On April 1st, 2021, the Lakewood community lost a leader and role model for women in Washington State who were inspired by her example of completing her education while raising a family, not an easy task, and for battling brain cancer for over two years.
It is interesting to note that Kathie’s family history can be traced back to her pioneer Fairbanks family arriving in Massachusetts on the ship after the Mayflower. In fact the Fairbanks House is the oldest surviving timber frame house in the United States and was built by Puritan settler Jonathan Fairbanks in 1637 in Dedham, Massachusetts. Kathie’s grandfather was also a prairie preacher who traveled throughout Canada and the United States. His name, Frederick Amos, is listed as preaching in a church on Fox Island.
Kathie loved life and embraced it fully. She especially enjoyed being on the water or on the snow. She was an avid sailor and sailboat owner who participated in Puget Sound sailboat races for a number of years and was captain of a 40 foot sailboat going from Athens to the southern tip of Greece. Snow also held her attention. She loved Crystal Mountain, Mt. Hood and the Colorado ski slopes of Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Aspen and Steamboat. Alyeska in Alaska was another place she skied on her 50th birthday.
Kathie was both smart and a very creative artist who figured out unique ways to use yarn, rice paper, watercolors, and anything else she could get her hands on to create beautiful works of art. She also was a knitter. Both during and after retirement, Kathie loved to travel, both domestically and overseas. Italy was probably her favorite location and she visited there frequently.
Kathie also loved being from Ballard, where she and her one and only sibling Diane Best, both graduated from Ballard High School. She began her work career at age 14, working in her uncle’s Fort Lawton pharmacy in Seattle.
Other more notable career stops along the way included working as a purchasing agent for both Virginia Mason Hospital and the University of Washington Applied Physics Lab. She ended her purchasing career after 20 years at Harborstone Credit Union in Lakewood, retiring as a senior vice president and the only woman an all-male executive team. After Harborstone, she started and ran her own consulting company for five years focusing on the delivery of quality customer service.
In terms of higher education, Kathie spent one year at Linfield College and one year at the University of Washington where she was denied entrance to the School of Architecture because she was a woman. That never did sit well with Kathie. She then took a pause to focus on raising her two sons, David and Michael Theoe, while living in Maryland with her husband Don, a forester to whom she was married for 40 years. After moving back to the West Coast she resumed her education at Evergreen College where she earned a bachelor-of-arts degree in business management.
Kathie and her current husband Eric Warn thoroughly enjoyed a 20 year relationship and marriage that involved lots of travel and the blending in of children.
Kathie has touched many people throughout her life and career. In 2010 she was named mentor of the year for Washington State and honored by her sponsor, the Seattle Seahawks, for mentoring a young woman from the 4th grade all the way into college, after the woman’s mother tried to kill her.
Kathie also has the highest service award that McChord Air Force Base can give a civilian for her efforts to raise money for troop morale. It’s called the Bryce Lilly Service Award, which she received in 2004. Kathie was also honored by the Air Force by being named an honorary wing commander.
Kathie did much for her community, serving on the boards of both the Lakewood Chamber of Commerce, Communities in Schools, the American Red Cross and was board chairman of her National Credit Union Association. She was also president of Lakewood Women in Business.
Kathie shared that she would like to be remembered as a person who tried to make a difference in the lives of others. Memorial services will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 25, at Christ Lutheran Church, 8211 112th St SW, Lakewood.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.