Longtime Tulsa runner, charity fundraiser Wanda Lemons dies at 83
BY TIM STANLEY World Staff Writer
Thursday, January 17, 2013
1/17/13 at 4:25 AM
As a schoolteacher and the wife of a minister, Wanda Lemons wouldn't really fit anyone's idea of a fast woman.
But her husband, Wish Lemons, knew the truth.
He had long since given up trying to keep up with her.
As a lifelong runner, he'd had a good head start, but "she's always been faster than I have," he told the Tulsa World in 2011.
Wanda Lemons, who started running at age 50, made up for lost time quickly, he added.
Together, they went on to become for many years the unofficial pace-setters of Tulsa's senior-citizen running community.
Encouraging other older residents to take up the activity with them, the couple were regulars in the Tulsa Run and many other charity races, including the one that bears his name, the annual Wish Lemons 5k Run, begun more than a decade ago to raise money for First United Methodist Church missions.
Wanda Jean Lemons, a former Tulsa Public Schools high school teacher and Oral Roberts University instructor, died Sunday in Vinita. She was 83.
A service is set for 4 p.m. Thursday at the First United Methodist Church under the direction of Ninde Brookside Funeral Home.
The couple's slogan, "Gotta Keep Movin,' " which adorned the annual Lemons Run T-shirts, fit Wanda Lemons to a T, said Joyce Grimes, the race's organizer.
"That was always her way - throw everything into it," she said.
"Wanda was absolutely passionate about anything that she was doing, always trying to help people better themselves."
Unlike her husband, who was 12 years her senior, Lemons didn't throw everything into running until 1979. A program at ORU, where she was teaching then, required her to take up a physical activity.
The Lemonses began participating together in the Tulsa Run that same year.
Running became a way for them to meet new people and raise money for their favorite causes.
The annual Lemons Run has raised about $250,000 for missions and charities around Tulsa.
A native of rural southeastern Oklahoma, Wanda Lemons grew up attending a one-room school, studying at home by light from the fireplace or a kerosene lamp.
She taught English and business classes for many years for Tulsa Public Schools, including at Hale and Rogers high schools, and later for Tulsa Junior College and ORU.
She continued working as a substitute teacher for Tulsa Public Schools through 2010.
Even after that, she volunteered as a reader at Grissom Elementary School.
Although Lemons eventually wasn't able to run anymore, it didn't stop her from participating in her final Lemons Run in March 2011.
She completed the race's fun-run course using her walker, family members said.
Survivors include her husband of 54 years, Wish Lemons; four sons, Clark Lemons, Don Lemons, Gary Lemons and Mark Lemons; one daughter, Laurie Greiner; nine grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.
Original Print Headline: Fitness, charity activist gave life a good long run
Tim Stanley 918-581-8385
Wish and Wanda Lemons, pictured here in 2011, inspired young and old alike for many years as the unofficial pace-setters of Tulsa's senior-citizen running community. Wanda Lemons, 83, died Sunday. Tulsa World file