History of Lora Jane Shryock
June 25, 1955 – October 29, 2020
Our hearts are heavy as we share the shocking news that our Wife, Mother and Gigi, Lora, has lost her battle with metastatic breast cancer. She had overcome breast cancer five years ago, and was in remission until this May when it reappeared in her liver. After enduring complications that led to two grueling week-long hospital stays in June and October, I brought her home to be with her family for good on Sunday, October 25. She peacefully departed on Thursday at noon after giving us a chance to say farewell. Lora was greatly loved by all her family and friends. She will be truly missed, although we are confident that she will be watching over us from Heaven until we are all together again.
Lora Jane Thomas was born in Sheffield, Alabama. She grew up on her Grandparent’s Sand Mountain farm in Section, AL until age 10. Her grandparents were Jesse Strawn (Granddaddy) and Agnes Strawn (Mamaw). Lora Jane then went to live with her mother, Onameega Strawn Thomas, in Huntsville, AL. Ona had divorced Max Thomas when Lora was very young. She later married William Randall, a space industry quality control inspector for IBM, originally from Sayre, Pennsylvania. Ona worked for Western Union in Huntsville as a teletype operator.
Lora Jane grew up a fun loving, active teen, playing the piano, singing in the church choir and working part time at a dry cleaner. She was on the dance team at Lee High School, where she made many life-long friends. Lora always loved her hometown of Huntsville, known as Space City USA, for its beautiful trees and hills surrounding brick houses and buildings and of course the wonderful people.
Lora’s best friend in high school, Wanda Sunberg Fleming wrote:
During Lora’s high school years in Huntsville at Lee High, many lifetime friends were made. Carpooling to school early just to chat with friends before class, sharing clothes, rolling yards with tp, supposedly going to the library and hanging out at Hardees (yes Hardees!) after football games were just a few reasons she loved high school. Lora working after school inspired many others to also get an after-school job! How she managed school, work and her sorority was just being Lora!
Memories of selling Krispy Kreme doughnuts every Saturday morning for her sorority was not a favorite for her. Unsold doughnuts she usually bought and ate herself (Ona was strict about that!). She swore when she got out of high school she would never eat another Krispy Kreme doughnut again! Now Krystal’s (here in the South) was a different story. Krystal hamburgers were her “got to go there” every time she came back to visit Huntsville. She never tired of them! There are so many funny Krystal stories! Then there were sorority spend the night parties and of course sneaking out was a favorite! There are so many high school memories that were agreed upon years ago to be “off limits” to our kids but knowing Lora, she has done like the rest of us and shared them with her daughters. We just want to share as we age, to pass down our lives.
Many tears were shed knowing Lora would soon be moving to California after her return from a graduation trip to Florida with her sorority sisters and the hundreds of other grads from Lee. So, of course, there were fun parties on that amazing trip. Coming home meant goodbye, but many letters were written to always keep in touch. The letters she wrote of her meeting Steve made the final adjustment to her life away from Huntsville complete.
Lora always remained close to her high school buddies though. Inviting them to Houston, a chance dinner in Washington DC (Ona was even with her!), as well as Dana Point. The big 5 friend trip to Dana Point was a true Lora memory maker. Going to Dancing with the Stars, sailing and dolphin sightings, wineries and so much more. No one could be a more gracious hostess!
She was such a comfy person to be around! She always came back for class reunions and special occasions. Always bringing our fun memories alive like driving around old neighborhoods and once wondering if we could still get away with rolling a yard in broad daylight (yes, we did do that once!). Knowing she was coming to the class reunion always meant crazy brain storming of things to do! What an amazing life-long friend.
Upon graduation in 1973, Lora moved with Ona and Bill to Placentia, California, where she attended Fullerton College. She found a job at the May Company department store, where she met Karen Ziros. Karen brought her to the Brea United Methodist Church college-age fellowship group, where she met me. I played in the USC band which led to our first date at Disneyland, performing there during 1975 Rose Bowl week. We shared our first kiss in the Enchanted Tiki Room. When I returned to my fraternity house that night, I announced that I had just dated my future wife! I was only around Brea on weekends and school breaks from USC, some 40 miles away. My trips home were always the highlight of the week where I could be with my Lora Love ‘n Joyas I called her. I recognize now, that is what lots of people remember about Lora with her endearing smile and welcoming deep brown eyes.
Lora had two close friends, David Burdine and Stewart Brown, from the youth group who also attended Fullerton College, and teased her out of her Southern accent. They are all having a big time in Heaven now since they both also passed away early. We all enjoyed tennis, music, and beach-going. Lora became the church secretary as well.
