West Seattle Blog… | Remembering Wilma Ann Waters, 1928-2022
Wilma Ann Waters, a longtime resident of West Seattle, died Jan. 26 after a brief illness. She was 93 years old.
Wilma was born to Louis and Philomena Swan on December 9, 1928 in Interior, SD. A difficult life growing up in the Badlands instilled in Wilma an impressive work ethic and sense of frugality that served her well throughout her life. The family migrated west to Albany, Oregon in 1936 in a Model A Ford, with four children. She attended Albany High School in Albany, Oregon, graduating in 1946. She then attended Oregon State University for 2 years before moving to Portland, where she met and married John Norton Waters, a highly decorated World War II veteran, on the 29th, 1950. Nort and Wilma finally settled in the Seahurst neighborhood of Burien in 1960. Nort died in 1969 in a seaplane accident. He was the love of her life and she never remarried. She lived in Seahurst until 1990, before moving to West Seattle, where she lived until her death.
During the early years of their marriage, Wilma and Nort moved to the West Coast, living in Seattle, Mineral, Shasta, San Mateo and Yakima, before finally settling in Seahurst in 1960. Nort was a real estate developer and had built several apartment complexes. in the greater Seattle area. After Nort’s death, Wilma was able to save her businesses, including keeping the Tama Qua apartments and managing them until she sold them in 1983. She was a successful businesswoman at a time when men dominated the industry. She was very good at business and immensely respected.
Wilma was an incredible athlete. She started running at the age of 51, running at a pace of 7 min/mile at age 62. She ran races for over 30 years, winning dozens in her age groups. Her favorite road race was the Rhody Run, where she set several age group records that stood for years. In the late eighties, she replaced running with walking and ran many of her favorite errands with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She remained active in her later years, walking 3 miles daily, mostly on Alki Beach. She also loved golf and skiing. She joined the Rainier Golf & Country Club, of which she was a member for almost 20 years. She loved golfing with her grandchildren, teaching them lessons and participating in Rainer’s junior program. At 92, she convinced her great-grandchildren to participate in drive, chip and putt competitions. She and her friends from St. Francis Parish in Burien have spent many beach and ski vacations together. These were large multi-family events. Her favorite destinations were the Oregon Coast, usually Gearhart or Cannon Beach, and Sun Valley, Idaho, where she had a residence.
Wilma was known for her fashionable style, delicious cuisine, and her preference for driving high-performance sports coupes. She was also very devoted to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Wilma believed that having and raising children was the greatest thing one could accomplish. She excelled in everything she did. She never talked about her many extraordinary successes, always graceful and humble.
As a devout Catholic, Wilma rarely missed Sunday mass. She was an active member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Burien for over thirty years and then of Holy Rosary Parish in West Seattle for the past 30 years. She sent all of her children to Catholic schools and gave generously to Catholic Charities and Mt. St. Vincent.
Wilma had a stimulating and vigorous life. She was fiercely independent, had a very healthy lifestyle, was financially successful, and relished her role as the beloved matriarch of her family. She was predeceased by her husband, two sisters and a brother. She is survived by her sister, Jane Fournier of Green Valley, AZ; five children, Jonete Rehmke, Gayle Dunham (Jim), Linda Fitzgerald (Mike), John Waters (Monica), Paula Waters; eight grandchildren; and fifteen great-grandchildren. A Catholic funeral service was held March 25, 2022 at Willamette National Cemetery in Portland, Oregon, where she was buried with her husband Nort.
In lieu of flowers, keepsakes may be made at the Providence Mt. St. Vincent Foundation in West Seattle, First Tee of Greater Seattle, or Catholic Charities, USA.
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