Mrs. Audrey J. (Leaper) Sperry, “A Coalminer’s daughter”, a loving wife, mother, grandmother, and great grandmother entered into her eternal life on May 12, 2020 at Chautauqua Nursing Home, DeFuniak Springs, FL. Mom was the youngest child of Jacob Ressler and Sarah (Forsyth) Leaper, SR. born August 15, 1931, Colver, PA, Christened in the Lutheran Church in Portage, PA.
Audrey was the last surviving member of her immediate family. Preceded in death by her parents, husband Rhuel “pronounced Rule” April 26, 2019. Her siblings in order of birth: June (Carl) Hiller Williamsport, PA, Jacob R. “Bucky” (Phyllis Wilkinson) Leaper, JR., Patton, PA, Theora Larue “Chugge” (Eddie) Fisher, Patton, PA. nephews, lil Eddie Fisher, JR. (child), Mark Hiller; son in law, William “Bill” Holloway, granddaughter, Tiffany M. (Holloway) Smith on April 24, 2019, and grandson in law, Roy L. Smith, March 22, 2019.
Surviving Audrey are her children; Debbie (Cliff) Kelley Pineville, LA, Jeff Sperry, Jay Sperry Freeport, FL (twins) Kevin Sperry (Roy Winston), Ponchatoula, LA., Karen (Sperry) Holloway, DeFuniak Springs, FL:, daughter in law, Mary L. (Stefanick) Sperry, Freeport, FL., Grandchildren: Jason, Bryan, and Joseph “Joey” Sperry, Freeport, FL., Jennifer (Randall) Corey, Justin and Travis Holloway all of DeFuniak Springs, FL., Brandon R. Kelley, Pineville, LA., Britteny R. (Ben) Adams, Baton Rouge, LA., Benjamin R. “Ben” Sperry, Ponchatoula, LA., Great grandchildren: Kellie and Tyler Smith; Bailey and Keaton Corey; River Steinke (son of Justin Holloway), Paytan Holloway; Abbie, (twins) Sophie, and Evan Sperry; (twins) Rilee and Annie, Carson Adams, and soon to be born Sally Adams; Sarah R. Sperry, Leighla Lou Sperry-Decker, and Jaylin Audrey Sperry, all of FL.
Audrey’s earliest childhood was far from idyllic. Audrey was 4 years old when her mother, Sarah, passed from leukemia on Feb. 28, 1936 at the age of 29. The following years Audrey and her siblings would live with their grandparents, William H. and Rhoda M. (Zimmerman) Leaper and John B. “Barney” and Elnora M. (Crum) Forsyth. Mom said she absolutely adored her Grandmother and Grandfather Forsyth because “They were always so good to us kids”. She also remembered her Grandpap Leaper, “Having the most beautiful vegetable and flower gardens”, and how he planted marigolds all around the vegetable garden to help with insects. Eventually moving back with their father, he moved them the short distance over to Patton, PA. where she started third grade and was about 8 years old. She referred to this day as “A black day at Bedrock” because she wasn’t keen on the new living arrangements. Sadly, also the beginning of losing touch with their Forsyth family members. Although life was not easy for them, Audrey and her siblings formed a close bond and learning self-dependence and self-reliance at a very early age. Audrey’s older sister June being her second mother at times in those early years after the death of their mother. This bond continued throughout their lives and extended to her sister in law, Phyllis. The two had shared many memorable stories, adventures, and especially laughter whatever they were doing. This was certainly true whether they were taking off for an unplanned road trip or a planned visit with Aunt June. The three especially enjoyed locating and visiting Forsyth family members helping to reconnect the dots.
