Birdie Gene Palmer was born on July 10, 1935 in Pine Bluff, Arkansas to Everett and Francis Turner. Birdie was the middle sister of three girls. Everett worked for Bell Telephone. In early childhood, Birdie survived a bout of polio and fought to walk again and the family made the move to Amarillo in hope the dry air would help her father’s asthma.
Birdie attended Sanborn elementary, Nixon junior high and Amarillo high and, at age 15, met Lewis Hayden Palmer when he asked her best friend since first grade, Jo Ann Dodson Bell, on a date. From the moment Lewis laid eyes on Birdie, he was smitten. Soon after, they snuck off to Tucumcari to elope.
Birdie delivered her first son, Richard “Rick” Hayden, in November 1952 and graduated from Amarillo High School in May 1953. Son Randall “Randy” Lewis was born in the next year and daughter Robin Leigh followed.
Birdie and Lewis joined First Baptist Church in Amarillo early in their marriage and raised their kids in church, local sports and civic engagement activities. Birdie was a fantastic mother who loved raising her kids and making her home a welcoming place. She was known to sing loudly to records while vacuuming and each of her kids developed a love of music they attributed to her.
She became a grandmother when she was just 38 and insisted she be called Nanny because she was “too young for a matronly name.” Her six granddaughters loved spending time with her, especially spending the night at her house and convincing her to take them with her on shopping trips to the TJ Maxx.
She survived an aggressive form of breast cancer in the 1980s with her characteristic feistiness and determination, modeling the way for her family and friends to live a life that never gave up and always sought opportunities to enjoy each of life’s moments. She was an avid bridge player, an aggressive driver who taught her children and granddaughters how to “step on it,” and the best strawberry cake baker and margarita mixer.
She and Lewis traveled extensively with friends and family through the years and especially enjoyed times together at the mountain cabin Lewis built for the family in Idlewild, New Mexico.
She was preceded in death by her parents and in-laws, her oldest son Rick, her sisters Betty (Turner) and brother-in-law Wayne Tarter; and Ida (Turner) Stephenson and many dear friends and extended family members.
She will be missed by her husband, Lewis; her son Randy and daughter-in-law Ann; daughter Robin and daughter-in-law Susan; daughter-in-law Linda; six granddaughters: Amanda (and Mark) Nicholls, Amber (and Brian) Palmer-Halma, Arin (and Melissa), Betsey (and Jeffrey), Merri and Addy (and Richard); 10 great grandchildren (Tori, Micah and Laura Nicholls; Jakob and Joshua Halma; Jasmine, Violet, Apollo, Bruno and Iley Rodriguez); many loving cousins, nieces and nephews; and a host of friends.
The family thanks Ruby Slippers for providing kind and dedicated care to Birdie for several years.
Visitation will be held at LaGrone-Blackburn-Shaw funeral home at 8310 Coulter from 6-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, December 29 and the service will be on Thursday, December 30, at 10 a.m. in the First Baptist Church Chapel. Donations in memory of Birdie can be made to the Salvation Army or to the Idlewild Community: C/O Idlewild Community Treasurer Kyle Boston, 325 East Coronado Rd Unit 2, Phoenix AZ 85004-1628.
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