Actress, singer, Diaconal Minister and community volunteer Elaine (Elayne) Steele Shults died Oct. 6 at her home.
Services will be at Polk Street United Methodist Church at 10:00 a.m. Wednesday, October 14, 2020 under the direction of Boxwell Brothers Funeral Directors, 2800 Paramount Blvd.
Private burial services will be in Llano Cemetery.
Elaine’s amazing life began on Oct. 3, 1935, in New York City, Borough of Queens, when she was born to Roberta Green Steele and James Stanley Steele.
After an early childhood spent in New York and Colorado Springs, Elaine and her mother returned to Amarillo in 1948. Because there were four other Elaines in her eighth-grade class at Elizabeth Nixson Junior High, Elaine changed the spelling of her name to Elayne. She spent the rest of her life explaining her name. She was graduated from Amarillo High School in 1953.
Elayne attended Sweet Briar College in Virginia for two years before transferring to Southern Methodist University. She was graduated in 1957.
After a year devoted to travel, Elayne lived in Dallas and worked for the Proctor & Gamble Distributing Co. In 1963, she married Richard Byron Shults. Their son, Richard Armstrong Shults, was born in 1966. She did all the “parental things,” as she called them. She was a member of the Parent-Teacher Association, a Cub Scout Den Mother, chairman of the ninth-grade dance at Austin Junior High and a Sunday School teacher.
She returned to Amarillo in 1974.
Elayne came to life onstage. Her passion was performing. In Dallas, she volunteered with the Junior League Children’s Theater. Her favorite roles were “Alice in Wonderland” and The White Witch in “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.”
She loved being in the annual Follies productions reveling in the high-kick dance numbers.
“That was the most fun ever and probably why I am crippled to this day,” she said.
In Dallas, she served on the Dallas Opera – Opera Action Board, a guild for the Dallas Opera. She was the education chairman for the Park Cities Cancer Board and a founding member of the 500 Inc.
Her volunteer service continued when she moved to Amarillo. She was a founding member of Christmas in April, a faith-based organization that rehabilitated homes for the elderly and disadvantaged. She was a member of the board of directors for BRAVO! for the Amarillo Opera and a member of the board of trustees. She was cast in more than 20 performances of the Amarillo Opera in the chorus. She also performed in productions at the Amarillo Little Theatre.
She delivered Meals on Wheels for 17 years and mentored children in reading in the Help One Student to Succeed (H.O.S.T.) program with the Amarillo Independent School District. She was a board member for the Interfaith Campaign for the Homeless, the Amarillo Coalition for the Homeless (now the Continuum of Care), and raised hundreds of dollars as a member of the Beans and Cornbread Committee annual luncheon. She served on the board of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and volunteered at Kids Café. She was a longtime supporter of the Wesley Community Center.
The State of Texas commissioned her as a member of the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution committee in 1987. She was a sustaining member of the Junior League of Amarillo.
Elayne was a stalwart member of the board of Center City of Amarillo. She represented downtown property owners. She was short in stature, but she was a force of nature. Executive Director Beth Duke said, “Underestimate Elayne at your own peril. She was faithful and fearless.”
Her longtime friend and colleague, Janie Jones, said, “Elayne was involved in everything. She never missed anything. She worked behind the scenes.”
Elayne was a committed servant at Polk Street United Methodist Church where she was employed as a church visitor, director of Adult Ministries and later director of Christian Education. She also served at St. Paul United Methodist Church as director of Christian Education. She was a longtime member of the church choir at Polk Street Methodist Church.
Through her church, she attended and then led Christian Education conferences, workshops and laboratory schools in almost every state. She completed about 30 hours of course credits at Perkins School of Theology at SMU with the goal of consecration as a Diaconal Minister. She was ordained in ceremonies at the Amarillo Civic Center.
Elayne volunteered for continuing education trips and mission trips to Bosnia/ Herzegovina.
“She had a spirit of service and a heart for missions. She would do anything to help the poverty stricken and homeless,” Jones said.
Elayne was known for speaking her mind directly, but Jones said, “She was tough, but she had a heart of gold.”
Her hobbies included solving jigsaw and crossword puzzles, petti point, crewel and smashing pottery to make mosaics.
She had a lifelong devotion to a long line of dogs, a cat or two, cockatiels, turtles and a goldfish or two.
Elayne is survived by her son, Richard, of Seattle, cousins, Soeurette Cowan and Webb Green, her church family and her beloved pet, Cappuccina.
To honor Elayne, memorials may be sent to the Interfaith Campaign for the Homeless in care of the Amarillo Area Foundation, 801 S. Fillmore, Ste 700, Amarillo, TX 79101 or to your favorite charity.
To view the services livestream, go to “psumc.com” and click on the “link”.