In peace, Mildred passed away January 6, 2015 at her home. She was 104 years old.
Mildred Esther Williamson was born November 17, 1910 near Plankinton, South Dakota to Martin and Nettie Winkel Williamson. Martin’s parents emigrated from Norway and Nettie’s parents emigrated from Germany. Martin lived to be 108, Nettie, 104.
Martin was a farmer and Quaker minister, Nettie a homemaker and extraordinary hostess. Four more children were born into this family, Viola, William, Daryld and Winnette. In the spring of 1918, the family moved to western South Dakota buying a farm near Vale. Martin became the pastor of the Empire Friends Church and together Martin and Nettie created a caring rural community. “There wasn’t money for luxuries, but we had good food and, thanks to my mother’s ability to sew, good clothing”, Mildred related. This close-knit family was a source of strength for Mildred’s lifetime.
Mildred contracted polio at the age of 4. There were seven cases in the area. Surviving the disease defined her character. She was quietly determined, independent, practical, and empathetic. At twelve she went alone by train to a sanitarium in St. Louis Missouri for physical therapy rehabilitation for six months. Her mother wrote to her every day. In 1966 she learned shoemaking, a skill she used for herself for 25 years. She walked until she was 95 and retained her freedom using a motorized wheelchair until she passed.
Mildred rode her horse or walked to a one-room rural elementary school. The first 2 years of high school she attended the Nebraska Central Academy at Central City, Nebraska. She graduated valedictorian from Newell High School, Newell South Dakota. She received her BA degree from William Penn College, Oskaloosa, Iowa in 1933. After graduation she taught all the elementary grades in a one room rural schoolhouse for three years.
Mildred married Wayne Ellis Joyce, also a William Penn graduate, in June 1936. The wedding was officiated by her father in the little country church that he pastored for forty-one years. Wayne taught high school math and science at Vale and Belle Fourche, SD. Two children were born, Sonneva in 1937, and Ellis in 1940. When the war ended in 1945, the family moved to Seattle, WA and Wayne taught at Foster High School for one year then went into the construction business. Another son, Norlin, was born in 1947. Wayne built a house at the foot of Cougar Mountain in the Issaquah area. Mildred lived there 66 years until her death.
Mildred’s love of gardening created a beautiful, peaceful setting for her home with a large collection of rhododendrons, many flowers, raspberries, and vegetables. She was an excellent cook and seamstress, making clothes for herself and her family.
In 1955 Mildred returned to teaching elementary school and in 1961 she transitioned to special education. Graduate work was completed at Central, Western, and the University of Washington. She taught in the Lake Washington School District until retirement in 1976. She subsequently worked for 20 years with the Bellevue Probation Department as a volunteer counselor for offenders, guiding over fifty people.
After retirement, Mildred and Wayne traveled to Egypt, England, Wales, Scotland, and Norway. They attended Elder Hostels in four states and two other countries, several focusing on Native American cultures.
Mildred and Wayne were founding members of Eastside Monthly Meeting in Bellevue, WA. From 1957 until her death Mildred was an active, guiding and steady force within this Quaker community.
Her wisdom, compassion, and love were bestowed on three children, ten grandchildren, fourteen great-grandchildren, and one great-great grandchild. Wayne died in 2004. Mildred has two living siblings, Daryld and Winnette. Held in high regard by family, many relatives have traveled to visit her in recent years including the joyous occasion of her 100th birthday.