Debra Gehrke Towery, 54, of Myrtle Beach, SC, passed into the loving arms of her Lord and Savior on Thursday July 21, 2022 after a valiant struggle with pancreatic cancer.
Predeceased by her parents Ruth and Julius Gehrke, Debbie was born August 21, 1967 in Fairfield, California. The youngest of four daughters, Debbie grew up in Sumter, SC, her parents having settled there after her father’s assignment at Shaw Air Force base marked his retirement from career military service.
Debbie’s life on that famously sandy and lumpy Mellette Road leading to their brick ranch style home was filled with one adventure after another with her family and friends. Everyone in town knew “The Gehrke Girls”, as they were lovingly called! The close bond between Linda, Donna, Judy, and Debbie was a testament to the faithful and loving upbringing by their parents, and their own determination to remain tight throughout their lives.
As a youth, Debbie spent glorious days engaging in countless adventures that have become a part of Gehrke family lore: “daredevil” clubs; school cheerleading; “bobbing”/diving/swim racing in their well-used backyard pool; gymnastics; annual trips to Kane, Pennsylvania, to visit their mother’s parents and race around with their northern cousins; “adopting” a stream of curiously odd cats and dogs; driving a school bus during high school for part-time pay; and dealing with her sister’s boyfriends and future husbands!
Debbie earned an Associate’s Degree in Dental Hygiene from Midland Technical College, as well as a diploma/certificate in Dental Assisting from Greenville Technical College. This led to her lifelong highly successful career in the dentistry field, as a Dental Hygienist, Dental Practice Manager, and Dental Operations Manager. She became an asset at multiple practices throughout the state, culminating with her role as Operations Manager with Dental Aspen, serving locations in Columbia, Charleston, Beaufort, Conway, and North Myrtle Beach, where she lived. Debbie took it upon herself to mentor young professional women in their chosen field, with many of them telling Debbie’s family recently that she was the best boss they had ever had.
As fulfilling as her work life was, however, the pride and joy of Debbie’s life were her three children, Ryan, Brent, and Sophia. Throughout the trials and tribulations of everyday life, Debbie kept her primary focus on her children, in keeping with the way she herself had been raised.
Debbie made a bold decision some years ago to move her own family from the familiarity of her hometown to begin anew in Myrtle Beach, where she and her children were enriched by the coastal life. Being the oldest, Ryan had already made his own successful start in the construction business and stayed in Sumter, where he met his future bride, Jenny, and they produced a son and Debbie’s only grandchild, Henry. “Little Henry”, as Debbie called him, absolutely lit up her world! Brent excelled in school in Myrtle Beach, going on to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and earning a commission in the U.S. Army as a helicopter pilot, having recently married his wife, Shelby. Debbie displayed unbelievable strength in participating in their wedding, in Florida, despite being in the midst of her cancer treatment. The youngest of Debbie’s children, Sophia’s golden-haired beauty and strong will mirrors that of her mother, and she is developing her own special talents and career interests.
In Debbie’s final time in this earthly presence, circumstances allowed for family and many friends (several lifelong), co-workers, and acquaintances to visit and otherwise connect with her to express their love and appreciation for the positivity that she added to their lives. Debbie gave of herself to others beyond measure in the most important ways, sharing her laugh, beautiful smile and caring interest in others. She freely shared her love of life lived simply, enjoying the company of family and friends, relaxing on a sunny beach to the rhythmic sounds of waves lapping on the shore. She especially loved Christmas, proudly displaying her vast Nutcracker collection throughout the house.
Debbie certainly lived life to the fullest, and she will be warmly embraced in Heaven.
Surviving are her three children, Ryan Clark (Jenny, Henry) of Sumter, Brent Towery (Shelby) of Fayetteville, N.C., and Sophia Towery, of Myrtle Beach. Also surviving are Debbie’s three sisters, Linda MacDonald (Ian) of Lexington, S.C., Donna Mathis (Barry) of Buford, Ga., and Judy Porter (Chris), of Greer, S.C. Also surviving are many numerous nieces and nephews.
A celebration of Debbie's life will be held 3:00pm Saturday, July 30, 2022, at Bullock Funeral Home & Crematorium, 1190 Wilson Hall Rd, Sumter, SC 29150. The family will receive friends two hours prior to the service from 1:00-3:00pm. To celebrate the bright light that Debbie was, the family requests you wear bright colors to honor her sparkling spirit.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Cystinosis Research Foundation, 19200 Von Karman Ave #920, Irvine, CA 92612 or at, https://www.cystinosisresearch.org/
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