SHEILA ANN TRIPP
1962 to 2021
“No one spread more love”
Sheila Ann Tripp—a woman whose humor, boisterous laugh, and extraordinary generosity benefitted strangers as well as friends and family, especially her beloved daughters—passed away in her sleep, on January 5, 2021, at her home in Phoenix, AZ, her precious Labrador Ava at her side. She was found by Rob Finney, an ex-suitor who had remained a close and dear friend.
She was just 58.
Sheila’s three daughters, Frances, Rosemary and Amber, are still trying to adjust to the shock of their mother’s sudden and unexpected death, their sweet memories swirling amidst their grief. A single, working mom, who raised her children on her own, Sheila often went without so she could buy the perfect birthday gift, encircle the Christmas tree with festively wrapped presents, and whisk her girls off to the zoo, a hike, or the Botanical Gardens.
“No one spread more love in one lifetime than my mom,” said daughter Rosemary Lee.
Her humor and legendary laugh
One of six children, Sheila was born November 3, 1962, in Valle Mines, MO, to Gale and Rose Tripp. Unfortunately, Gale passed away when Sheila was only 10-years-old. Rose then married Ronnie Tripp, currently retired from the River Cement Company and National Guard.
Humor, her legendary laugh and over-the-top manner personified who she was. She always greeted everyone in a thunderous way, as if she could better express her love by the volume, intensity, and passion in her voice.
After attending Farmington High School in Farmington, MO, Sheila moved to Houston, TX, where she met Ronald Etchison, who fathered twins Frances and Rosemary in 1981. She and the girls later moved to Doe Run, MO, where she met and married Wayne Lee. When the girls were about three, they moved to Ste. Genevieve Township, MO, where they lived for eleven years. Wayne and Sheila’s daughter Amber came along in 1985.
But the union didn’t last, and Sheila and her brood relocated to Farmington, and then to St, Petersburg, FL in 1998, where Sheila lived for about a year before moving back to MO. Since the twins were nearly 18, and working and living on their own, they remained in St. Petersburg.
Although Sheila had a complicated love life and a difficult divorce from Wayne Lee, she later became friends with her twins’ biological father, Ron Etchison. Although Ronald passed away in 1999, he reconnected with his daughters, inviting them, along with Amber, to his farm in Kentucky and his house in Florida, where they enjoyed swimming and boating.
Mom was the champion
But Sheila was the true mainstay, support, and champion throughout the girls’ lives. All three recall what a dedicated mom she was. Before they began kindergarten, for example, she made sure they could recite the alphabet, count to 100, knew her real name (not Mom), phone number, and address.
“She was patient with Rosie and me,” daughter Frances Lee said. “We didn’t get whoopins, but my little sister Amber did. She was a trying child. Loved but trying.”
Working two to three jobs to support her family, Sheila—often exhausted—always made sure the girls had what they needed and got to where they needed to go. She held numerous jobs during her lifetime, including apartment manager, restaurant manager, business owner, waitress, bartender, Amazon delivery driver, Missouri corrections officer, and over the road truck driver as an owner/operator. Never idle, she didn’t smoke, rarely drank, and walked three miles a day.
In the last eighteen years, even though Sheila lived in Arizona, and her daughters lived elsewhere, she helped them financially, always sent birthday gifts, Easter baskets and Valentines. In Phoenix, she attended Apollo College, majoring in medical coding and billing. At the time of her passing, she was a Medicare Part D resolution specialist for Caremark/CVS, where she worked for fifteen years.
The duct taped Chevy Cavalier
Extraordinarily thrifty, Sheila maintained a strict budget but loved to give gifts, big and small. Last year, she bought Frances a beautiful, handcrafted, $82, rolling pin in honor of her daughter’s love of baking. Giving to her children often meant depriving herself. At one point, she drove an old Chevy Cavalier that was duck taped together—almost until the wheels fell off. Duct tape held the dashboard in place, the headlights, etc. Another car rattled and shook as if captured in a perpetual earthquake.
“Mom, you’ve got to get this car fixed!” Frances would say. To which Sheila always said, “I know, I know.” Instead, she would step in to help a family member or friend. All she required was genuine appreciation and for the person she invested in to follow through. Sheila definitely gave more than she got.
