Twyla’s Story – SPSFBC Alumni


Before my husband Dan’s murder, I thought I knew how my life would go. My world was small, safe, somewhat predictable, and “normal.” The 2nd of 4 children, I resisted change and grew up wanting to be like my mom. I inadvertently followed in her footsteps by getting married at 18, quitting college, having 4 children, and teaching them at home.

Wife and mom became my entire identity, especially since Dan loved to brag about his “little family.” Home life often felt like an oasis from a world full of school shootings, hijackings, and more. Occasionally, I considered college, but I was afraid to leave my children for long or trust others to teach them. They and Dan were my world.

Then Dan was shot by strangers, and my safe oasis vanished. He was everything I was not, and I adored him. He was exciting, playful, generous, inspiring, spontaneous, and outgoing. But those strangers did not care who he was when they chased down a red car and aimed at Dan’s head.

For months, I felt robotic and puppet-like, struggling with simple tasks as if I wore iron shackles. I became almost child-like in trusting my family to tell me what to do and who to thank while I only focused on my kids. Both friends and strangers provided for us, making us feel protected, loved, and overwhelmed by the generosity of people in NWA.

One friend sent me to a grief support group that Marjorie Marugg-Wolfe co-led. Unbeknownst to me, she founded Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Benton County (SPSFBC) and took a special interest in helping single parents receive post-secondary educations.

She appointed herself my mentor and helped me identify barriers that stood between me and a more hopeful future. Primarily she connected me with other widows and encouraged me to apply at SPSFBC. She knew I needed guidance – from choosing a degree to addressing emotional wounds and financial needs – and that SPSFBC could help.

We waited two years for justice, and in that time, my family and many dear friends – including Marjorie – helped my young family grieve and begin to move forward. My healing included facing my fears and abandoning the “ideal mom” myth. After the killers plead guilty, I finally chose to follow Marjorie’s guidance towards SPSFBC.

SPSFBC helps families overcome statistical odds. Statistically families of murder victims fall apart and do not stay in touch. Generally, young widows with children do not earn degrees. Typically, children from single parent homes struggle with poor physical and mental health, addictions, legal issues, and more. BUT my family is not one of the “statistics” thanks in part to the people of Northwest Arkansas and SPSFBC.

Against the odds, I earned my AA from NWACC, transferred to JBU and earned a BS in Organizational Management and a MS in Marriage and Family Therapy. Like me, my mother returned to college, and we graduated one semester apart. Against the odds, my children are close and connected to each other. They are all empathetic, compassionate, fair-minded people who continue to live bravely.

My oldest graduated Cum Laude from JBU with her BA in English. My 2nd graduated H.S. with honors and is in college while the 3rd will start FA19. The youngest, a H.S. freshman, enjoys thinking about the future. In 2014, I married a courageous man who brags about the kids even more than I. As a family we seek out ways to inspire and love others like we have been inspired and loved. This community helped care for my family after our world shattered, and I want to honor those gifts through my story and work.

My counseling degree now allows me to continue Marjorie’s legacy and work with current SPSFBC recipients to address their barriers. I hope all of them will come to see themselves as brave women and men who work valiantly to overcome barriers and to build healthy families.

SPSFBC needs supporters like you to help break negative cycles, rewrite statistical odds, and inspire generations.