Debra Y. Miles-Olofson passed away on September 11, 2021, following a 16-month battle with inflammatory breast cancer. Her family hadn’t left her side in days; they read her letters and emails from loved ones, rubbed her feet, and hosted visitors. Debra was the kind of person who always showed up, no matter what—for her family, her friends, and her clients. In celebrating her life, we show up for each other and all those who mourn her—just as she would have done for us.
Debra was born on November 19, 1950, in Seattle, Washington to Harry and Patricia Yerg. Her childhood was a happy one, surrounded by her three sisters and cousins. She was a smart, ambitious kid with a big personality. From an early age, she was determined to do great things with her life. Throughout the years, those ambitions met challenges. Debra had her first daughter shortly after high school. But she took on motherhood with commitment and grace. Debra was a single parent for most of Jennifer and Dene’s childhood, yet she never wavered in the strength and enthusiasm she showed in parenting. She was fiercely devoted to her girls and loved being a mom.
Debra took courses at South Seattle College and started working as a bank teller at Seafirst Bank on Capitol Hill. Coworkers and customers were drawn to Debra for her warmth and her sharp wit. She worked hard, and she raised her daughters to know that you should always be able to take care of yourself.
At 48 Debra discovered real estate and fell in love with the industry; she’d found her calling. Her feisty personality and tireless work ethic helped her establish a glowing reputation as a trusted broker in the community. Despite the 24/7 nature of the job, she never missed a call or a meeting—she was exceptional. Debra worked at Prudential for 2 years, then moved to John L. Scott, where she maintained her stellar commitment to clients until she was too sick to do so. It wasn’t surprising that so many of her clients became good friends.
On July 24, 2004, Debra met Ken Olofson at Endolyne Joe’s in West Seattle; both of them were sitting at the bar and noticed each other. “There’s something about you that’s different,” she told him in that first conversation. It was an encounter that changed both of their lives, and they were together from that day forward, marrying on August 8, 2021 in an intimate ceremony at their home. Ken called their relationship magic; she’d made him a better man.
Debra became Grandma Debbie when her first granddaughter Olivia was born in 2005. She adored being “Grandma” to Olivia and Sophia and her presence in their lives was constant. Throughout grade school and middle school, she was there every morning to make breakfast and lunches and drive them to and from school. The three of them cherished their time together, and fostered a special bond. Whenever mom and dad needed a night off, Grandma Debbie came over. She even let the girls have their friends over for sleepovers which she hosted with all of her Grandma Debbie-style energy. She took great care of the granddogs, too.
Debra was committed to her work—but she was even more committed to her grandkids’ sporting events. She loved cheering from the sidelines at soccer, basketball, volleyball and baseball games. Every coach, player, and parent knew Grandma Debbie, and the energy she brought to those games was contagious.
Nature gave her a great sense of peace. She loved hiking with her daughter Dene, and she took many trips to places like Zion National Park, Maui, Bryce Canyon, and the Columbia River Gorge where she could be outside and soak in the beauty of the wilderness. She and Dene shared a similar sense of humor, and their time together was often filled with uncontrollable laughter as best friends do.
Lake Roosevelt held a special place in Debra’s heart, spending time on the water with Jennifer, Eric, Olivia, and Sophia. Those lake days were filled with boat rides, walks on the beach, hummingbird watching, and playing cards with the girls. Debra worked so hard for so much of her life, but Lake Roosevelt is where she could really relax and enjoy herself. Whether they were a few miles away or at the same house, Debra and Jennifer talked every day. They were each others’ greatest support—mother and daughter but also best friends.
Ken and Debra loved to travel; their favorite place was Harrison Hot Springs in Canada where they’d treat themselves to delicious meals, massages, and relaxing dips in the warm water. It meant a lot to Debra that after struggling to make ends meet for so long, she could finally afford to indulge a little. The two recently purchased a beautiful ranch house in eastern Washington where the mountains look over their home.
On May 29, 2020, Debra was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer. The news was devastating, but she faced it with relentless grit and optimism. Jennifer, Dene, and Ken were there with her every step of the way. Debra and her family leaned on faith in getting through the harder days; they found the more they needed it, the stronger it became. The family prayed together often, and in that faith, their bonds became stronger, too.
Debra’s spirit was the kind that sticks with people. She will be remembered in those moments that brought her the most joy: playing board games with her grandkids; taking long walks with her daughters; and watching sunsets on the back deck of her home with Ken. She found her true love later in life, but she always felt lucky for the love that surrounded her—for the unwavering bonds she had with her daughters and grandkids. In her family, she’d found greatness. She was our rock; our biggest cheerleader; and our beloved daughter, mother, wife, grandmother, sister, and friend.
Debra is survived by her husband, Kenneth G. Olofson; her two daughters Dene Miles and Jennifer (Eric) Moe; her granddaughters Olivia and Sophia; her mother, Patricia Yerg; sisters Marlin (Gary), Patrice, and Lisa (Bob); brother-in-laws Carl and Chris (Laura); sister-in-laws Caryn (Michael) and Carol; and dozens of nieces and nephews.
Debra was committed to involving herself in multiple charities over the years. Memorial donations can be made to Debra’s favorite charities: St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, Sage Patient Advocates, and Inflammatory Breast Cancer International Consortium
A special thank you to Steve Kandel of Sage Patient Advocates who was our guardian angel during Debra’s battle with cancer. His compassion, support, guidance and knowledge helped not only Debra but her family through her illness.
To share your fond memories of Debra and condolences with her family and friends, please visit her Tribute Wall, located above.
- Care & Arrangements Entrusted to Emmick Family Funeral Services -
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