Audrey attended Patton schools and graduated from Patton Senior High in 1949, working at the shirt factory in town before moving to Williamsport, PA. to live with her sister, June and her family. Audrey became engaged to her childhood sweetheart, Rhuel Sperry, who she met in the third grade, and now stationed in TX. With the Air Corp now the Air Force. In Sept. 1951 her father, his wife, her brother in law and sister in law, Joe and Sally (Sperry) Bruno took her to Altoona, PA. Audrey boarded the train with wedding dress in hand for the three-day trip to College Station-Bryan, TX. They had a small ceremony at the base chapel marrying on Sept. 30, 1951. While in TX. they celebrated the birth of their first child, Debbie in 1953. Back in PA. Rhuel re-enlisted and they settled in the Washington, D.C. area to raise their young family and four more children completed the family when they settled in Oxon Hill, MD. until the early 1970’s. To supplement the family income she would babysit and take in ironing. It was here that Audrey learned to drive with the help of her neighbor, Chris Easter. Not long after she purchased a 68 Mercury station wagon while dad was overseas. Freeing her to pile the kids in the car for trips home to PA. A new military assignment brought the family south to England AFB Alexandria, LA. where they experienced extreme culture shock compared to life in MD/D.C. area, then moving to the panhandle of FL. After a short stay in base housing they purchased a home in Niceville, FL. with the intent to move back to PA. to retire. Enjoying life in Florida and the kids much older mom expressed that “She wasn’t shoveling snow the rest of her life.”. They remained in FL. and welcomed the birth of their first grandchild, Tiffany M. Holloway, there on Feb. 29, 1976.
Learning from her not so idyllic childhood, Audrey was definitely not one to let hardships get in her way and was truly from the “school of hard knocks”. She believed in hard work and accountability no matter what. She also instilled this in her children and grandchildren. She believed in the motto: “Pull yourself up by the bootstraps and get going.” In later years whenever it was suggested that she lay down and rest, she would quickly say, “You rest, your rust!” After raising such a large family Audrey could easily have earned degrees in Humanities, Sociology, Psychology, Finance, and Theology. She always loved being in her yard planting new flowers or sprigs of grass, or as she often would say, “I’m just puttzin in the yard”. When the house needed updating, she would also take care of that. Once with the help of our brother, Jeff, they knocked out a wall when Dad was at work! When she did sit down, she also loved to read. At Christmas she loved making old fashioned Christmas cookies, her famous chocolate and peanut butter fudge, as well as the popular standby’s, choc. chip, peanut butter, and molasses cookies. Of which she made sure everyone got some! Audrey loved going back to PA. visiting her family. In later years she and her siblings reconnected with their mother's side of the family. Their mother’s brother, Robert “Bob” Forsyth, was able to help them locate their mother’s grave. The grave never had a stone so he placed a small stone noting only her name. Mom said she remembers the day when they buried her mother, it was bitter cold, snowing, and she remembers standing on a hillside at the cemetery. One of her happiest and memorable trips to PA. was when she was able to see that her mother’s grave was finally marked with a more formal monument in Mt. Union Cemetery in Wilmore outside of Portage, PA.
In Audrey’s big heart she always put her family and friends first. She never forgot a birthday or celebration and was always ready to help whenever or wherever she could. Anything she did it seemed to be done so effortlessly. Looking back now we know she had to have been exhausted but you never saw it or a complaint. She was a mother who was up first and last to bed. In later years she said her biggest accomplishment was to have given her children and grandchildren a better life than she had. Mom will be so greatly missed, and forever in our hearts and memories. We are grateful God blessed us with such a wonderful and loving mother to guide us in this world.
As Audrey has requested, she will be cremated with internment at Pensacola Naval Air Station Barrancas Military Cemetery. There will be no service or viewing. Arrangements are being handled by Heritage Gardens Funeral Home, Niceville, Florida.
Mom’s favorite charity was St. Jude’s Hospital. If anyone so chooses a donation to them in memory of her would truly exemplify her spirit and love for the most vulnerable of all, children.
The family would like to extend a special thank you to Chautauqua Nursing Home and Regency Hospice for all your care and kindness.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Audrey J. (Leaper) Sperry, please visit our floral store.