Mary Elizabeth (Olesen) Hunter
Moses Lake, WA
Mary Elizabeth (Olesen) Hunter, a 60-year resident of Moses Lake, WA, passed from this earth on August 13, 2013, at 12:45 p.m. at Confluence Health (formerly Central Washington Hospital) in Wenatchee. She was born March 22, 1922, in Sunnyside, WA to Danish immigrant parents, Morris and Ingrid (Jensen) Olesen. Her folks tenant-farmed a 168-acre farm there, where Mary and her younger sister, Ellen, would draw pictures of houses in the dirt, and then “people” them with rocks and imaginary furnishings. Her sister, Janet, arrived on January 18, 1934, her mother’s 34th birthday!
Mary would often say she and her sisters never felt the Great Depression too much since she and her family always had enough to eat. However, they did not have indoor plumbing or a telephone until she was 16. In 1938, the family moved to their own home on Sheller Road in Sunnyside. However, the farmhouse in which she and her two sisters were born still stands on Alexander Road, beautifully remodeled. She rediscovered it in 2008, on her annual Memorial Day trip to Sunnyside Memorial Gardens Cemetery to honor her loved ones there.
Mary’s parents valued education very highly. She graduated Salutatorian of her 1940 Sunnyside High School class, received their 1940 Citizen Cup Award, was a National Merit Scholar and a member of the Debate Club. After graduating, Mary was awarded a scholarship which enabled her to attend the University of Washington for one year. She then decided to enter the business world. In Tacoma, Mary worked as a secretary and office manager for Bennett and Dwyer Accountants. In Seattle, she was a secretary for the Arthur Andersen & Co. accounting firm, and later for the import/export companies of Hasken and Sells, and Trulson and Sunderland. Mary was trained by Best and Co. in Seattle as a part-time model. She once said that as a young woman she had often skipped meals in order to save money to buy designer suits!
In October of 1948, while working as the personal secretary to Glenn C. Lee (the editor of the then-new Tri-City Herald), Mary met her future husband, John Gordon “Jack” Hunter, Jr. She was attending a party hosted at the home of one of her dearest friends, Francis “Frannie” (and husband, Donald) Pugnetti of Pasco, and Jack had been invited by Frannie’s brother. She and Jack were married January 9, 1949, in the Pugnetti’s home.
In early 1950, the couple moved to Seattle, where Jack finished his Civil Engineering Degree at the University of Washington. Their only child, Sharon Lee, was born at Doctor’s Hospital in Seattle on July 18, 1950.
In 1952, they came to Moses Lake, where Jack managed the United Concrete Pipe manufacturing plant, and Mary worked as a secretary at Moses Lake High School for two years. In the fall of 1959, Jack was transferred to Auburn, WA, where he was employed at the United Concrete Pipe plant. Mary worked part-time there as a secretary. In early summer of 1962, the family was transferred back to Moses Lake.
From 1965 to 1970, Mary was the bookkeeper for Columbia Basin Machine shop. Her last job was office manager for the pipe company. She and Jack retired in 1983.
In her later years, Mary always marveled at how much Moses Lake (“Neppel” in the 1940’s) had grown from a few thousand people to the 21,000 it is today. She truly was a “pioneer” of the city.
Mary loved the Lord dearly and had been a member of the First Baptist Church in Moses Lake for 42 years, where she had typed the Sunday church bulletin and taught Sunday School to Kindergarteners, then 5th and 6th graders, for at least 20 years. She also assisted with office work at the church and acted as President for the Women’s Missionary Fellowship. She was very active in nearly every aspect of the church and had formed close and enduring friendships with many people, both young and old. Mary was an early financial supporter of the Moses Lake Christian School.
Volunteerism was Mary’s true passion. Through the years, she served as President of the Moses Lake Soroptimist Club and the Moses Lake Women’s Club, serving as President, Vice President, and then Treasurer until her illness in December 2008. She was a member and past President of Soroptimists International and the Mynah Toastmistress Club. She would sometimes giggle and say, “I was never in a club where I wasn’t President at one time or another!”
