Louise Griswold Runnings

Date of Birth

June 12th, 1928

Date of Death

May 21st, 2014

Memorial Meeting

University Friends Meeting


Louise Griswold Runnings, who died in Qualicum Beach, British Columbia, on May 21, 2014, was a member of University Meeting in Seattle from September 1965 until, on moving to Canada in 1994, she asked to withdraw, knowing she could no longer be as actively involved as she had been for 29 years. Because those of us who shared those years with her are aware of her great contributions to our fellowship, we have felt it appropriate to prepare this memorial.

Louise was born in Elgin, North Dakota, on June 12, 1928, her parents being Willard Fred Griswold Sr. and his wife, Elnora Louise Morgan. She grew up on a sheepherding homestead in Montana. The family moved to Seattle, due to her mother's failing health, when Louise was twelve. When her mother died two years later Louise, as the eldest of four, took over raising her siblings, the youngest of whom was then two. She attended Ballard High School then Seattle Pacific College (now University) for a BA in pre-medical studies, with every intention of becoming a doctor. This she abandoned to marry John Runnings in 1952.

John and Louise had met at Seattle's First Presbyterian Church but were later drawn to University Meeting to which they brought their growing family, and became members in 1965. In addition to their own children, Bryan, Anna, Gwyneth and Morgan, John and Louise regularly made a home for numbers of youngsters in need. In 1967 they made an unsuccessful attempt to adopt two Vietnamese orphans.

Both John and Louise were steadily involved in protests against the war in Vietnam, though Louise perhaps less radically than John (who was later best known for his climbing the Berlin Wall and attacking it with a sledge hammer). Though she supported John’s actions, she wanted to make clear the distinctions in her own thinking. When they refused to pay their federal taxes, she wanted to make known that she was a war-resister, not a tax-resister; she would happily have paid her tax if it weren’t for the military budget. She faithfully attended the weekly anti-war silent vigil on the steps of the downtown Seattle Library and, at all times, wore a large anti-war sign sewn on the back of her coat.

For several years she was hired to run our Meeting Office and, at one time or another, she held almost every position in the Meeting, including three years as co-clerk. She was willing handle all the necessary work, correspondence etc, but wanted someone else to clerk Business Meeting. She combined a sharp mind with a loving spirit and many Friends turned to her for helpful advice. She frequently missed Meeting for Worship because she was downstairs helping with the toddlers or in the kitchen preparing for hospitality hour. In those days of multiple pot-lucks, we could always count on her for providing delicious roasted chicken and being among those who did the cleaning up.

On moving to the northern part of Vancouver Island, where they could raise more of their own food and live more simply on their reduced income than was possible in Seattle, Louise asked to withdraw from Meeting. (John had withdrawn in 1984 to be freer to pursue his own “approach to de-militarization” in which he felt he had gone beyond “Friends’ presuppositions.”) Louise knew we no longer listed inactive members as such as and was not willing to accept that we continued to consider some of our distant Friends to remain active.

Two sentences from her letter requesting withdrawal are worth quoting here to convey a sense of her lovely spirit. One she presented as a quotation without identifying its author: “The perennial justification of Quakerism lies in its energetic assertion that the kingdom of heaven is within us; that we are not dependent upon any outward organization for our spiritual welfare.” The other reads: “Mind you, I can take me out of Meeting, but I can’t take Meeting out of me and it will always be ‘home’ to me.”