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Paula Tremba: Mother, educator, traveler, cook

By Staff | Jan 16, 2009

Paula Tremba at Wright Denny School

Everybody loves a love story, a story where boy meets girl, they fall in love, get married and despite some bumps in the road, live happily everafter. It’s nice to know they’re still told.

The year was 1970. The place … Whittier California. One night, 15-year-old Paula Egan went with her friends to a youth group meeting at Mt. Olive Presbyterian Church.

“I didn’t consider myself religious. As a youth I was seeking and curious. I belonged to our youth group because it had a strong peace and justice component to it that I was, and am to this day, attracted to and involved in,” Paula said. “It is because of that youth group that I became involved with Amnesty International, United Farm Workers, the anti-nuclear movement and the anti-war movement.” Paula Egan was a deep-thinking and compassionate teen but she was also pretty typical and the youth group meetings were fun places to socialize.

That particular evening the Mt. Olive Presbyterian Church offered an added attraction, a new youth director. Fresh from Fuller Seminary, entered young Randy Tremba from Youngstown, Ohio.

Paula Ann Egan grew up in the San Fernando Valley with her parents, Betty and Harlan, brother Barry and sister Chris. Betty was an elementary school librarian and Harlan worked for NBC-TV during the Golden Age of network TV. Paula remembers those good times and that “When we went to work with my Dad, Dinah Shore would always give us chocolate milk.”

“I grew up watching Wild Kingdom, it was my favorite program and I decided I wanted to go to Africa and work with wild animals.” In 1960, when Paula was five, a 26-year-old British lady, Jane Goodall, went to East Africa and followed her dream to work with chimpanzees. As a teenager, Paula Egan read Jane Goodall’s writings and got hooked. “Jane Goodall was my idol, and when I entered San Jose State I declared zoology as my major.” Then she laughed, “That lasted a year.” She switch her major to music. The Egans were a musical family. Paula had played classical piano since the second grade. Bach and Mozart were her favorites. Harlan played trombone and piano.

Paula Egan and Randy Tremba had struck up a fledging friendship during the St. Olive youth group meetings and despite time and separate paths, the two did keep in touch. “Oh, so you liked him.” I said. And she smiled. “Yup.”

Fast forward a couple of years. Randy was returning from Europe. He landed in New York and while driving home for a visit to Youngstown on his way back to California, went through Harpers Ferry. He later told Paula, “Something said to me, this is where you belong.” So Randy Tremba stopped in Shepherdstown, met with Reverend Frank Pile, rented a room for a few days, found a job as an interim minister in Virginia and began looking for something permanent.

Meanwhile Paula, still at San Jose State, took a trip back to Southern California for a visit. Upon arrival, her friends announced “Randy’s back in town.” And that was end of the beginning. The year was 1976. From then on it was “Paula & Randy.”

Randy returned to Shepherdstown and wrote lots of letters and burned up the phone lines inviting Paula to “come on out.” Tales of his new home were filled with descriptions of “driving on the country roads and how much I would love them,” she said. “He compared them to The Shire in Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Paula flew out of San Francisco on a red-eye that Spring. Randy was waiting at National.

In their early-morning drive to Shepherdstown “I anticipated seeing Hobbits and wee folk around the next curve or down some small winding narrow country road.” But added, “I’d been raised by parents who enjoyed camping and taking weekend drives into the mountains of California. They made it an important part of my growing up to get away from the hustle and bustle. So when I came to Shepherdstown it reminded me of Senora, so small and charming. A place where people wave at you and say hello whether they know you or not,” she said. “It felt like home.” Randy became the minister at Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church in July of that year. In October, Paula Egan became “the new minister’s wife.”

“Two beautiful and wise women, Mary Louise Wright and Sallye Price took me under their wing when I was a very young minister’s wife far from home and my own mother. They encouraged me to be myself, pursue my own interests and choose what and how I wanted to be involved in the church. They knew I wasn’t the stereotypical minister’s wife and sometimes told me point blank that I wasn’t.”

“This church loves you the way you are: free to choose what you want to do and when.” They told me. “Don’t change that.”

The newlyweds moved into the Church House on East German Street and stayed. Paula couldn’t imagine bringing her children up anywhere else. Jonah Tremba came first, then Nate and finally, adorable Amanda. Time has a way of flying, and at the end of 2008 Paula and Randy became grandparents for the first time. Kate and Nate Tremba became parents of twin girls and named them after their grandmothers: Paula and Angie. The younger Trembas live in Albuquerque but their daughters were christened, just before Christmas, by their grandfather in front of an adoring family, including their great-grandmother Betty, and the Shepherdstown Presbyterian congregation. They all spent the next ten days at Grandma and Grandpa’s House, now a sprawling California-style, baby-friendly, entertainment-friendly home in the woods just off Shepherd Grade Road.

Through the years Paula had discovered a love for working with children and when Amanda entered Kindergarten, Mom went back to college. Paula earned a BS in Education from Shepherd University and was soon teaching 6th grade at Wright Denny Elementary School in Charles Town.

In 2001, the Tremba’s both took some well-earned time-off and went around the world. It was in Kenya where Paula realized a childhood dream. “Paul Pritchard introduced us to his good friend John Makaun. John is a guide in Kenya and he took us on a mini-safari. It was unbelievable. I didn’t see any chimps but we did get to observe two young lions, brothers. They were magnificent and lazy. We have a half-hour video of them just sleeping in the sun.”

Paula and Randy caught up with good friends, Jane and Al Leviton, in Spain; and it was Jane who then came up with a name for Paula’s newest idea, a European toy store in Shepherdstown. “I loved the toys in Europe. They’re creative and safe and I thought they should to be available here, at home.” One, Two, Kangaroo was the name and one year later it was reality. “I loved meeting all the children who came in and going to the toy shows.” Last year Paula just had to get back to teaching, so she sold Kangaroo to long-time employee and friend Laura Turman and returned to Wright Denny, this time in the 4th grade. “It’s a great age. Their eyes are so full of wonder and they’re really interested in learning,” Paula says. “A school is a reflection of the principal, and Wright Denny is a terrific school.”

Paula loves to cook, travel and sew little girls clothes. She also loves to read and garden, for which she blames her mother. Today, Betty Egan is a Shepherdstonian and she and Paula get to extend her teachings together. In spite of their packed schedules, Paula and Randy make free time together a priority. They go for bike rides all the time, love the movies at the Opera House and can be seen every Friday dining at the Meck. Come Summer they’re taking a three month vacation first stop Albuquerque.

Paula is a warm, accomplished lady and two thirds of the formidable Team Tremba. Randy is the other two thirds. It’s that formidable. She’s also a very private person but when she feels strongly about speaking out, she will or she’ll let her words be published. “I want the Shepherdstown community and especially my Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church family to know how much I appreciate all the love and care they have given me and my family these many years.”

When young Paula Tremba became “the new minister’s wife,” Sallye Price and Mary Louise Wright told her many times. “This church loves you the way you are and you’re free to do what you want to do. Don’t change that!” They took leap of faith in Paula and she took them at their word. “I haven’t and don’t plan on changing it either. After 32 years how could I?”

Both Mary Louise and Sallye are gone now but the love and gratitude Paula feels for these women and their faith in her will always be in her heart. After 32 years, that’s not going to change either.