Madeline Hilton Permenter

Madeline Hilton Permenter died Feb. 19, 2003, at Exeter House in Seattle.

She was born Feb. 20, 1924, in Langley at the maternity home on Edgecliff Drive. She was raised in Freeland on Wahl Road by her parents and pioneer grandparents, the Hiltons and the Dows. She walked to grade school at the Mutiny Bay School and graduated from Langley High School in 1942.

She then moved to Seattle to work, and frequently took the bus home to Whidbey Island. On one excursion home, she was driving the family car to Deception Pass with a picnic lunch and a date. Billy John Permenter, a sailor from South Carolina, was hitchhiking north from Oak Harbor. She picked him up and asked him to join them. She married Billy John Permenter Jan. 25, 1945.

The couple spent their first years together in Cherry Grove Beach, S.C., and they owned the first self-service grocery store on what is now Myrtle Beach. Mrs. Permenter was constantly homesick, and they drove to Whidbey Island each fall. They enjoyed exploring the country together and never took the same route twice. Billy finally said they needed to settle on one coast or the other, and they moved to Whidbey Island in 1950, buying a home on Dow Road.

She joined the South Whidbey Garden Club in the early 1950s, and was its president, then district director and was on the state board of directors. She was floral superintendent at the Island County Fair for more than 20 years. She was a WSU Master Gardener, a nationally accredited landscape designer, and a Master Life Flower Show Judge, traveling all over Western Washington to judge county fairs and other flower shows. She is missed by her friends in the Evergreen Designer’s Guild, the Evergreen Judges Council and the Washington State Federation of Garden Clubs.

The bookmobile originally came to Whidbey Island due in part to Madeline and Billy Permenter. There were no public libraries on Whidbey and service was provided by the Sno-Isle Regional Library System bookmobile. When the bookmobile needed a place to park, the couple allowed it to park in their driveway.

Mrs. Permenter was a crossword puzzle whiz, most often completing The New York Times Sunday crossword in ink before noon.

The Permenters were members of the Rod and Gun Club, the American Legion, and she retained her membership at the Eagles Club after Billy’s death in 1983. She played pinochle there the day before her stroke, March 29, 2002, raising money for charities.

According to her family, she had a beautiful, quick smile, a thoughtful hand, twinkling eyes, a fast mind, an accurate tongue and a heart of gold. She held herself with elegance and grace through very difficult times in her last year without complaint.

She is survived by two sons, Thomas Alan Permenter (Dione Murray) and Terry Owen Permenter (Rhonda); a nephew, Timothy Noel Permenter (Ellen); three grandchildren, Jesse Permenter (Belinda), Abe Murray (Deanna) and Jamie Permenter (Rusty Taft); a great-grandchild, Chase Taft; and family members Karen and Craig Funston, sons Kjel and Peter, and Marlene and Brian Orlick, children Bobby and Elise.

A celebration of the lives of Madeline and Billy Permenter will be held at the Langley American Legion Hall at 2 p.m. March 9. Those coming from off-island must take the ferry from Edmonds due to construction at Mukilteo. A buffet will be provided following the services. The family wishes to thank all the thoughtful health care providers they’ve come to know and depend on this past year.

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