One casualty of the pandemic is how easy it has been to miss important civic milestones like the deaths of people who have made important contributions to our valley.
In May, I missed the passing of Grace Lynch, the wife of former Wenatchee Mayor Jim Lynch and one of the most gracious, caring and kind souls this valley has ever seen. I chatted with a few family members and close friends recently to learn more about her life and legacy.
Grace was a long-time nurse with the Chelan-Douglas Health District who worked with struggling young families. “Grace was the champagne of the health district,” observed retired administrator and close friend Pat Malone. There was an effervescence to her personality that brought joy to the people with whom she interacted.
“She did everything with grace and a flair,” said Malone. “She was so much fun to work with, always very upbeat, and could see the good side of people that she worked with,” she added.
Grace had four children from a previous marriage when she met Jim, who had six kids.
“About the most amazing thing was she took on six more kids and we were all teenagers,” marveled Trish Lautensleger, Jim’s daughter and the person who looked after Grace in the final months of her life.
Lautensleger remembers being 17 years old and thinking how ridiculous it was that Grace was in her 40s and going to nursing school. “I was a young woman watching her pursue her dreams,” she recalled, and that powerful example changed Lautensleger’s perception of what was possible in life.
The Lynches were enthusiastic Democrats in a valley that was mostly conservative. Jim served multiple terms as Wenatchee’s mayor and also was a Chelan County commissioner. This was before the era of hyper partisanship and when the pursuit of the public good was the highest priority.
Jim and Grace were deeply involved in politics and in the community. Grace served for many years on the Central Washington Hospital Foundation, the Wenatchee Valley College Board of Trustees and the Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center.
Friend Suzanne MacPherson said Grace perfectly reflected her name. She was a beautiful woman inside and out. She was always impeccably dressed and was a gifted hostess at social functions. But more important was that she cared deeply about other people, her children, step-kids and the families that she worked with as a nurse. When Grace talked to you, MacPherson noted, she was more interested in what you had to say rather than in talking about what she was thinking.
“I thought she was a beautiful human being — the epitome of grace,” said MacPherson.
Her husband was the “saucy Irishman” who seemed far more spontaneous and unfiltered, she added. They were both a lot of fun to be around and did so much good for our valley. They devoted themselves to making it a better place.
Grace had a few quirks, her friends told me. She was very conscious of her appearance and also her age. When Grace turned 50, Malone remembered that they threw her a surprise party at the health district complete with a banner outside announcing her age and lots of gag gifts. “She didn’t think it was nearly as funny as the rest of us did,” Malone said with a laugh.
Another friend, Eva Renn, recalled the two couples traveling to Canada and having a fire alarm go off in their hotel. Eva, her husband Joe and the rest of the guests hurried down to the lobby in their pajamas. Jim and Grace Lynch showed up much later and were fully dressed.
Jim said, “Grace couldn’t make up her mind what to wear to a fire,” Renn recalled.
Social media platforms, news media and both political parties are doing much to pull us apart as a country. It would behoove us to ignore those messages and emulate the good people from both parties who worked to make our valley better — like Grace Lynch.
We were indeed fortunate to have Grace Lynch in our valley. She set a wonderful example for how a person can make a tangible difference by caring and contributing.
Rufus Woods is the publisher emeritus of The Wenatchee World. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (509) 665-1162.