Sheryl Lynn Barajas Waska, 60, of Dewey, died Saturday, Dec. 22, at St. John's Hospital in Tulsa after a brief illness.
Sheryl was born Feb. 3, 1958, in Tampa, Fla., to Master Sgt. Ralph R. Barajas and Helen M. Barajas. Following her father's 1961 retirement from the U.S. Air Force, they returned to the family farm outside Dewey. She idolized her father and grandma, after whom she patterned her life. Sheryl found God's presence in nature and animals and was never happier as a girl than when exploring the woods and fields with her dogs.
Sheryl graduated from Dewey High School in 1977. Her love of physical work and the outdoors led her to Sherwood Construction, where she met her future husband, Don Gudenkauf, and they helped complete construction of the Copan Dam.
The two were married Aug. 25, 1980, and moved to Douglass, Kan., where her sons Jake and Luke Gudenkauf were born in 1981 and 1982. Sheryl and Don divorced, but later reconciled for many years and remained family and friends until his death in 2006. She and the boys returned to Bartlesville in the mid 1980s. She worked for the ARC Group Home, Bios Corp. and the Washington County Assessor's Office until the mid 1990s, when she felt called to care full time for her ill parents. She was a devoted caregiver to both, even going a year without pay to ensure that her mother could stay at home.
Sheryl battled her own debilitating illnesses in the last decade and pushed through adversities with astonishing strength and resilience. She wished only to be on the farm where three generations of her family had lived, and did so until days before her death.
A talented amateur artist, Sheryl also had a love of all things fast, movies and books, and she was an excellent cook who took joy in eating and feeding others. She had an innate sense of justice and felt both happiness and sorrow more deeply than those around her. She loved to laugh and was a generous and faithful friend. But above all, Sheryl was fiercely proud of her boys.
Sheryl lived – and left – life on her terms. She now rejoins her parents, her husband Don, and her grandparents, aunts and uncles.
She is survived by her sons; daughters-in-law Dixie Gudenkauf and Erica Gudenkauf; grandchildren Zoe, Neala and Allie Gudenkauf and Wyatt and Gentry Gudenkauf; sisters Sandi Taylor and Anne Barajas Harp; brother-in-law Jeff Harp; and a host of nieces, nephews and cousins.
Memorial services will be scheduled in the spring, when her ashes will become part of the family farm in accordance with her wishes.
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