Wilma Ann Waters, a long-time West Seattle resident, passed away on January 26th after a brief illness. She was 93.
Wilma was born to Louis and Philomena Swan on December 9, 1928 in Interior, SD. A hard scrabble 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 kids. She attended Albany High School in Albany, Oregon, where she graduated 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 combat veteran, on April 29, 1950. Nort and Wilma eventually settled in the Seahurst neighborhood in Burien in 1960. Nort died in 1969 in a float plane accident. He was the love of her life and she never re-married. She lived in Seahurst until 1990, before moving to West Seattle, where she lived until she died.
During the first years of their marriage, Wilma and Nort moved around the west coast, living in Seattle, Mineral, Shasta, San Mateo and Yakima, before finally settling down in Seahurst in 1960. Nort was a land developer and built several apartment complexes in the greater Seattle area. After Nort's death, Wilma was able to save his businesses, most notably, keeping Tama Qua Apartments and managing it until she sold it in 1983. She was a successful businesswoman at a time where men dominated the industry. She was very business savvy and immensely respected.
Wilma was an amazing athlete. She started running at the age of 51, running at a 7 min/mile pace at 62 years old. She ran races for over 30 years, winning dozens in her age groups. Her favorite road race was the Rhody Run, where she set multiple age group records that lasted for years. In her late eighties, she traded running for walking and walked many of her favorite runs with her grand and great-grandchildren. She remained active through her later years, walking daily over 3 miles, mainly on Alki beach. She also loved golf and skiing. She joined Rainier Golf & Country Club, where she was a member for nearly 20 years. She loved to play golf with her grandchildren,
getting them lessons and into Rainer’s junior program. At 92, she convinced her great grandkids to participate in drive, chip and putt competitions. She and her friends from St. Francis Parish in Burien went on many beach and ski vacations together. These were big multi-family events. Her favorite destinations were the Oregon Coast, usually Gearhart or Cannon Beach and Sun Valley, Idaho, where she maintained a residence.
Wilma was known for her fashionable style, delicious cooking, 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 anybody could accomplish. She excelled at everything she did. She never talked about her many extraordinary successes, always gracious and humble.
As a devout Catholic, Wilma rarely missed Sunday mass. She was an active member of Saint Francis of Assisi Parish in Burien for over thirty years and then Holy Rosary Parish of West Seattle for the last 30 years. She had all her children attend Catholic schools and contributed generously to Catholic Charities and Mt. St Vincent.
Wilma enjoyed a challenging and vigorous life. She was fiercely independent, had a very healthy lifestyle, was financially successful and relished her role as her family’s beloved matriarch. She was preceded in death 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 burial service was held on March 25, 2022 at Willamette National Cemetery in Portland, Oregon, where she was interred with her husband Nort.
In lieu of flowers, remembrances can be made to the Providence Mt. St. Vincent Foundation in West Seattle, First Tee of Greater Seattle or Catholic Charities, USA
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Arrangements entrusted to Emmick Family Funeral Home of West Seattle