Ethel June Williams
December 15, 1925 – September 18, 2023
Ethel Williams passed away at the age of 97 on Monday, September 18 th surrounded by family. She was born Ethel Voege in Wenatchee, Washington. She had two brothers, Dick and Lee. After her parents divorced during the depression, her mother supported their family by working as a housekeeper entailing many moves all over Central and Eastern Washington: Priest Rapids, Entiat, Malott, Covada, Dryden, Cashmere, Sultan, Merritt, Outlook, Mabton, Dayton, and Tonasket.
On February 12th, 1943, Ethel married Albert Williams as he set off to the war in Europe. After his service ended and he completed college on the GI Bill, they ultimately settled on Mercer Island where they raised their five children: Allan, Paul, Mark, Teresa and Patrick. Ethel lived the most recent 37 years in West Seattle.
Ethel lived a life filled with curiosity, adventure, accomplishment, love of family, and love of life. She believed that age was no deterrent to fulfilling aspirations.
Ethel paved the way for women by refusing to be left behind by men. In her late 30’s, she pursued her dream to go to college, graduating Magna Cum Laude from the University of Washington. She continued her studies in 1967 as one of only 13 women in the UW law school, graduating 11th in her class and having been elected to Law Review. Ethel was 46 years old when she embarked on her legal career. For 18 years starting in 1978 she was a judge for the Board of Industrial Appeals primarily adjudicating worker’s compensation appeals. Ethel was passionate about politics, working to elect women and Democrat candidates and meeting prominent politicians including Gov. Christine Gregoire; Senators Patty Murry, Maria Cantwell and Elizabeth Warren; and Sen. (later President) Barack Obama.
Ethel joined the Seattle Mountaineers in her 30’s and earned the Ten Peak pin for climbing the tallest mountains in the state. In her 50’s she took up ocean kayaking. Later in life she fell in love with snorkeling, always the first in the water and last to leave. Her final snorkeling trip was at the age of 95 with her daughter Teresa. Ethel loved to travel and meet new cultures as well as pursue her avocation of birding. She traveled to 96 countries and sighted an extraordinary total of 5,834 species of birds. She was a long-time volunteer with the Seattle Audubon Society.
In between trips Ethel enjoyed quiet times in her home in West Seattle while reading and gardening. She never became complacent about the beauty of her waterfront home. She was always aware of and enthralled by it - the sea, the birds, the mammals, the boats, the mountains, and the sky. Ethel had an amazing variety of outings with her children, grandchildren, and their spouses to museums, gardens, parks, zoos, lighthouse tours, art studios and classes, theater and ballet, hot air balloon, horse racing, falconing, indoor sky-diving, and much more. She was up for any suggestion. She made a point of making them one-to-one so she could deepen her relationship with each family member. She adored her family and she was a true and loyal friend.
Ethel is survived by her sons, Allan and Patrick, her daughter Teresa, as well as ten grandchildren and two great grandchildren. She is dearly missed.
The family requests that any donations in her memory be made to Birds Connect Seattle (formerly Seattle Audubon) or to the ACLU.
What a lovely tribute to Ethel. She was quite a woman.
Many wonderful memories of Ethel when she volunteered at The Nature Shop - always coming from or planning an adventure, always with some pertinent thought or inquiry, and always with that wry smile. Definitely a role model in how to live.
Russ Steele, Nature Shop Manager 1998-2017