Azile Thomson Winkler

Nov. 04, 2013 @ 06:00 PM

Azile Thomson Winkler, 78, of Gatlinburg, Tenn., passed away unexpectedly Sunday, November 3, at LeConte Medical Center in Sevierville, Tenn.

She was born in Kinston, North Carolina on January 28, 1935 to the late Henry Mann Thomson and Mabel Perry Thomson. She earned her B.S. degree in 1957 from George Peabody College of Vanderbilt University and later pursued graduate studies in education at the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Hawaii, California State University at Fresno, and Longwood University.

She taught American history and social studies in private and public schools in Alexandria, Virginia, Fresno, California, Honolulu, Hawaii, and Farmville, Virginia. In Honolulu she taught at the Punahou School at the time President Obama was a student there. In 1992 while teaching at Prince Edward Academy (now Fuqua School) in Farmville she was chosen by the Virginia Daughters of the American Revolution DAR) as the Outstanding Teacher of American History in Virginia. Criteria for the award included commitment to students, excellence, and patriotic endeavor, as well as “one who is inspiring and makes history come alive.”

She was selected in both 1988 and 1991 as one of twenty civics teachers in Virginia to participate in projects of the Virginia Law and Government Institute to develop curriculum materials for schools through the state.

In 1990 she received the Close-Up Foundation’s Civic Achievement Award in “Honor of the Office of the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives." The award recognized her “commitment to the education of young citizens.” The award was cosponsored by the Library of Congress and the National Association of Elementary School Principals. She was quoted in the press as saying, “My greatest personal achievements come from the students I have taught. It is a wonderful reward to see children develop self-esteem, self-confidence, respect for their fellow students, and pride in our nation’s heritage. The greatest reward is discovering that you have made a difference in a child’s life—a difference that could motivate and help prepare that child to make important contributions as a future teacher.”

Her hobbies were needlepoint, creative writing, and reading. In a competition at Fuqua School in 1995 she read the most pages of any teacher or students—30,000 pages.

She is survived by her loving husband of 57 years, H. Donald Winkler; two sons, Donald Thomson Winkler of Chester, Virginia, and James Randolph Winkler of Mechanicsville, Virginia; and five grandchildren—Jason Randolph Winkler, Michelle Kaitlin Winkler, Jessica Azile Winkler, Benjamin Thomson Winkler, and Namri Vera.

Private services will be held at Oakland Cemetery in Petersburg, Illinois near the grave on her husband’s famous first cousin, five times removed, Ann Rutledge, who was the first fiancé of Abraham Lincoln. Memorials should be sent to the Judith Randolph Chapter of the DAR in Farmville, Virginia.