By: Elizabeth Wampler
Gayle Myers Wampler
Wife, mother, grandmother to 10 grateful, fortunate young people, a supreme knitter, lover of all things floral, one of the first woman Computer Programmers in IBM’s history… And American Disability Pioneer.
I lost my mother-in-law this week. She was one of my dearest friends, and aside from that point, I will be eternally indebted to her for raising my husband, Stephen Wampler, masterfully. Wisely. Somehow, in spite of his profound disability, he grew to be the most steadfast, proficient, and reliable person in my life. How did she know how to mother that unique child so well and remain unflappable and resolute? She was single-minded and decisive as she raised him, making countless smart decisions that prepared him extraordinarily for a notable future.
Gayle would have never in a million years chosen to be a trailblazer. She was pretty shy, but I guess that she saw she had a lot of work to do. Even though my husband, Stephen, was her first-born child, and she was green to the world of mothering, she was, in fact, a mother. She had to move a mountain. Gayle did that with the instinct that many mothers have but without any Northstar. She skillfully and thoroughly prepped him for a life of abundance. She called on all her selflessness and discernment, and grit that has served him as a father and husband, and leader. In short, she taught him to thrive.
Gayle was before her time. Fifty-four years ago, people with disabilities were in institutions or quietly at home. She wasn’t having that for HER child. Never, never, never. Instead, she set out to set him up for a life that was filled with daunting, grand ambitions. There had to be a great deal that went into her thinking that I will never know about. I do know that she and Steve had a silent, abiding agreement. It was this: If he couldn’t find a way to do something, he just had to figure it out. The end.
I also know that she believed in him very deeply, and I know she was unwilling to pity her child; she thought too much of the person he was. He impressed her, and she “saw” him, so raised him with a very grounding sense of responsibility and accountability and void of excuses. Gayle never babied Steve and was never one to keep him out of (mild) harm’s way. She didn’t shield him from real life. Instead, she prepared him for adulthood, anticipating his path educationally and beyond. She counted on his diligence and effort so that he could battle against obstacles and obstructions that she knew were inevitable.
They had “a thing,” a common understanding of her expectation of him, and Steve, not knowing anything other than those expectations, set out early to live big. She had GENUINE confidence in him, and he believed her and acted accordingly.
A Life Well-Lived
Gayle also taught Steve to live in good cheer, and he does. Our slogan at Camp Wamp is, “It’s about what you CAN do.” This and many other victories in Stephen’s life began with wise, wonderful, precious Gayle Wampler. We love her, we miss her, and we celebrate her. Even though she is gone now, the ripple of her wisdom, compelling character, and impact will never cease.
R.I.P. Gayle Wampler, you are already missed.
As someone who knows Steve, I will agree she must have been amazing because Steve sure is!