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HOMETOWN HERO: Mother Earth and Boy Scout, too

Loretta Wilson beams with one of her trademark smiles. Friends and family describe her as a giver, the perfect neighbor and the closest person to a saint they know. - Brian Kelly / The Record
Loretta Wilson beams with one of her trademark smiles. Friends and family describe her as a giver, the perfect neighbor and the closest person to a saint they know.
— image credit: Brian Kelly / The Record

Loretta Wilson embodies all of the qualities of a Boy Scout, says neighbor Pat Connors.

“For some reason I remember all of the Boy Scout laws: trustworthy, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent,” says Connors.

“I have never met anyone that lives all of these attributes until I met Loretta. Every year on my wife’s and my birthdays, we open our blinds and there, stuck in the bushes, is a handmade sign saying ‘Happy Birthday,’” he adds. “Each Christmas she makes homemade pies and handmade wreaths for all of the neighbors. She walks daily and cleans the beach, and makes works of art as gifts from beach treasures.

“She is our watchdog for the neighborhood. When one of us is laid up with medical problems, she’s there to help and bring meals. She and her sister Ruth organize parties for neighbors past and present.”

Connors says Wilson cares about all people, animals and all of nature.

Neighbor Darrell Scott describes Wilson as Mother Earth and the Martha Stewart of Whidbey.

“She’s the perfect neighbor; you should see the driftwood Christmas tree she made for us this year.

“She has opened my wife and my eyes to so much about nature and life.

“She’s a giver,” he quickly adds. “One time I mentioned how much I liked alliums and garlic. Next thing I know Loretta brings over a variety of alliums plants and garlic bulbs and together we went out in my yard and dug and planted in the rain.

“When she comes to our home, it’s never empty-handed. Last time she made me a spirit stick; she studies Indian lore. She loves volunteering for her church, and all over the community. Loretta never judges people, though her husband was a judge and her son Joe is running for superior court judge. She treats all with kindness and love. She’s the closest to a saint I know.”

Wilson says, “Under God’s system, we are all created equal. I have a real hard time when people are treated as underclass.” She ponders with sadness about the Indian children taken from their parents so they would be raised “civilized.”

“What a tragedy. Unless someone is being harmed, who are we to tell another group of people or try to convert another nation into our way of living? I think the Lord created us all equal but different.”

She is disheartened why some people who idolize or look up to sports figures or movie stars.

“Especially if they deserted their children, cheat on their spouses or take drugs. I think to be honored as a role model a person’s whole life ought to be held to the same standard as on the ballfield or the big screen.”

Driving up to the home Wilson shares with her sister Ruth Stibre, the garden atmosphere — along with hand made-beach art, oars and a smiley face on their mailbox — is engaging.

Wilson opens your car door to welcome you. Seated at their dining room table, their cat comes over for a nestle.

Wilson serves homemade chowder — with clams she and her sister dug and shucked — along with homemade oatmeal cookies made from scratch.

A gift beside the plate is a basket of handmade smiley-face rocks.

What is it like for two grown sisters to live together?

“It’s been a great way of living for 10 years,” Wilson answers easily. “We pooled our resources and are able to live a much better life.”

Wilson adds, “and Ruth puts up with me being bossy, pushy and loud.”

From the back room, her sister hearing this says, “Bossy and pushy, yes, but you’re not loud.”

What’s one thing people don’t know about her?

“I hope when I sing in church most don’t notice I have a terrible voice.”

Her sister chimes in, “Your voice isn’t all that bad. I think what most people don’t know about you is that you have a disease that hinders your daily life.”

Stibre continues, “About 20 years ago, my sister came down with polymyalgia. This rheumatoid disease literally collapsed her muscles, making her bedridden for months. She can get around now, but still she always takes a nap at 2 p.m. and has to go to bed at 7 p.m. in order to keep her strength up. But I don’t think anyone knows she deals with this.”

Still, says Stibre, her sister cheerfully volunteers for more organizations than she can count.

Wilson says, “Well, there are certainly a lot of people a lot worse off than I. I am thankful for the time I am able to do things.”

She says she doesn’t fight things she can’t change.

Wilson had ten children; seven boys and three girls.

“The one thing I would change about raising them is to spend more time with each one individually. As parents we get caught up sometimes in the mechanics of parenting. This is just as true for a parent of one child; having 10 children isn’t nine times busier.”

She says the hardest part of parenting has been the passing of her two sons.

“I suppose one never really gets over that kind of loss. We have two angels in Heaven; Patrick Joseph, passed away at just three days old. John Frances perished in a car accident when he was only 16.”

The youngest living son, Thomas Wilson, calls to say, “Our mom was meant to be a mom.

“Being a mom was clearly her calling. Nothing about it was a chore for her. She’s my mom and my best friend, too,” he says. “She’s Mother Earth, she makes candles, finds smoke wood, grows her own herbs. Mom made our growing up a real fairy tale story come true. We were the ‘Sound of Music’ family. We went to church together every Sunday and sat in the front pew.”

The family faced its challenges head-on, he said.

“Our parents never yelled at us, but they had rules and a commanding presence. Mom stayed home with us, and all the neighborhood kids congregated at our house. When my brother John died at 16 years old, the family stood together for one another, though I believe John’s death is what later split our parents up. Yet you never would have known we came from a divorced family. I was only 10 years old; still they made sure the kids came first. Neither of our parents ever spoke a harsh word about the other.”

He adds his mom can stretch a penny around the world, and held the Indian leg-crossing championship until she was 60.

“I volunteered this year with mom at Hearts & Hammers, and we had a great time together. I wish every child could have a mom as neat as ours.”

Wilson leans in, looking into your eyes. Folding her hands, her words seem three dimensional.

She smiles while thinking about how all of her children reach out to help others. “Their father and I tried to teach them to give without expectations.”

She thinks of a couple of examples in her life.

“When I began working downtown Seattle at the courthouse, I went out and purchased a lot of strong warm gloves to pass out to the homeless folks I walked past. The first gentlemen I offered a pair to took them from me and threw them on the ground.

“Not everyone’s reactions were like that. Another time my son and I spent the weekend clearing all the brush from a community park so everyone could use it. We went home feeling really good about what we had done. But the next day someone found out it was us and paid us a visit and yelled at us for not asking him first.

“I have to admit I came back in the house and cried. Then I got busy and baked him a pie, but he refused it. Sadly I never did find a way to reach out to him before he passed away.”

Jean Duffy has been in charge of St. Hubert’s bazaar and Wilson brought in more than a hundred of her homemade jars of jam, all varieties and 14 pies and packets of her homemade herbs for the church fundraiser.

Duffy says, “Loretta is a Christian lady who evangelizes with her smiles, her humility, taking care of the earth God created and an eagerness to help others.”

Wilson has a deep faith and compassion for all people. She talks about a dream she has to open a home for wayward souls.

When asking if she is lacking the power to open one, she quickly says only God has true power.

“I am afraid those that think they have power generally use it for their own purpose,” she says.

If someone came to the door and handed her power, Wilson says she would blow it in the wind like the white-seeded flowers of a dandelion, so a little power could reach everyone.

“We don’t need power, that’s for God. Our power is in loving our neighbors.”

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