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Through much of her 66 years, Anita May “Anna” Wynalda packed each minute of her day with life.
Whether it was working as a nurse during the day and as a Walmart cashier overnight, talking with people she encountered while out in the community or sending each of her children and grandchildren a text message, funny picture or emoji — “something to encourage you to get through the day” — she always found time for others, her daughter Patricia Martinez said.
Given how busy she kept her schedule, you may wonder how she fit it all in and still found time for sleep.
Since she never turned down a request for help, she often took naps in her Honda minivan while waiting for people to finish appointments for which she provided transportation, Martinez said.
Ms. Wynalda died May 12 from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, her family said. She was initially treated at Trios Health in Kennewick and was later transferred to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland, where she died.
The fourth of six siblings, Anita May Soto was born in April 1954 in Fort Worth, Texas. The name Anita was bestowed by the nurse who delivered her, but Ms. Wynalda preferred to go by Anna. At the age of 2, her parents moved to a farm in Yakima County, where the family raised and sold horses, cows, goats and chickens, as well as fruits and vegetables.
She graduated from Sunnyside High School in Sunnyside, Yakima County, and married David Wynalda, with whom she had two children, Martinez and Victoria Wynalda, before divorcing after 18 years of marriage. A few years ago, the former spouses reunited as friends.
The couple moved to Alaska soon after marrying when David Wynalda got a job working on the Alaska oil pipeline. Ms. Wynalda worked at a credit union and as a flight attendant before attending college for nursing, Martinez said.
Throughout her life, she worked at various health agencies and medical facilities, including the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic in Grandview.
Ms. Wynalda also worked at the Walmart Supercenter in Sunnyside. After getting off work around 5 p.m. at the clinic, she would go home for a few hours and then work the graveyard shift at the retail store. She worked as a manager for a few years, training new employees at stores around the Pacific Northwest.
Martinez said her mother did not want to travel as much as she got older and grew attached to the local customers, so she returned to working as a cashier.
Ms. Wynalda continued to stretch herself and her paycheck to provide for others.
She entered radio contests, where she won tickets to movies and concerts her children could attend. She pitched tents in the backyard since she couldn’t take her children camping because she had to work, Martinez said.
She fostered several children, with whom she maintained relationships. And she helped connect immigrants with lawyers so they could obtain documentation to reside legally.
“She always found time for people less fortunate,” Martinez said. “She taught us that even if you don’t have a dollar, you can still offer a smile or friendly or kind words.”
Ms. Wynalda was a devoted Catholic, attending church almost every other Sunday.
Although her family couldn’t afford to provide her granddaughter, Dominique Martinez, a lavish quinceañera, a celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday, Ms. Wynalda bought her a golden ring etched with a “15” and two hearts.
“I still have it to this day,” said Dominique Martinez, the oldest of Ms. Wynalda’s 12 grandchildren. “Even though she couldn’t give me the biggest dress or prettiest venue, she put into consideration that it was a big milestone for me.”
Shopping, her granddaughter said, became a social activity for Ms. Wynalda.
“There was not a store we could go to where people wouldn’t stop and say hi and chitchat,” she said. Ms. Wynalda couldn’t leave any shopping trip without picking up something — a watering pot, “even though she didn’t have plants,” or birthday gifts for her grandchildren, Dominique Martinez said.
“It was completely random, but you would always end up needing the stuff she got you,” her granddaughter said.
As a cook, Ms. Wynalda was resourceful, stuffing fried potatoes, green beans and corn into a tortilla with only salt and pepper for flavoring. Through her later years, she continued to enjoy dancing, especially swaying to salsa or moving to bachata.
“She was funny, vibrant and full of life,” Patricia Martinez. She was also mighty, and even though she stood just 4 feet 11 inches with heels on, “when she walked into a room, she stood 10 feet tall,” her daughter said.