Valerie Kay McDonald
December 18, 1952 - December 15, 2020
In the early hours of December 15, 2020, Valerie Kay McDonald lay back and exhaled a sigh that signaled it was time. Just like that, she was off, like a herd of turtles, finally relinquishing the gravitational pull she so powerfully commanded for 68 years.
Valerie was born in Yakima, Washington to Ann and Delmar Woods at the tail end of 1952, just as the season of change began to whisper. The middle of three sisters (joined later by a fourth when she was an adult) Valerie was mischievous and playful. Theirs was a childhood of pranks and adventure. Later she would laugh through tears as she regaled her family with stories about life with her sisters. It's a wonder, in all those years, that no one lost an ear.
Like many of her generation, Valerie took pieces of a changing world to stitch together the adult she would later become: Summers with her grandparents in central Washington learning to dehorn cattle gave her grit and instilled a hard work ethic. Evenings racing to shows in downtown Seattle – at a friend’s mom’s nightclub – imprinted the thrill of the deliciously romantic and dangerous world of rock-and-roll, where new ideas blossomed from her budding sense of self. Countless hours spent in backyards and high school bathrooms taught her the preciousness of friendship found in sisters and women who’d become sisters of the heart. As she grew into her own, she embarked on many grand adventures, both extraordinary and heartbreaking. The mosaic of Valerie was filled with life, with love and with a passion for living.
She married her first love, Mike, as a young woman, and together they moved to Okinawa, Japan. There she would swim in cerulean blue waters, tape-record her first typhoon to send it home for her family to experience, and welcome her new baby boy, Michael into the world. Though marriage to Michael’s father ended not too long after they returned to the U.S., she and her son would go on to build a relationship that great writers would envy.
On January 4, 1975, at a nightclub in Vancouver Washington, Valerie met a handsome stranger, who handed her a folded napkin. Thinking it was a phone number, she excused herself to the restroom to throw it away in private. What she found, however, was a poem dedicated to her beauty and grace. She was hooked. And thus Valerie and Wayne McDonald launched a romance for the ages. Decades later, she would retell the story of that night to a nurse, naming Wayne as the greatest love of her life.
Over the next several decades Wayne and Valerie grew a life and home together, sharing both triumph and tragedy. In 1978 they welcomed their daughter, Jennel, who delighted and challenged her mother in equal shares. Now a family of four, they settled down in Kent, a few miles from Valerie’s childhood home and close to her parents, sisters, and the ever expanding community of family and friends. In the early 90’s, Valerie's life changed forever when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a little known disease at that time. This disease dominated much of her later years, though it would not define her.
Valerie was a supernova. She was warmth and generosity; drama and excitement; beauty and courage. She loved big, laughed loudly, and made an impression. She hugged her friends and family long and hard, held the hands of those she loved, and always greeted you with a smile. She drank lattes with two raw sugars, often enjoying them from the passenger’s seat of her Dodge Charger as she gazed out onto Puget Sound, Wayne by her side. She told jokes, danced in the living room, and always baked yellow cake with chocolate frosting for her children’s birthdays. She hid Easter eggs, taught Jennel that Valentines’ Day was the most remarkable day to express love in all its forms, and believed in the spirit of Christmas for all her days. She colored pictures and mailed them to people to let them know she thought of them. In the last year of her life, she began to write poetry, putting to words the anguish of passing time. She was everything to us and we will miss her something fierce.
Now, this great woman rejoins that great love of her life to begin a new map of what comes next. We plan to lay her body to rest in the spring, when the daffodils are blooming and the sweetness of new beginnings are thick in the air -- just as she would have liked.
She leaves behind her son and his wife, Michael Woody and Lisa Woody, her daughter and her partner, Jennel McDonald and Jason Salim, her sisters, Vicki Steckler and Becky Palmer, her grandchildren, Abby Woody, Evynn Woody, Olivia Woody, and Shelbi Bell, and a tremendous community of family, friends, and loved ones.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but shall have eternal life. John 3:16
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