In 1975, Lora transferred to Cal State Fullerton and got her own apartment. The distance was straining our relationship, which was resolved with our marriage on August 25, 1976 at the Yorba Linda United Methodist Church (which had air conditioning on that hottest day of that year!). We then lived on-campus at USC for our senior year, with Lora finishing her Sociology degree at Cal State LA. Lora became a Red Coatfor the band where she proudly steadied the ladder for our long-standing director Dr. Bartner. We are Trojans forever!
After graduation, we returned home to North Orange County where I got a job at the Chevron Laboratory, and commuted back to USC for my Masters in the evening. Lora worked as a bank teller, and studied Marriage and Family Counseling at Chapman College. We bought a condo and enjoyed the parks and tennis courts nearby. Lora adopted our first Cairn terrier, Callie, from a family where she babysat. We served as sponsors for the high school youth fellowship at the church, where we carried on the traditions of musical productions and weekend beach retreats.
In 1980, I took a transfer to Houston, TX, where we purchased a brand-new house. Lora was initiated as an oil field wife when, due to a failed FHA inspection for a missing soap dish, our move-in date shifted from Friday to Monday, and I left Lora in a new city, in a new house full of boxes, and boarded a flight for Saudi Arabia. Of course, Ona came to the rescue.
Lora found a job at the Changing Look and Friends upholstery and interior design store, where she met her best friend, Leslye Urbach. Lora found the field of Interior Design more appealing than Marriage & Family Counseling (really with just different problems), so she completed a professional program in Interior Design at the Art Institute of Houston.
In 1981, she gave us our first daughter, Erin Ashley, and we began our true life’s calling as parents. We helped to establish the Mission Bend United Methodist Church. After meeting in a school for a few years, we helped build a beautiful new sanctuary and classroom campus, where Lora selected the interior colors and fabrics.
Another job transfer came in 1984 to Bakersfield, CA. Our second daughter, Sarah Elizabeth was born a few weeks before we moved into another brand-new house, where interior, landscape and pool projects kept us busy along with raising our two precious girls. Lora always put as much thought into the exterior designs and gardens as she did inside, a passion she learned from her grandparents and mother.
In 1986, just when the house was looking great, we were asked to move to the jungles of Sumatra, Indonesia, to live in company housing with 60 other expatriate families. I had taken Lora to visit Indonesia there back during my Lab days, so she knew a little about camp life. The expats there became our family as we lived, worked, played, and travelled together without Western comforts. Household help made life easier, giving us plenty of time to work, to play with the kids, and to play as adults with golf, softball, hash-running, and dinner parties. This is where Lora soaked up the experience and inspiration of the other ladies in the camp like Ann Price, Sigrid Laing and Patsy Birchfield, who set the standard for lavish dinner or porch parties with 10 to 50 people at a time, which was very resourceful with our having to order our groceries just a few times per year from Singapore or Jakarta!
The expats in camp were also pressed into duty, entertaining visiting executives and officials with song and dance. Lora began another career as a singer and actor in several productions; as Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, and as the Bride of Dracula. She was the Queen of the Crewe of Cicuks for our Mardi Gras celebration.
All good things end, so the next stop was San Ramon, CA in 1990. Our home there was in a wonderful neighborhood with plenty of playmates for Erin, now 8, and Sarah, 6. Memories include lots of games in the street, chasing our second terrier, Spike, down the street when he escaped from the house, and Girl Scouts, softball and soccer. Lora had an adventure at a scout campout, where she was sure the noises outside their tent were from jungle wild boars, which turned out to be just raccoons. Ever after our first expat experience, if we did not get on an airplane and go to a beach, it wasn’t a vacation. Through the years, we enjoyed travel to Mexico, Florida, the Bahamas and Hawaii. Lora honed her skills as a buyer of art, fabric, jewelry and many other artifacts everywhere we went. She also developed her taste for many different foods and never lost her zeal for cooking and entertaining.
I was working on Angola new field development projects, but turned down a 28/28 rotational assignment to work there. I could not bear the thought of spending half of my time away from Lora and the girls. So, in 1995, we tearfully took another foreign move€¦ to Midland, TX. It was hard to uproot the family again especially to a place with no trees! We rolled into Midland on a Friday night and stopped at Walmart for some supplies. The checkout girl looked at us with a surprised look saying, why aren’t you at the game? Yes, this was Friday Night Lights country where everyonewent to the high school football games, where attendance was 30,000! The girls were entering middle/high school and adjusted to club soccer teams and country music. We spent many weekends driving the 300 miles one way to an Arlington soccer league or other tournaments in five states, with Lora as a team manager. Lora worked to establish an interior design business there, but found it difficult to attract many clients and break into the West Texas society. We lived two doors down from Jane and Gary Henderson (also Chevron) and found more life-long friends.
