Dee Dee Rainbow, known for her multicolored parasol and wand, eye-glitter and exuberant good cheer at jazz and other outdoor arts events, died Tuesday. She was 81. The cause was heart disease.
Ms. Rainbow — that was her legal last name, changed from Raible in the ’70s — died peacefully, waiting for a guest at the North Seattle senior group home where she had lived the past five years.
“It seemed out of character for mom to go with nobody in the room,” said her daughter, Deborah Raible. “Generally, she would have been surrounded by an entourage.”
Indeed, Ms. Rainbow’s capacity to attract attention was legendary. Raible said one of her favorite memories of her mother was watching her walk down the sidewalk downtown, cutting a path through the crowd as people turned their heads to get a second look.
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Said Northwest jazz radio deejay Jim Wilke, “When I was emceeing a concert, and I saw that flash of color, I knew it was an official event.”
When she wasn’t giving fans a “jazz blessing” with her wand, Ms. Rainbow taught art at Meany Middle School, where she worked for 29 years, starting in 1963. She also made hand-built ceramics, which she showed at various Seattle venues.
According to her daughter, Ms. Rainbow’s students at Meany first dubbed her the “Rainbow Lady” because of her colorful outfits.
Born Delores Yvonne Wardall at Swedish Hospital, Ms. Rainbow grew up in Hawthorn Hills and Laurelhurst. According to family legend, “The Rainbow Lady’s first word was “Kalakala,” uttered as she looked out the window at the art deco ferry from her grandparents’ West Seattle home.
As a child, she studied art at Cornish College. She graduated in 1950 from Roosevelt High School and married Peter S. Raible the same year.
Raible was studying to become a Unitarian minister, and his travels took Ms. Rainbow to Berkeley, Calif., Providence, R.I., and Nebraska. During this period Ms. Rainbow studied art at San Francisco State University and the Rhode Island School of Design and earned a B.F.A. in education from the University of Nebraska.
In 1961, her husband was called to University Unitarian Church, where Ms. Rainbow earlier had founded a fine-arts gallery, kicking it off with a show by Mark Tobey, a friend of the family. Ms. Rainbow and her husband divorced in 1968.
Around 1963, Ms. Rainbow began attending the Monterey Jazz Festival in California, where she became a conspicuous figure leading a New Orleans-style parasol parade on Saturday afternoon.
As a mom, said Raible, Ms. Rainbow added a dose of good humor to everything.
“Even going to the dentist was something we looked forward to,” she said.
Ms. Rainbow is survived her sister, Marsha Valentine, of Everett; her children — Deborah, of Seattle; Stephen Raible, of Stanwood; and Robert Raible, of Winnetka, Ill. — and eight grandchildren. Her daughter Robin died in 2006.
A celebration of Ms. Rainbow’s life, including a New Orleans-style funeral march, is scheduled for 1 p.m. Jan. 4 at University Unitarian Church, 6556 35th Ave. N.E., Seattle
Paul de Barros: 206-464-3247 or email@example.com. on Twitter @pdebarros