Mrs. Josephine Wildcat Bigler
Mrs. Josephine Wildcat Bigler
Let us remember with thanksgiving the life and ministry of Josephine Wildcat Bigler, 95 a resident of Sapula, OK who died on June 4, 2016. Josephine was the widow of the Reverend Clarence Bigler who died in 2008.
Clarence served multiple churches in four conferences: North Indiana, Illinois Great River, Wisconsin, and New York totaling 42 years. After his retirement in 1990, he and Josephine moved back to Oklahoma where he served churches as he was needed.
Josephine Wildcat Bigler was born on a Euchee allotment near Kellyville, Oklahoma, May 24, 1921, the eldest of five siblings. Her parents, Maxey Wildcat and Lizzie Bighead Wildcat, were full blood Euchee. She grew up speaking Euchee and valued education. Josephine was the first in her family, and maybe the first Euchee woman, to graduate from a four-year college; graduating from Southeastern Oklahoma State in 1945 with a bachelor's in education. In 1944 she joined the war effort spending a year at the Douglas Aircraft plant in Tulsa. Her life was a life of service. She worked for several years as a teacher at Washington and Jefferson Elementary schools in Sapulpa, Oklahoma. She grew up at Pickett Chapel Indian United Methodist Church. It was through her church she met Rev. Clarence Bigler. They were married for fifty-eight years.
The Biglers moved to Milwaukee, WI in the early 1960s where Josephine attended the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh for special education training. In addition to being a housewife she became a special education teacher in the towns of Marion and West Allis, Wisconsin. This was a new field and Josephine was responding to the needs of children who otherwise could not get adequate education. Back in Milwaukee in 1967 she became active in Native American activities and was elected chairwoman of the Milwaukee Indian Health Board and served as a representative to Milwaukee Southeastern Malpractice Compensation Committee.
Josephine was always active in The United Methodist Church, especially as it served the needs and ministered to Native people. She served as the Milwaukee Indian Community representative to Wisconsin Council of Indian Reservations. In 1982, Josephine and Clarence moved to New York City where from 1982-1988 she worked for the Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church. In this role, she traveled widely throughout all of North American Indian country coordinating Native American ministries. She met many people from different Indian nations. She enjoyed learning about their cultures and proudly represented Euchee ways and Oklahoma life.
When she and her husband retired in 1988, they moved back to Sapulpa, OK. Josephine became active once again at Pickett Chapel UMC, leading the United Methodist Women (UMW) unit at Pickett. In 2000, she was on the steering committee for the UMW National Conference in Tulsa.
Josephine was one of four remaining elders that were native-born fluent speakers. She worked with the various Euchee language classes over the last 25 years which helped create the first new speakers of Euchee in many decades. Due to her numerous works, Southeastern Oklahoma State University in 2014 recognized Josephine with a Distinguished Alumni Award.
She is survived by her sisters Maxine Wildcat Barnett and Martha Wildcat Squire; sons Seaver and wife Debbie, Micheal and wife GuiZhen, Gregory and wife Dawn; numerous grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.
Funeral services were Tuesday, June 7, 2016 at Pickett Chapel United Methodist Church, 17610 S. Hickory Road, Sapulpa, OK. Interment was at Tecumseh Cemetery, Sapulpa, OK.
Notes and remembrances may be sent to the family at 104 East Jackson Street, Sapula, OK 74066.
Blessings to her family at this time of loss.