The oil bust of 1998 took us back to San Ramon, where we already had friends to ease another transition. We left Erin in college at Texas A&M and later Texas Tech, which was hard on all of us. Lora helped Sarah reestablished herself into California high school sports and culture, and again worked as an interior designer for J Hettinger, with many wealthy clients in the Danville and Oakland Hills area.
A company merger interrupted our return home to California again, when I was transferred back to Houston in 2002. Lora stayed with Sarah until she was established at UC Santa Barbara. Empty nest syndrome really set in with no games to attend or homework to check. We discovered the best parts of Houston to be the sports, arts and music, rodeo and golf courses. As the new hub of Chevron, we enjoyed seeing and reuniting with many friends there. I took another job managing Chevron’s project consultants, and Lora worked as an Interior Designer for a furniture wholesaler. She managed the planning at long distance for our Erin’s wedding to Craig Irving, held in Calistoga, CA – a wonderful venue overlooking vineyards, with a Medieval wine cave reception dinner that looked magical.
Our next adventure took us to Lagos, Nigeria. Lora took back to camp life quickly, negotiating with vendors and drivers, and hunting for groceries and arts/antiques in open markets and shops. We enjoyed golf, dinner parties and card games with the expats there. We escaped the compound, a couple of times a month taking a short boat ride through the Lagos harbor up the coast to a shared beach hut, where we walked on the beach, ate with our friends, and played bocce ball and Booray. We called it a Thailand mini R ‘n R. Lora led the social committee, and the committee that distributed funds raised from an annual golf tournament to deserving schools and clinics – a difficult job where corruption can quickly snuff out the best intentions.
We purchased a condo as a second home in Dana Point, CA while we were in Nigeria, which turned out to be an excellent choice. In 2009, Lora used the condo as a home base in helping Sarah to plan for her beautiful wedding to Joshua Dean at Rancho Las Lomas, in Silverado, California. Lora always went home a few times each year with our third Cairn terrier, Skye, who was her constant companion to shop for our annual shipments and see the girls and their growing families.
I had hoped to finish my career with just one more assignment after Nigeria, but we went back to Houston for two more years for my job as a personnel sponsor, traveling around the world and managing moves for Chevron’s petroleum engineers. I took my last assignment in Perth, Australia which turned out to be a reward as a wonderful last location. We experienced our first competitive sailing with Kim & Duke Snyder and kayaking on the Swan River with Eileen and John Robinson, and joined the Fremantle Golf Club. We enjoyed our many friends there, attending many outdoor concerts and movies, and beautiful beaches. Perth is surrounded by wonderful wine regions, with beautiful scenery and excellent food. Next door to us in Cottesloe, we had great Aussie neighbors Ray and Peter Eastwood. One day, Peter came to the door to tell Lora that their daughter had a horse in the Melbourne Cup, the race that stops the nation. In fact, their horse was favored and won. We were invited to a party where we held the Cup.
Erin concludes for us:
Mom was very loving. She loved to cook and entertain throughout her life. She had a great love of the beach. It brought her a sense of calm and she would often go there to pray. She instilled great sense of adventure to Sarah and I, as you and Mom continued your love of travel throughout your life. You even took your newest grandson Jacob at just three months old, having just moved from New York to California, all the way down to Bora Bora. Then we continued onto Australia where you lived before you retired and returned to California.
Mom greatly loved all her dogs and grand-dogs, and Skye was really her baby. He traveled all over the world with her, and when you lived in Africa, he would come with her to New York to visit me, then back to California. He was her constant travel companion. We now have Penny to continue that love in our hearts who Mom met just briefly in the last week of her life.
Her grandchildren brought her a great sense of pride and joy. Even though she lived in Australia, she made sure to be present at the birth of her first granddaughter, Avery in San Francisco in 2012. She welcomed Emma in 2013 in San Diego, Jacob in 2014 in New York City, and lastly Noah in 2015 in San Diego. She has been known as the baby thief for stealing most of the time holding the babies amongst the family. We have enjoyed our time together all being back in Southern California in these past five years. We have spent many days at Disneyland, the beach, dolphin and whale watching on their boat, Marblehead and just hanging out in the backyard swimming and running around the house in Dana Point that she renovated and curated so well from all your travels. It has always been a house filled with love and building memories. Everywhere we look, we see her there.
I love you and will miss you my dear Lora Love ‘n Joy. I know you will be looking out for me and all our family until we can be together once again in Paradise.