PATRICIA ANN WOOLEVER
1939 to 2020
“A force to be reckoned with”
Patricia Ann Woolever—a woman who prized loyalty, always spoke her mind, and adored living in the High Sierras—passed away from heart and lung problems at home in Graeagle, CA on December 24, 2020, her beloved husband Robert at her side. She was 81.
Pat, as many called her, was a straight shooter. She rarely candy-coated anything, and her friends loved her for it, son Ron Rhone said. “Others found her truthful to a fault,” he added with a chuckle.
Daughter Darci Depweg describes her mom as a “force to be reckoned with.”
The first of three children, Patricia Ann Nowels was born July 26, 1939, in Bakersfield, CA. She and her two brothers, Butch and Jimmy, endured a challenging childhood, which Pat, a fighter, sought to overcome.
Her de facto parents
Following high school, she moved from Bakersfield to Ridgecrest—a high-desert community in Kern County—to live with her Aunt Lynn and Uncle Virgil Nowels. They became her de facto parents and later, her children’s official grandparents.
“Mom and Uncle Virgil were a lot alike,” Darci said, “very opinionated.” Where Pat and her Aunt Lynn were both petite women, Virgil was over 6-feet tall and 250 pounds, a big guy in other words. “But Aunt Lynn ran the show,” Darci said.
Lynn, a fine artist, did mechanical artwork at the Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS), where Pat would eventually work. The two women had a great deal in common as Pat was also highly creative and always looking for new crafts—from macrame to crocheting.
Moving in with the Nowels afforded Pat the opportunity to work at several of Virgil’s businesses, including as a carhop at The Yucca Drive-In, a switchboard operator at his Yucca Inn, and as a waitress at his Indian Wells Valley Lodge, which Darci describes as a fine-dining restaurant.
“Movie stars, celebrities and astronauts (from NAWS) would go there,” she said. “Mom even waited on Neil Armstrong and managed to get his autograph.”
“The chosen one”
In 1960, after a whirlwind courtship of several weeks, Pat married Ron Rhone. When it seemed they couldn’t have children of their own, they adopted a boy, an Italian with dark hair, Todd, in 1962. Pat told her husband that they would always tell Todd that he was “the chosen one”, and that any other adoptees would be told the same. (Todd shown left with girlfriend, Lyndy.)
Then, lo and behold, Pat became pregnant with Darcel, born in 1964, and then Rodney in 1966, and Ron in 1971.
Gathered around the dining table one night, when the kids were old enough, Pat told them “the chosen one” story about Todd. From that day on, the others teased Todd about the label, so much so that Todd started calling himself “the chosen one.”
Although Ron Rhone worked “his butt off” at various jobs, tinkered at inventions, and was the kind of guy “who would give you the shirt off his back,” Darci said, he didn’t provide Pat with the kind of security she longed for. He certainly put up with his wife’s creative pursuits.
Pictures out of nails
“Mom was an artist,” Darci said. “We all benefitted from that.”
Pat had a kiln in the garage, and the children all learned ceramics. She also made pictures out of nails. The first one, and the best, was of a fish. Since Pat was a stay-at-home mom, busy as a Cub Scout den mother, Little League Football secretary, and taking her daughter to gymnastics, she waited until the children were in bed to work on her creations.
When Darci was in the fifth grade, she remembers lying awake in bed, listening to her mother pound nails into a piece of wood on the kitchen table. It was the fish picture that the siblings pass around to each other to this day.
But Pat was also a hard taskmaster. “No one wanted to be on her bad side,” Darci said. Raised to never tell a lie, her kids, however, could always count on her to be in their corner. If they said something bad happened at school, she would rush down and raise holy hell with teachers. Pat was also loyal as the day is long to a group of close friends she’d know since high school.
Since Ridgecrest is a small community, and everybody knew everybody, the children would listen if another parent warned that he or she would “call your mother” if they caused some mishap. When necessary, Pat wouldn’t hesitate to dole out the necessary punishment, son Ron Rhone said.
“It was a really good childhood,” son Rodney Rhone said. “She was a great mom and would do anything for her kids.”
Pat hated change
The Rhone marriage ended in1975, and Ron passed away from a heart attack in 1978. He was just 44.