(L-R in photo below: Sheila; great-niece Torre Berger; granddaughter Isabella Lee; grandson Nhan Nguyen; and granddaughter, Chloe Lee.)
Sheila had paid for Torre and Isabella to fly to Arizona for a vacation (Nhan and Chloe were already living there), and then she took all to San Diego for the day.
Although not religious, Sheila believed in God and in treating others as she wished to be treated. One of the things she was most proud of was that her children always held good jobs, as do her older grandchildren. She was passionate about standing up for what is right and taking responsibility for one’s choices.
Saintly in terms of forgiveness, Sheila accepted people unconditionally. She loved to laugh, have fun, and spend time with family. Her idea of heaven was to talk and talk and talk about anything and everything.
Insisted she was 5-feet tall
Patrician in bearing, even at 4-feet-11, Sheila insisted she was 5-feet tall and would stretch her spine ramrod straight to prove it. She had flashing hazel eyes, a beaming smile, and an extremely casual fashion style; jeans and blouse, or leggings and a T-shirt.
Since she hated to pay full price for anything, Goodwill was her department store of choice. Still, she had tons of clothes, her closet organized according to color, even sleeve length. A stickler for coordination, she always matched shoes and handbag to her outfit. She would try on a million things and still moan she had nothing to wear.
Her homes, while always tidy, were museums of love. Gifts were painstakingly displayed as a show of gratitude. She treasured her “dust catchers” (knickknacks), even some given by her dad many years ago. She favored modern décor and loved bright colors.
In her spare time, Sheila liked to hike, walk, kayak, horseback ride, shop, and garden. Anything that flowered captured her attention. She created marvelous floral arrangements, took endless photographs, made albums, repurposed her amazing discoveries, and was generally crafty all around—always saving money wherever she could.
The woman could shop!
Along with tending to her plants and watching the hummingbirds in the backyard, she liked to ride her motorcycle on scenic drives, often landing at Arizona’s Bartlett Lake. But shopping was her favorite. The woman could spend hours shopping!
And then there were her pets Ava and Grace. Sheila spoiled them both rotten. Although Grace passed away a short time ago, Ava, the cream-colored Labrador mix, cuddled next to Sheila when she died and didn’t want anyone anywhere near her beloved mistress.
Sheila’s humor, always whip-fast and dry, was sometimes misunderstood. On several occasions, she had actually wondered aloud if her dogs would eat or protect her if she died at home. She knew they loved her to death, no pun intended.
Her daughters found the remark hilarious, and so typically Sheila.
“She’d be so proud that she was protected,” Frances said.
Wanted to be with her girls
Sheila always dreamed of retiring to a plot of land with her three daughters so she could be close to them every day. One of her biggest disappointments was putting off so many things. She also had a fear of passing away before her mom and stepdad. She wondered who would take care of them if she were gone.
Predeceased by siblings Tamila Tripp, Trina Tripp, half-brother Jeff Pashia, and Timothy Tripp, Sheila is survived by her mother, Rose Tripp, and stepfather Ronnie Tripp, of Irondale, MO; daughter Frances Lee and grandchildren Nhan Nguyen and Chloe Lee of Saint Genevieve, MO; daughter Rosemary Lee, Litchfield Park, AZ; daughter Amber Beasley [Mike Beasley], and grandchildren Izabella Lee, Bonne Terre, MO, Devon and Hunter Beasley, all of Phoenix, AZ.
Special mention goes to Sheila’s long-time friend and companion Robert Finney and his son Nikolas Finney of Phoenix. She adored them both. Also her nephews, Justin Berger, of Bonne Terre, and Timothy Noll Tripp, Pacific, MO, as well as niece Sheila Tripp, of Park Hills, MO.
Sheila will be cremated. Remembering their mom’s outrageous humor, Frances and Rosemary’s first thoughts were, “Well, she will finally be warm!” Unless experiencing a hot flash, Sheila was always cold, kept her house at 80 degrees. Then the girls thought, “This will be one heck of a hot flash.”
If Sheila were here, those would be her exact words!