Debra M. Puffer, 62, of Rome, pedaled valiantly into her eternal victory on April 7, 2019, in Lexington, SC, at her daughter and son in laws’ home, surrounded by her devoted family and biggest encouragers in this life. Debbie earned her crown of victory after a courageous, five-year journey with Glioblastoma brain cancer. Debbie finished her race with unshakeable faith, fierce resolve, commanding courage and amazing grace.
Debbie was welcomed into this life on January 19, 1957 by her parents, the late Leo and Doris (Puls) Mullin. She was a 1975 graduate of Rome Catholic High School and on September 2, 1978, married the love of her life and biggest fan, Mark Puffer, in St. Peter’s Church.
Deb was a loyal employee of Rome Memorial Hospital’s Community Recovery Center for 25 years until her brain cancer diagnosis in January 2014.
She was a lifetime member of St. Peter’s Parish and a weekly volunteer for the Mission of the Christ Child. Additionally, Debbie found great joy serving her church community through the greeting card ministry; sending prayer, love and encouragement to those in greatest need.
In 2018, Debbie was nominated and inducted into the Catholic School Association of Rome Hall of Fame for her meaningful contributions of faith in action and devoted service to her community.
Debbie made everyday life her personal mission field for Kingdom work. She served as the hands and feet of Jesus in whatever capacity she was able to. Debbie gave selflessly of her time, talents and treasures, often going out of her way to befriend the sick, lonely and homebound. Debbie had a tender heart for older adults and passionately served as a dedicated family caregiver for many loved ones most of her adult life. Debbie’s family was her heart’s delight.
Debbie found pure joy in life’s most simple pleasures — long daily walks in nature, quiet moments with her cats, sharing special moments with friends, fire nights, game nights, marathon bargain shopping excursions and sweet moments with her forever love, Mark — those were the most treasured of all.
Debbie was a beacon of light and hope and constant source of support and encouragement to others in the brain tumor community and beyond. She openly and honestly shared her dynamic faith along with the peaks and valleys associated with a terminal brain cancer diagnosis. Debbie’s faith, authenticity and vulnerability touched the hearts of so many, resulting in a personal “Pray & Pedal On Community.” Her smile and spark were contagious! Debbie shined brightly during some of her darkest moments giving hope to others who desperately needed it!
Debbie lived and loved a life with cancer but never defined by it! She willingly shared her sacred battle with others in hopes of strengthening and encouraging those around her. Debbie passionately loved people. Her faith was the heartbeat of her life and wanted others to experience the Lord personally for themselves. Debbie’s life was a living testimony to the Lord’s faithfulness, mercy and miraculous healing power. She lived, loved and served without condition or expectation. She lived on purpose, for a greater purpose.
Surviving besides her devoted husband and encourager of 40 years, Mark, are daughter and advocate, LeRyiah and son in law, Russell Arant of Lexington, South Carolina; a brother and sister-in-law, James and Susan Mullin of Rome; the two apples of her eye, grandchildren, Ruby and Navy Arant, along with several beloved nieces, nephews, and cousins. Debbie was predeceased by a brother, Richard Mullin and a sister, Diane Pody.
Debbie became a brain cancer pioneer when she voluntarily and sacrificially entered into the Polio Clinical Trial at the Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke University in October 2014. She became one of the first recipients to receive the Polio treatment twice. Her courageous involvement rendered priceless insights that will help change and advance the landscape of brain tumor research for both current and future patients.
The family would like to recognize their amazing medical team at the Duke BTC for their audacious bravery, courageous innovation, relentless hope and fiery passion and love they have shown Debbie and her family over the past five years. A special, heartfelt thank you to Dr. Annick Desjardins, Chevelle Bullock, Stevie Threatt, Mark Johnson and Elizabeth Evans for being the family’s lifelines and for never giving up on Debbie, especially when times were uncertain and challenging.
As Debbie pedaled closer to the finish line of her life, Crescent Hospice (Columbia, S.C.) supported the family, making the difficult transition, seamless, comfortable and peaceful. Sincere appreciation goes out to Cory Neal, Jennifer, Heather, LaToya and Sharon for helping Debbie finish her race well, with dignity, peace and grace.
While Debbie loved the beautiful blooms of her Creator, the Angels Among Us Foundation at Duke was paramount in her brain cancer journey. The family is requesting that any memorial contributions to honor her memory be made to: Duke University-Angels, DUMC 3624, Durham, NC 27710 (memo section Debra Puffer) or online gifts can be made to angelsamongus.org, team Pray & Pedal On.
Debbie’s beautiful life will be celebrated with a mass of Christian burial on Monday, April 15 at 10 a.m. at St. Peter’s Church with the Rev. Philip Hearn officiating. Her earthly body will be laid to rest at St. Peter’s Cemetery. Debbie will be remembered as friends and family are encouraged to gather at Nunn and Harper Funeral Home, 418 N. George St., on Sunday, April 14 from 2-5 p.m.
Debbie lived humbly, loved honestly, gave freely, fought bravely and was graceful in love, life and death.
Pray & Pedal On...
You may light a candle, send a message of sympathy, and read the obituary at www.nunnandharper.com.