Left as a single mother of four, she got a job at the NAWS base in China Lake, where she worked as a secretary for the next twenty years. But when manual typewriters were replaced with IBM Selectrics, Pat was furious, vowing to never use them. She came around until PCs arrived on the scene. Once again, she was incensed. She hated change.
That didn’t apply to a new man in her life.
Robert “Bob” Woolever was the brother of Pat’s best friend, Janice Lafortune. He also worked at NAWS and had known Pat for quite a while. But when the two got together romantically, it was game over, and the couple married on June 6, 1986. Robert’s two children by his first marriage, Susan and Bob, were already grown but the blended family worked out fine.
Bob, a scanning-electron microscope (SEM) operator (“He still can’t tell us what that is,” Ron Rhone quipped), and Pat were ready to retire. Tired of the desert heat, Bob wanted to move to Graeagle in the High Sierras. Although Pat hated to leave Ridgecrest, she had found the sense of security with Bob she’d always longed for and was happy to please him.
The perfect home
Pat’s love of quilting, sewing, and crocheting found the perfect home in the Woolever’s A-frame, antique-filled, mountain retreat. There was a pool room downstairs, a giant fireplace in the living room, and a sewing room on the top floor. Crafty to the core, Pat always had needles and threads or yarns and fabrics in her busy hands, her children the recipients of numerous quilts, blankets, placemats, napkins and such. Her handiwork was also prevalent in what Ron calls “the museum”—meaning the Woolever home, along with Pat’s collection of bells.
Graeagle, located an hour from Reno, NV, offers hiking, horseback riding, plenty of restaurants and—most importantly to Pat and Bob—golf courses. Both loved the game. They also liked to frequent the restaurants, which gave Pat a chance to dress up. A tiny brunette, she never left the house without makeup and always kept her weekly hair and mani-pedi appointments.
Though petite, she envisioned herself as 6 feet tall. “I might be small,” she would say, “but all I have to do is pick up a 2×4 and that evens us up.”
“She was a tough cookie,” Darci said. Raising three sons meant she had to be. She also thought Darci’s choice of the military was ironic. “Here I have three boys and my daughter goes into the army!” Pat would laugh.
Darci Rhone, who like her mom refuses to candy coat events, went on to join the U.S. Army in 1984, attend college classes, graduating from Troy State, in Alabama. She eventually formed her own virtual financial services company, VA At Large, LLC, in Texas.
Ron, Rodney and Todd
Ron Rhone, the youngest son, is a successful sales director, his personality upbeat and sardonic; brother Rodney, an accomplished project manager for a large industrial construction company, is more sobersided and earnest.
Todd Rhone, who passed away unexpectedly of a heart attack on December 28, 2018, worked at the Indian Wells Brewery, owned by Pat’s cousin, for 20 years, as well as at NAWS.
Pat, who suffered from COPD and heart problems, took her son’s death extremely hard. He was just 56. Oddly, Pat also perished a day before Christmas, on December 24, 2020.
Still, the children recall good times, how Pat adored Christmas, decorating the tree, and her “big, giant Nutcrackers”, as son Ron refers to his mom’s prized Nutcracker soldiers, gifts from Todd. There were also the raucous milestone birthdays (55-65-75), celebrated with friends and family as Pat aged. Thanksgivings were even bigger, with their Aunt and Uncle, better known as Grandpa and Grandma.
One thing is for certain, Pat never changed as a person, loyal, tough as nails, and proud to have overcome so much in her life.
Predeceased by her two brothers and son Todd Rhone, Patricia Ann Woolever is survived by her husband, Robert Woolever, daughter Darci Depweg (Steve), granddaughters Jessica Ramirez (Alex), great-grandchildren, Cora and Carter, granddaughter, Alexandria Gomez (Eric), all of Texas; son Rodney Rhone of Utah; son Ron Rhone (KayLyn and stepson Justin) of Utah; daughter Susan Woolever of California, grandson Jason Sisk (Sara), great-grandchildren Alexa, Ashton, Stevie; grandson Brian Sisk (Annie), great-grandchildren Isabel, Robert, Arianna; granddaughter Holly Troberg (Tim), great-grandchildren Kayla, Regan, son Bob Woolever (Jennifer), granddaughter Kelli Yates (David) of Tennessee.
Memorial services are postponed due to the pandemic. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital https://www.stjude.org or any children’s charity of your choice.