Bernice Grinnell

May 25, 1928 – Sep 4, 2015

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Obituary

Bernice Grinnell passed away peacefully surrounded by her children on September 4, 2015 at Highline Medical Center in Burien, Washington. She was 87 years old.

Born Bernice Margaret Davison on May 25, 1928 in a farmhouse in Balsam Lake, Wisconsin to parents Floyd Davison and Bertha Alice Voge. The eighth of twelve children, her elder siblings were Louise, Marie, Lucille, Kenneth, Wallace, Wesley and Rolland, and younger siblings Melvin, Eleanor, Joanne and Delores. Bernice was the daughter who bore the closest resemblance to her mother.

Her mother Bertha was first generation American. Both of her parents (Henry Voge and Louise Meyerhenry) and their families emigratd from Germany in the mid 1800s. Her father Floyd was third cousin to stage actress Maude Adams, the first actres to portray “Peter Pan” on Broadway in 1905. Miss Adams mother and Floyd’s mother were second cousins, and their parents in turn had grown up together in Plattsburg, New York. Bernice’s grandmother, Ella Scribner Davison, was also a cousin to the founders of the Scribner Publishing House. Both families eventually found their way to Minnesota, where Bertha and Floyd met and married. They eventually settled in the St. Croix Falls area of western Wisconsin.

Bernice was the only first grade student in the tiny one room Pleasant Hill School in 1934, but thereafter attended Lamar School. The family moved yearly during the Great Depression because the harvests weren’t enough to pay the rent on the farm. She enjoyed riding her bicycle for hours, something her son would mirror some 40 years later. Warned not to continue her avid reading during a bout with the measles, Bernice continued anyway, leading to the glasses she would wear the rest of her life. While sledding on the farm one Winter, Bernice riding on top of a doubles partner sledded under a barbed wire fence which caught her just next to her eye. Her mother and fraternal Grandmother Ella Davison sewed it closed on the kitchen table leaving a scar that would remain throughout her life. Throughout it all the family maintained a close relationship which few can boast today.

The family settled into a permanent home in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin in 1945 with funds provided by twin sons Wallace and Wesley who both served in the Merchant Marines during the war. Bernice had a total of four brothers serve in the war and theirs was one of the few homes to feature four service stars in the front window. The house in St. Croix would remain the family home until the turn of the 21st Century. After graduating from St. Croix Falls High School in 1946, Bernice and twin first cousins Doris and Doreen Davison lived together for a time in St. Paul, Minnesota where Bernice worked for a time as a typist for Northwest Orient Airlines. In about 1953 she relocated to Seattle, following elder sister Lucille who had come in 1950. Their mother’s sister Elsie Voge and husband Carson already lived in Seattle. Bernice’s younger sister Eleanor would follow soon thereafter along with first cousins Doris and Doreen.

In 1955, a woman from Bernice’s church arranged for her to meet one of her tenants, William Grinnell. A romance ensued and they were married a year later on May 12, 1956. They bought a house in Burien in 1959, moving in over Thanksgiving. It would remain the family home until Thanksgiving of 1997. Son William Edward Grinnell was born in February of 1964, followed by daugher Julie Ann Grinnell in January of 1966. Both children inherited the red hair which passed down through Bernice’s mother, Bertha. Bernice worked at home as a typist for an Insurance Investigation company until the late 70s when she began to work outside the home, and began working for the State of Washington in 1981 until her retirement in 1990. While there she received a Special Commendation for her hard work from Governor Booth Gardner. Her husband William worked as an Upholsterer in seveal factories, one custom shop, and for a time with his own business in their home. One of his clients was an interior decorator who was the wife of the first general Manger of the Seattle Mariners, Dick Vertlieb. William retired in 1988.

Bernice enjoyed flowers, reading and travel. She planted Petunia’s every year along with Tomatos, and liked Tulips, Roses and Dahlia’s. She had curly Strawberry Blonde hair and Green eyes, and stood all of 4 feet 10 1/2 inches tall. Her favorite TV show was “The Fugitive” but also enjoyed the game shows “The Price is Right” 1

“Family Feud” “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopordy.” She also watched “Pawn Stars,” the local news on KIRO (particularly weatherman Harry Wappler) and Chris Mathews. Her favorite singer was Bing Crosby, whose movies she also enjoyed along with those of John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Westerns and Musicals. Her favorite movies were “The Best Years of Our Lives” and “State Fair.” In addition to her favorite singer Bing Crosby she liked the music of the 1940s. She was a life long reader. She read the newspaper every day, and later in life read Romance novels. She loved eating out in Restarrants, her favorites were Ivar’s Salmon House and Huckleberry Square. Her favorite foods were Crab Louis and Salmon. She didn’t learn to drive until she was in her 40s. She drove a brown Ford Pinto in the 70s and bought a green Dodge Stratus after her husband died in the late 1990s, having driven a red Ford Fairmont, a blue station wagon and a blue Dodge Caravan in between. Her favorite color was either Blue (according to her son Bill) or Green (according to her daughter Julie) She always followed the local Seattle sports teams and played the office football lottery every week. She remained close to her family, spending many hours on the phone with sister Eleanor and cousin Doreen. There was always a place on Holidays for her unmarried sister Lucille. For many years there was poker on Saturday nights with family friends Bill and Florence Dziuk and their son Terry Dziuk and his wife Sue. She perhaps loved her house most of all.

Bernice and her husband reloacted to an apartment in Burien along with son William in 1997. Her husband Bill died very shortly thereafter from complications due to Parkinson’s Disease on February 10, 1998. She would continue to live in the apartment with her son Bill for the rest of her life. Her daughter Julie married in 1993 and had two children, Jacob and Josh. One of her last public outings was attending Jacob’s High School Graduation in June, 2015. She ate out at the Poodle Dog restaurant afterwards, the same restaurant she ate at on her third date with her husband, Bill.

She remained in good health for many years, always being mistaken for being much younger than her actual years like many in her family. A string of illnesses in 2015 finally caught up with her and she passed away from complications due to stroke. She was a fighter up to the very end.

She will be remembered for her incredibly kind, caring nature, quiet manner and sweet disposition. She will be missed deeply by her children William Grinnell of Burien and Julie Sorrell of Federal Way, Grandsons Jacob Sorrell and Josh Sorrell, Sisters Eleanor Barber of Green Bay, Wisconsin and Delores Davison of St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, and Sister-in-law Marian Davison also of St. Croix Falls. She is also survived by several surviving cousins including Jane Poppe of Lake Forest Park, Washington, 24 nieces and nephews from her own family and 22 from her husband’s along with brother-in-law Clifford Grinnell, sister-in-law Shirley Grinnell and a scattering of great nieces and nephews.

Guestbook

Barbara Christensen Rostad
Fridley, MN
Oct 10, 2015

I loved my Aunt Bernice and miss her. Even though we lived far apart for many years we kept in touch via telephone calls in recent years through the few trips I made to Seattle. I miss her friendly voice and laugh!

Connie Lein
Ft Myers, FL
Sep 21, 2015

Bernice sounds like a lovely person and loving mom. She had a wonderful life with friends and family. It was fun to read about her social life. Also, now I know where the strawberry blonde hair comes from. Thank you, Bill, for giving us a chance to get to know her through your writing.

Your cousin, Connie Lein

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