Skip to main content

Sheila FitzGerald Umlauf

Sheila FitzGerald Umlauf was born March 2, 1925 in Scottsbluff, Nebraska---the second daughter of attorney Joseph M and Gretchen Easterling FitzGerald.  She was very close to her family, especially her only sibling, Mary Jo FitzGerald Prudhomme (deceased).  The family moved to Denver, Colorado in 1935.  Sheila Graduated East High in 1943 and won a scholarship to the University of Denver where she joined the sorority Pi Beta Phi.

As the country was at war, most of the registered nurses in the US were in the Army or Navy, leaving few to fill the needs of civilian hospitals.  The U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps was created to fill those needs.  After a year at the University, Sheila enlisted in the US Cadet Nurse Corps and received her nursing diploma from Denver's Children's Hospital.  She passed the Colorado State Registered Nurse (R.N.) exam in 1947. 

While on a tour of duty as a Cadet Nurse at the Veterans hospital in New Mexico in 1947, Sheila met and married USAF Major John L Umlauf (now deceased)--a marriage that lasted 28 years.  As a West Point graduate, John was a career military man.  This meant that the family travelled frequently, in the US as well as abroad, where her third son, Robert, was born.  In 1962, John was transferred to Seattle where he subsequently retired.

Finally able to continue her education, Sheila enrolled at the University of Washington where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree, and was honored as the outstanding R.N./B.S. student in 1965.  In 1968, she also earned a Master's degree in Public Health Nursing, with minors in Sociology and Business administration.  Sheila then pursued a career in public health--mainly with public schools.  Later, she was selected to help develop the Washington State School Immunization Manual.

Sheila also earned an Educational Staff Associate Certificate (ESA)-- a credential for support staff in non-teaching positions--such as school psychologists.  She served in Kent, WA as well as Seattle, and later was appointed Supervisor of Health Services for the Seattle School District.  While there, she filed a gender discrimination complaint with a federal agency (EEOC)  whose ruling was instrumental in obtaining for Seattle District school nurses a salary equal to that of others with an ESA credential.

Sheila spent more than twenty-five years volunteering with the King County chapter of the American Red Cross.  There she taught instructors of First Aid and Home Health.  Sheila also served as a Disaster Response Nurse in local and national emergencies, including a Red Cross shelter after the explosion of Mount Saint Helens in Washington in 1980.

In 1985, at age sixty--and encouraged by her lawyer son, Roy--Sheila retired from nursing and in 1988 passed the Washington State bar exam after graduating from Seattle University with a Juris Doctor degree.  Because Sheila had a pension, an annuity and social security, she felt no need to accept offers for a paying position, and her entire legal career was pro bono:  She volunteered weekly at the Northwest Women's Law Center (now Legal Voice) where she served on the Board of Directors and helped develop materials for women who needed help with legal problems.  Sheila also was active with the King County Bar Association where she was co-chair of the Volunteer Legal Clinics Committee, supervised a free weekly law clinic and made visits to assist home-bound clients with their estate planning.  Sheila was trained by the IRS to assist seniors with tax returns and she did so for many years at Seattle Senior Centers.

Among Sheila's honors were awards for pro bono services from the King County and American Bar Associations, and the NW Women's Law Center.  She was also commended by the Washington State Bar Association for her help in obtaining Emeritus status (with reduced bar dues) for retired attorneys willing to offer free legal counsel to those who need such services but can't afford them.

In her leisure time, Sheila was a long time supporter of the Seattle Symphony and Opera.  As for sports, Sheila was a lifelong baseball fan.  She attended the games of the Seattle Pilots' only season, and still has her ticket from the very first Seattle Mariner game in 1977.  Sheila was also a frequent traveler abroad.  One memorable trip was with a group of nurses who visited Russia to observe the Soviet health system under Stalin.

Sheila often said that one of the best things in her life was that she and her husband raised a family of four terrific sons: John, Jr., Mark, Robert, and Roy Umlauf, each with a unique temperament and special gifts.  In addition to her sons and sister, Sheila was also blessed with five grandsons, three granddaughters, and many cousins, nephews, and nieces.

After a series of surgeries, Sheila was unable to carry out daily activities without assistance, so she retired to a residential facility where she remained as active as permitted by her physical limitations.  While there, Sheila served a term as president of the Resident Council.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that remembrances be directed to Legal Voice, the UW School of Nursing, Seattle U School of Law, or the Seattle Chapter of the Red Cross.



She was an inspiration for all the junior women in the family! I remember her most for her always happy positive demeanor. All her boys were blessed to have her for their mother. A loss to the family and society for all her generosity and caring.

Love to you - John, Mark, Bob, Roy and her grandchildren.


Make a donation to People's Memorial