Bessie M. Leese

Bessie M. Leese

Longtime Whidbey Island resident Bessie Marie Leese, age 94, passed away in her home on Aug. 2 with her family by her side.

Bessie Marie Mott was born in Sandpoint, Idaho, Dec. 26, 1921, to John Robert and Pauline Augusta (Ruthart) Mott. She was the last living child of a family of nine children.

When Bessie was still a small child, her family moved to Grandview, Wash. At the age of 13, she and her family moved to Greenbank on Whidbey Island, and were caretakers for a home located on the northern edge of Lake Hancock. She often said about living in Greenbank that she and her brother “thought they had died and gone to heaven!” Shortly after moving to the island, she met her lifelong friend Mildred Bakken and her brother Paul Bakken. She and Mildred spent many a day riding horses instead of attending school!

Bess attended Coupeville High School and graduated in 1939.

She married Elwood (Ed) C. Leese in October of 1940, and they continued to live in Greenbank until 1945. They then moved to New Jersey until 1949. Then it was back to Greenbank and the small farm that they purchased. What a wonderful place to raise nine children! Then in 1996, she and Ed moved to Admirals Cove for the remainder of her years. She was preceded in death by her husband Ed in 1999, and grandson Wade Cameron Leese in 1993. She was also preceded in death by her mother; father; brothers, Ken, Jim, Lucias, Bud and Mickey; and sisters, Polly, Puss and Dorothy. She is survived by her nine children, Malcolm (Sue) Leese of California, Wayne (Ryoko) Leese of Japan, Paul (Nancy) Leese of California, Jani (Jay) Smith of Plain, Wash., Kitty (Tom) Stewart of Coupeville, Lori (Ron) Ingram of Everett, Tim (Denise) Leese of Lynnwood, Steve Leese of Marysville and Gerry Leese of Coupeville. She has left behind 33 grandchildren, many great-grandchildren, and a few great-great grandchildren.

Ask anyone who knew her what a hard worker she was. She was still working in her flower and vegetable gardens into her nineties. During her long career she was employed as a farmer, housekeeper, gardener, caregiver and cook. She raised sheep, cows, pigs, ducks, geese, chickens, horses, cats, dogs and lots of kids, and tended a huge vegetable garden on the family farm.

She worked in a Seattle shipyard where she was employed as an electrician and welder during WWII. During the 1960s, she worked as a housekeeper, cook and gardener for Ann and Max Meerkerk. She planted many of the rhododendrons seen in the woods surrounding the original home (now Meerkerk Rhododendron Gardens).

She was an amazing and wonderful person, loved by all who knew her. Bess had a long and fruitful life, full of wonder and joy. She will be greatly missed.

A private family graveside service was held Aug. 13, 2016, at Sunnyside Cemetery. A larger celebration of her life will be held at a later date (to be announced).

Her family would like to thank Whidbey General Hospital’s ER staff, Home Health and Hospice staff, and a special thanks to Dr. Mahal and the CCU nurses, as well as all of the med/surgery nurses involved with the care of our mother.

Arrangements entrusted to Wallin Funeral Home, Oak Harbor. Please visit Bessie’s page in the Book of Memories online at to share memories and condolences.

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