Mary served on the local American Cancer Society Board, the Humane Society Board, Moses Lake Hospice, the Washington State Literacy Council, did the bookkeeping for the Calico Cat Thrift Shop for many years (the proceeds of which went to the Humane Society), and had been a longtime board member of the Moses Lake-Grant County Humane Society (now called Grant County Animal Outreach). She had been a past President and member of “Friends of the Library” and had worked with the Women’s Club “Books for Babies” program at Samaritan Hospital.
In a 2002 Columbia Basin Herald article about the Calico Cat, Mary was quoted, “There is satisfaction in doing for others that you can’t get in any other way. I recommend it for everyone. It keeps you well and happy.”
In her home, she spent over ten years tutoring English to young wives of Japanese Airlines’ personnel under the Washington State Literacy Program. It was amazing how her modest home could accommodate up to six card tables for friends gathering for a potluck, games of Pinochle or Bridge, or Bible study. Mary also crafted beautiful crewel, cross-stitch, and needlepoint pieces, and was an avid reader and gardener.
After Jack’s and her retirement in 1983, Mary started to exercise her “Happy Feet”! They began their travels of the world in 1982 with a trip to Europe, and then to China in 1983. They visited Greece and Israel in 1985, the UK in 1986, and Italy in 1988.
When Jack passed in 1989, Mary began traveling with her younger sister, Janet Huff. Their first trip was to Spain and Portugal in 1990. Together they traveled down the Amazon in Brazil, rode elephants in Thailand, camels in Egypt, and rounded Cape Horn in a cruise ship. Mary would comment that she rarely got seasick, even in the roughest waters, due to her Danish Viking blood! She flew over the South Pole in 2004!
At the age of 85, Mary made her last overseas trip to France in April of 2007, to visit the beaches of Normandy, a place which had particular significance for the people of her generation. In all, Mary traveled to 56 foreign countries - from Algeria to Uruguay - had been to six continents, and had visited 36 states, including Alaska and Hawaii. Quite an amazing feat for a little farm girl of the Great Depression!
Mary is survived by her daughter, Sharon (Ken) Doop of Wenatchee; her sister, Janet Huff of Richland, WA; nieces, Cindy (Gary) Hotaling of Richland, and Kathy (Keith) Kurz of Rochester, NY; nephews, Stephen Malutich (Sandy) of Scottsdale, AZ, David (Paulette) Huff of Colleyville, TX, and Curtis (Cindy) Huff of Tacoma, WA; as well as four great-nieces; ten great-nephews; and two “adopted” grandchildren, Charity Jaecks Rios and Victor Jaecks. Their mother, Rachel Jaecks, was a most precious friend to Mary. Mary was preceded in death by her mother, Ingrid (Jensen) Olesen, in 1963; her father, Morris Olesen, in 1983; her husband, Jack, in 1989; and her sister, Ellen Malutich, of Erie, PA, in 1992.
Mary was a great and gracious lady. Those whom she loved were richly blessed.
Mary’s family would liked to thank the staff at Emeritus at Hearthstone Assisted Living facility in Moses Lake, where Mary had resided for the last two and a half years. Their care and concern for her was exemplary.
They also thank Mary’s cardiologist, Dr. Hogness of Wenatchee, and the personnel of the third-floor ICU at Confluence Health and Palliative Care team, who made Mary so comfortable during her last days.
A Celebration of Mary’s Life will be held Thursday, August 29, 2013, at 2:00 p.m. at the First Baptist Church in Moses Lake, located at 724 West 4th Avenue, with Pastor Andy Grenier officiating. Private Family Interment will be held at a later date at the Lower Valley Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Sunnyside, WA. In lieu of flowers, a contribution in Mary’s name to Grant County Animal Outreach, P.O. Box 489, Moses Lake, or to a charity of your choice, would be appreciated.
“May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest” ~ Hamlet, Prince of Denmark