Roma R. Powis obit

Roma R. Powis, age 80, formerly of Corvallis, Oregon, passed away Saturday, May 8, 2021, in Nashville, Tennessee.  

Family, friends and others whose lives Roma touched are invited to gather for a memorial service May 29, 2021 at 11 a.m. at Spring Hill Memorial Park, 5239 Main St., Spring Hill, Tennessee.  

No one who met Roma forgot her fearless positivity and joy. Her strength was in knowing where every silver lining hid.  She had an uncanny ability to be content with who she was, what she was, and where she was – and that contentment flowed into the unconditional acceptance she gave to those she loved. Roma was happiest when she was connecting with friends and family (especially with a good bourbon on the rocks in hand.) 

Roma was born in Corvallis, Oregon, on Dec. 6, 1940, to Gwen and Chuck Rickabaugh. She loved to ride horses, was a graduate of South Eugene High School in 1957, and earned a bachelor’s degree in Special Education from the University of Oregon. She married Rick Cleveland in 1960 and had three children, Mark, Kurt and Dana. In 1992 she married Ken Powis, who had three children, Nikki, Tina and Kara. 

Professionally, she was a problem-solver, creative communicator and effective team leader. She started her career in Eugene school district, leading programs for at-risk youth and special education. Her life’s work creating training and employment programs to help persons with disabilities gain confidence and independence has impacted hundreds - likely thousands - of families. Roma was the well-deserved recipient of the Meritorious Service National Award from President George Bush in 1990, State Teacher of the Year Award from Oregon Disabilities Commission in 1993, and a Citation for Outstanding Contribution from President Bill Clinton in 1995, to name a few.  

Roma and Ken lived in Eugenuntil 1996 when she retired from the school district and moved to Depoe Bay, Oregon. Together, they operated Ocean View Realestate, Whale Cove Restaurant & Inn, participated in city counsel and Lions Club, designed several homes together and enjoyed coastal living. In 2003, they moved to the Nashville area where Roma continued her lifelong work at the University of Tennessee where she again served the disabled community in vocational training and employment opportunities.  

Her memory will be cherished and kept alive by her husband, Ken Powis; sister, Char Reed; Roma’s three children, Mark (Jenny) Cleveland, Kurt (Patti) Cleveland and Dana (Robert) Eckstein; Amy Swift Crosby; Ken’s three children, Nikki Powis, Tina (David) Powis-Dow and Kara (Kate) Powis; 13 grandchildren, Kristina Hurlburt, Daniel Hurlburt, James Hurlburt, Kira Cleveland, Savannah Cleveland, Madison Canfield, Blake Canfield, Piper Cleveland, Kayla Cleveland, Roman Eckstein, Amelia Cleveland, Kai Powis-Dow and Kenzi Powis; five great-grandchildren, Sophie Hurlburt, Olivia Hurlburt, Jayce Cleveland, Liam Hurlburt and Jude Hurlburt; one nephew, Jason (Spring) Reed and one niece, Susan Hipp.  

The family would like to extend our gratitude to all the staff at Traditions Spring Hill and Alive Hospice, who cared deeply for her as she valiantly fought to stay present through the stages of dementia.  

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made in Roma’s name to American Association of People with Disabilities ( or Dementia Society of America (

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