Debra “Debbie” Lee Palmer-Shepard, MS, FNP-BC, of Seaford went home to be with Jesus on Oct. 26, 2021.

Debbie was the second of three children born to James and Betty (Schuck) Palmer, on April 7, 1956 in Trenton, NJ. She grew up with her older brother, Dennis, and younger sister, Robin, in Hamilton Township, a suburb of Trenton. Debbie graduated from Steinert High School in 1974, where she played flute in both the concert and marching bands.

During her childhood years, Debbie enjoyed hanging out with her friends across the street on Jonathan Drive. Between playing with Barbie dolls and wandering through the nearby woods, she and her friends would find creative ways to have fun in her small neighborhood. Debbie was an avid artist who enjoyed drawing and painting, and, later, cross stitching. She also enjoyed playing cards with her parents and siblings, going on picnics, and watching TV with her father. Her favorite shows growing up were Star Trek and Lost in Space. Each summer Debbie would spend a week each with her grandparents in Pen Argyl, PA; her Aunt Emma and Uncle Joe in Lehighton, PA; and her cousin Dianna in Washington, D.C.

It was always her mother’s dream to become a nurse, and Debbie enjoyed studying biology as well as anatomy and physiology. She had several friends in high school whose sisters were nurses, and Debbie quickly became fascinated by the career. A hard-working student, Debbie would get a full ride to Trenton State College (now The College of New Jersey), where she graduated with a major in nursing in 1978.

Debbie would begin her nursing career at Mercer Medical Center, but shortly after observing a midwife at the hospital she grew fascinated by the specialization and quickly enrolled in graduate school. While still working part time as a nurse, she would graduate from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (now part of the Rutgers University system) with a diploma in nurse midwifery in 1985, and would later graduate with a masters of science in nursing from Rutgers University-Newark in 1987. In order to better serve the larger Trenton community, Debbie enrolled in Bucks County Community College to take classes in Spanish, and later attended a Spanish immersion program in Quito, Ecuador, during which she became a fluent speaker.

Debbie would work several years as an advanced practice nurse and certified nurse midwife in and around Trenton, where she met her future husband, Dr. George Shepard, Jr, an OB/GYN. Dr. Shepard, with his perpetual love of warm weather and distaste for the cold, had always wanted to move to Arizona where it was warm year round. Debbie and Dr. Shepard would move to Phoenix in the early nineties, where they would have their first son together, Geoffrey, in 1994. With their nine-month-old son in tow, they would travel back to the east coast and settle in Seaford, which they would call home for the rest of their lives. There they would have their second son, Justin, in 1996.

Debbie’s career in Delaware began at Nanticoke Hospital in Seaford, where she worked as a midwife until the practice closed in 2002. Following in her husband’s vision of providing better public access to reproductive health care, she began working for the State of Delaware’s Division of Public Health at the Shipley Center in Seaford in 2003. Forever industrious and curious, Debbie would go back to school and receive a Family Nurse Practitioner post-graduate certificate from Wilmington University in 2007. Debbie would act as a supervisor of the Shipley Center’s family planning clinic from 2008 to 2015.

She would take a brief hiatus from work to care for her husband, Dr. Shepard, who passed away in March of 2016. Not one to sit around for too long, she began the final act of her career in the fall of 2016, in the Community Health Services Division of the Wicomico County Health Department, where she worked as a nurse practitioner in the reproductive health clinic and the school-based wellness centers of Wicomico Middle and High Schools. A testament to her unfaltering work ethic and passion, Debbie would continue working and providing much-needed medical services throughout her illness.

Later in life she enjoyed visits with both her childhood friends from New Jersey and the good friends she had made in her small Delaware community. She enjoyed watching TV with her family, playing board games, and especially enjoyed visiting the beach. Debbie would also grow to become an ardent fan of the Green Bay Packers, her son Geoffrey’s favorite team. On Sundays she looked forward to gathering in fellowship with her Bible study group at St. John’s United Methodist Church in Seaford.

Always introverted, thoughtful, and friendly, Debbie will be missed by a range of friends, colleagues, and family members. She is survived by her two sons, Geoffrey and Justin; her siblings, Dennis Palmer (Maureen) and Robin Ray; her nieces and nephews, Kristen (Nick), Matthew, Kyle, and James; her grand nieces and nephews, Paige, Sophia, Ewan, and Lexi; and her cousins, Kelly (David) and Bianca. Debbie was preceded in death by her beloved husband, Dr. George Shepard, Jr.

Memorial Services were held on Tuesday, Nov. 2 at St. John’s United Methodist Church in Seaford. She was laid to rest on Wednesday, Nov. 3 at Greenwood Cemetery in Hamilton, New Jersey.

In lieu of flowers you may make a donation to METAvivor, a volunteer-led, non-profit organization that funds vital research to help improve the longevity and quality of life for those living with stage IV metastatic breast cancer,

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