Even after she died, Barbara Prentice Blethen held a certain sway over her children.
So when asked to speak about his mother, John Blethen wanted only to honor her wishes and stick to the script that Mrs. Blethen had dictated before she died April 11 at the age of 99.
“It was her design,” he said of his mother’s obituary. “Those were her wishes. So I don’t want to step on what she wanted.”
And so here is what she wanted people to know:
Mrs. Blethen was born in Seattle on August 14, 1920, to Gordon and Vera Prentice. She attended Annie Wright Seminary and graduated from St. Nicholas High School — which would later merge with the Lakeside School — and then ventured to New York City to attend the former Finch College, a women’s college in Manhattan.
She was wed to former Seattle Times publisher John A. “Jack” Blethen until his death in 1993. She was also preceded in death by her son Alden J. “Buster” Blethen in 2006.
Mrs. Blethen cultivated a sprawling social and civic life, built around her family and her personal passions. She was a member of the Anna McMillan Children’s Hospital Guild; past president of the Lakeside School Mother’s Club; past member of the Junior League; the Garden Club of America, Arboretum Unit #33; Broadmoor Golf Club; Seattle Tennis Club and the Sunset Club.
During World War II, Mrs. Blethen was a volunteer with the Interceptor Command and the Blood Bank.
Despite Mrs. Blethen’s wish for brevity, her granddaughter, Kerry Quinn wanted to add a few words. Five, to start:
“She made childhood feel magical.”
Mrs. Blethen was a devoted grandmother and great-grandmother “who made me feel so loved,” Quinn said.
Quinn remembered spending summers with her siblings, cousins and Mrs. Blethen at her grandmother’s home on Bainbridge Island, digging for clams on the beach, swimming in the pool and playing croquet on the lawn.
They feasted on scrambled eggs and toast slathered with Mrs. Blethen’s homemade strawberry jam, made from the fruits of her garden, which included cherry tomatoes and zucchini, from which she made zucchini bread.
She tended big pots of pink geraniums — and to herself.
“She was a regimented and practical woman who stuck to her daily routine,” Quinn said. She never missed her daily walk, her daily swim, followed by a trip to the market.
“She was always put together,” she added. “Beautifully dressed. She made everything special.”
Mrs. Blethen, known as “Bobby,” loved a good joke. She needlepointed images of ducks and black Labradors (she loved her own, named Charlie) and knitted sweaters for her children. She kept a cookie jar full of macaroons in the kitchen. She loved going to University of Washington Husky football games and seeing the Seattle Mariners.
After the death of her longtime partner, Allan Treuer, she moved to the Park Shore senior-living community in Madison Park, where she hosted gatherings to watch the annual Christmas Ships and the flights of the Blue Angels during Seafair.
“She taught me the importance of making wonderful memories for our family,” Quinn said. “Now that she is gone, I feel a huge void.“
Which brings us back to Mrs. Blethen’s words.
She is survived by her son, John P. Blethen (Amber); daughter-in-law Deborah Blethen; grandchildren Kerry Blethen Quinn (Rafe); Jessica Dewbrey (Dave); Courtney Blethen Riffkin (Jay); Kelley Brenton and eight great-grandchildren.
No services are planned, John Blethen said.
“She did not want a memorial or a funeral,” John Blethen said. “She was very adamant about that. She just wanted to be interred in her plot at Washelli where her mother and father are. And she wanted it kept that way.”
Remembrances may be sent to The Hereditary Disease Foundation, 601 West 168th Street, Suite 54, New York, NY 10032, or go to www.hdfoundation.org