In the last week of her life, Doreen Marchione gathered the current and two previous mayors of Kirkland to her bedside.
With five current and former Eastside mayors — including Ms. Marchione and her son, John Marchione — in the room, she asked “what’s the latest gossip?”
“She lived and breathed politics,” said Kirkland Mayor Penny Sweet, one of the politicians in the room. “To the very end, she was a political animal.”
Ms. Marchione, a former Redmond mayor, social-services advocate and champion for women in politics, died Saturday in Kirkland. She was 80.
She died from a lung disease, said Redmond Mayor John Marchione, one of her four sons.
In addition to two terms as Redmond mayor, Ms. Marchione served on the city councils for Kirkland and Redmond and was CEO of Hopelink, a King County nonprofit that doubled the number of clients it served under her tenure. Ms. Marchione spent more than a decade in politics, starting in the early 1970s, and her dedication to social services was apparent early in her career, friends and former colleagues said Monday.
She first ran for Redmond City Council in 1975, when she recruited other parents from her sons’ soccer teams to her campaign and went door-to-door with her youngest in a stroller. A state representative told her that she needed to put “DOREEN” in big letters on any political signs, so voters wouldn’t be surprised when they went to cast a ballot and saw a woman’s name.
She successfully ran for mayor in 1983 and served for two terms. She was involved in the decision by a new software company’s move from Bellevue to Redmond that some residents worried would bring the city’s revenues down. Ms. Marchione, however, said businesses would benefit from the arrival of the new headquarters, which, a Seattle Times story speculated, could employ up to 950 people.
The company: Microsoft. The Redmond headquarters is now home to more than 40,000 employees.
“She was largely accountable for Microsoft’s decision early on,” Sweet said. “That was huge. It basically made Redmond what it is today.”
The work that she was most proud of, however, was the 15 years she spent at Hopelink, an Eastside and North King County charity that helps low-income families and families experiencing homelessness.
After losing her third mayoral bid to Rosemarie Ives in 1991, Ms. Marchione became head of the organization, then called Multi-Service Centers of North and East King County. It had a budget of $9 million and served about 20,000 clients a year.
Her desire to help people in poverty stemmed in part from her upbringing in South Seattle as the daughter of a widowed mother who worked as a telephone operator, she said in a 2009 interview with the Museum of History & Industry. They were poor, but she didn’t realize it until later. Her mom was her cheerleader.
“The way she talked about children, that was what kept her at Hopelink,” said Hopelink CEO Lauren Thomas. “She was hopeful that children would come back and say that their lives changed because they parents came to Hopelink. And they did.”
One of her significant accomplishments at Hopelink was developing Avondale Park, a transitional housing facility in Redmond. The development now bears her name, Thomas said. Ms. Marchione retired in 2006, having grown Hopelink to an organization with a budget of $44 million that served 50,000 clients.
“She really grew the agency and made it a regional presence,” John Marchione said. “Her compassion was for every human being, that every human life has value and as a society we should treat them that way.”
Though she was “retired,” she didn’t like what was happening in the government of Kirkland, where she had moved after leaving office in Redmond. So she ran for the City Council.
“She said, ‘I need to put up or shut up,’ ” John Marchione said.
She was a council member for eight years. For two years, she was Kirkland deputy mayor. She officially retired in 2017, when, her son said, two lung diseases started slowing her down tremendously.
But she still made sure to call her former colleagues on the city council.
Doreen Marchione was born Nov. 6, 1938, in Seattle. She graduated from Holy Names and Seattle University. She moved to Redmond in 1969 and had been living in Kirkland since 1992.
In addition to John, she is survived by sons Paul of College Park, Maryland; Michael of Issaquah; and David of Lynnwood. She is also survived by her partner, Robert Caldwell, and brother, Father John Foster, S.J.
Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Holy Family Catholic Church, 7045 120th Ave. N.E., in Kirkland. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in Ms. Marchione’s name to Hopelink or the Kirkland Performance Center.
An earlier version of the story incorrectly stated that Doreen Marchione successfully ran for mayor in 1981. She successfully ran for mayor in 1983 and served from 1984 to 1991.