Arlene (Olive Irene Auvil) Chambers, age 96, passed into the presence of Jesus on the morning of Dec. 28, 2019. Born July 27, 1923, at the Birthing House on Edgecliffe Drive in Langley, Wash., to Virgil and Mabel (Wilson) Auvil, Arlene grew up on South Whidbey with older brother, Douglas Auvil, and little sister, Tootie (Clarice Auvil Young), on a ranch at the end of Log Cabin Road.
Valedictorian of Langley High School Class of 194l, Arlene gave up her scholarship (to another student) to work at Star Store in Langley, then Fort Lawton Commissary in Seattle. A blind date led to an eight-day courtship and engagement to Bill (William Joseph) Chambers, from Pennsylvania. After his two-year service in the Aleutian Islands, they married at the old Clinton Hall on May 21, 1944. A second deployment took Lt. Chambers across the Atlantic in a troop transporter from Tennessee to Italy while Arlene drove home alone, across country, with gas ration coupons and while pregnant.
In October 1945, Bill returned to Whidbey Island to Arlene and 6-week old daughter, Charlene Kay. A year later, sister Carole Sue arrived, and the family moved to a small farm on Andreason Road and Bill took a job with Puget Sound Power and Light. A son, Joe, (William Joseph Jr.) was born at home in 1948. By the time a fourth child came along, Arlene convinced a reluctant young Dr. Morris Gold, new to South Whidbey, to attend the birth of Marietta Belle at home with the aid of an experienced nurse. Dr. Gold went on to become an acclaimed advocate of home births.
Arlene worked behind the scenes. She spearheaded a project at Deer Lake’s public access, building a raft for public swimming lessons. She mentored many in harvesting and preserving food, digging clams and picking cranberries. An avid reader, gifted seamstress, upholsterer and leather-worker, she won grand prize in Arts and Crafts at the 1980 Island County Fair for her leather portrait, “Jesus: The Good Shepherd.”
A 1968 flight across the Pacific to visit a pregnant daughter in the Peace Corps changed her reluctant husband’s mind about air travel and opened doors to Colombia, South America, Australia and New Zealand, Portugal and Scotland.
Widowed in 1989, Arlene was active in her church, (House of Prayer) where her maple bars and Texas sheet cakes were famous. She served in the Langley Community Club, volunteered at the South Whidbey Historical Society and enjoyed “Soup’s On” lunches at Island Church. In her final months WhidbeyHealth’s Hospice team gave assistance and comfort to Arlene and her caregiving family.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Bill; son, Joe; and grandson, Ron Hanson. She is survived by her three daughters, Charlene (Owen) Baldwin, Carole (Mark) Taylor and Marietta (Mike) Strevel; 16 grandchildren, Ted (Katy) Baldwin, Toby (Laura) Baldwin, Serawit (Azeb) Hailu, Hope (Chad) Brian; Joe (Joni) Hanson, Holli Hanson, Jennifer (John)Moller, Lisa Hanson (Ian Fishburn) and Rich Hanson; Greg (Wendy) Chambers, Eric Chambers, Keith Chambers and Teresa Chambers; Michelle (Brian) Sterba and Mason (Jodi) Strevel; 22 great-grandchildren; and three great-great grands.
We will gather to honor her life and death at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25, at South Whidbey Assembly of God, 5373 Maxwelton Road, Langley. Donations in her memory may be sent to Island Church Soup Kitchen, P.O. Box 322, Langley WA 98260