Elda Gabeline Deffer
Elda Gabeline Deffer, an Army nurse and spouse, and long-time horsewoman passed away on December 27, 2012 at her home in Virginia Beach, VA. She was 87. She was born in Mt. Union, IA on February 21, 1925, to Everett and Grace Gabeline, who ran a family farm in Henry County. After graduating from Mt. Union High School, Elda went to Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant, IA, and then Augustana College, Chicago, IL, where she earned her nursing degree in 1949. Upon graduation Elda joined the U.S. Army Nurse Corps as a Lieutenant, and was assigned to the 141st General Hospital in Fukuoka, Japan. There she met an Army surgeon, Philip A. Deffer, and they married in August 1951. When she became pregnant with her first child, Melinda Ellen, she resigned her commission, as required by government regulations at the time, and began a new career as an Army officer’s spouse, and eventually, as a mother of five children.
Over the next 28 years, with extraordinary energy and skill, Elda took on multiple responsibilities supporting her husband’s career as he moved up the ranks of the Army Medical Corps (eventually reaching Brigadier General), and managing a lively family household, which by 1963 had grown to include five children, two girls and three boys. The family moved between numerous Army posts, including such locations as California, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Germany, and each time Elda established new and lasting relationships with other Army families.
In 1964, when the family moved to Fort Sam Houston, TX, Elda bought her first horse, appropriately named “Caution”, and she became a horsewoman. Other horses followed, including Blaze, Cajun, Rita, and Vickie, and both daughters rode competitively, winning many awards and trophies. For over thirty-five years, there were stables to muck out, horses to feed and brush, and saddles and bridles to clean; Elda seemed to have straw in her hair all the time. She herself became a pretty good rider--her passion and love for these beautiful animals was boundless.
She played this balancing act of wife, mother, and horsewoman with aplomb, and could get the kids off to school, clean the stables and feed the horses, and then throw on a formal dress for an evening event at the Officer’s Club. Elda and her husband Philip settled in San Antonio, TX upon his retirement in 1979, and that became the family home until he passed away in 2006. Elda moved to her son’s place in Springfield, MO in June 2007, and then to Virginia Beach, VA in 2008.
Throughout her long and accomplished life, Elda remained true to her Iowa roots, a farm girl with her wry and knowing smile, steel determination, and warm heart.
She is preceded in death by her parents, her brother Donald, and sisters Florence Taylor and Frances Tate.
She is survived by her five children, Melinda, San Antonio, TX; Frank, Ashburn, VA; Tim, Springfield, MO; Philip, Spencer, IA; and Francesca Case, Virginia Beach, VA. Elda was also blessed with eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.