.
Barbara later went to work for Lawton Public Schools (LPS), working as an aide for special needs students at Douglass Elementary/Douglass Learning Center for many years with her friend, Mary Couger, and made too-many-to-count horsey school teacher friends during her years at LPS as well (Elizabeth, Marci, Donna…). Barbara learned American Sign Language and looked forward to driving the bus every year for Lawton students to participate in the Special Olympics. On several occasions Barbara took her lil’ brown miniature horse, “Chocolate”, to school so the children could have some time outside to become acquainted with a horse their size which helped them become not so fearful. If the kids and the horse were well behaved for the day, then they’d all get Oreos as a treat, even the horse. She also had another favorite horse, Newman, so named because of his Paul Newman-like blue eyes. Because of her love of the outdoors, Barbara transferred to the Grounds and Maintenance Team with LPS, where she would work circles around most while operating a weed-eater, sprayer, blower, or zero-turn mower. (Several of her grandchildren had been known to say they’d seen Grandma on the mower out the window at school that day.) The Oklahoma heat being what it is and considering she continued to work long after usual retirement age, in recent years she transferred back to the classroom as an aide at Gateway Success Center where she worked until late 2017. Health concerns due to diabetes finally prompted her retirement, and she moved to Brentwood Senior Living Center where she made many more friends, and discovered some there from Cache, along with wonderful caregivers that were so loving they became more like family.
Even as she received the doting attention at Brentwood, and special care from the incomparable Kindful Hospice nurses, and also Centric Home Health, Barbara’s health continued to decline. Her body gave out and she was ready to go ride horses in heaven, and passed away on August 18, 2020. (She’s now riding her horse again and enjoying a Dr. Pepper with a Hershey bar stashed in each pocket, maybe caramels though, or more likely both.)
Barbara is survived by her sister, Anna L. Lyons of Cache; and her brother Roy Carl Lee (and wife, Doris) of Bartlesville, OK; her daughter, Nikki Epperson Smith, and son, Ethan E. Epperson, both of Lawton, OK. She has several grandchildren, Justin Smith (and wife, Stephanie) of Yukon, OK; Emilee Dawn Dalrymple of Ozark Beach, MO; Mason Williams of Lawton; Remington and Presley Epperson of Lawton; and step-grandchildren, Ronnie Smith, Jr. (and Kelly), Lawton; and Amanda White (and Cory) of Corsicana, TX. Great-grandchildren are: Braxton, Bexley, Nashlyn, and Maverick of Yukon, OK. Step-greatgrandchildren are: Chelsea, Ashley, Shelby, Payton, Aubree, Greg, Josh, Dylan, McKenna, Izzie and Addox. She also has many special nieces, nephews, cousins, in-laws, neighbors and friends, too numerous to even attempt to count.
Barbara was preceded in death by her parents, Roy and Velma Lee; husband, Butch; her daughter, Dawn Erika Epperson Williams; and son-in-law, Ronnie Smith, Sr.
Due to current public health concerns, a family memorial service will be held in NE Oklahoma in the spring where Butch is buried. Barbara’s family would like to extend many thanks and special hugs to all the kind caregivers, doctors, pharmacists, housekeeping, admin and dietary staff, and caring friends that looked after her health, helped with doctor’s appointments and road trips, and visited her to just sit and talk or watch the Cowboy Channel on TV with her.
In lieu of flowers, it would be so appreciated for special attention to be paid to someone with Alzheimer’s or provide some respite to their family, or donations to be made to the American Alzheimer’s Association, give to your local animal shelter, or contribute to the Special Olympics. Any of those would make Barbara smile, and touches our hearts.
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