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Lorraine Kimmel, 88, a quilter and businesswoman

Lorraine Kimmel. - Courtesy photo
Lorraine Kimmel.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Lorraine McCrory Kimmel died unexpectedly at home on Vashon Island on Saturday, Nov. 15, 2008. She was born in Seattle on October 5, 1920. She was 88.

“No one could stop her; she was the little engine that could,” said Bettie Edwards, who knew Kimmel for 36 years. “She cared about people, and she had a heart of gold.”

Lorraine spent her summers on Vashon, where she met her future husband Chuck Kimmel. 

They were married in October 1940. They had four children, Mike, Pat, Jim and Penny.

Chuck’s parents, Garner and Clara, started Kimmel’s Grocery and Dry Goods store in 1925. The whole family worked at the grocery store.

The store was located in the Kimmel Building — the brick building at the main intersection of Bank Road and Vashon Highway where Blooms & Things and the Heron’s Nest are now.

But its location posed a problem.

“People would come uptown, and they would stop and chat, so nobody could shop,” said Penny Kimmel. “So we had to build a bigger store because it was such a social place.”

In 1959, the new location of Kimmel’s Shop-Rite was opened just a block west of town, where Vashon Market is now.

It was one of the first supermarkets, Penny said.

Shortly after the new store opened, Lorraine took sole ownership and ran it until its sale in 1978.

All four of her kids worked at the store, each working his or her way up to manager.

As a business woman, she was generous to many Island organizations — donating food to the Kiwanis pancake breakfast, putting together baskets of food for the needy and allowing groups to hold car washes in the grocery store’s parking lot.

Lorraine had the distinction of being the first woman on the board of the Washington State Food Dealers Association.

In 1967 at the National Association of Retail Grocers in Las Vegas, Lorraine received a standing ovation from thousands of grocers for her speech “A woman can run a supermarket.” She spoke straightforwardly about how the grocers need to prepare their wives to run their business.

Lorraine was an avid sewer and quilter. She began sewing at an early age and made all her own clothes — including her wedding dress — and the clothing for her children, Penny said.

Her passion was sewing and quilting and she made many charity quilts for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer patients, the American Hero’s Quilts for the wounded soldiers, and clothing protectors for Vashon Community Care Center residents.

She co-owned Plaza Fabrics with her sister-in-law Sally Kimmel, and in 1977 she co-owned a yarn and craft store called Kanvas Korner with Jackie Spence.

Lorraine also started the Vashon Island Sewing Retreat at Camp Burton, now in its 25th year. There she was affectionately called Mother Superior for her incredible ability to organize and lead.

Kimmel was a founding member of the Vashon Island Golf & Country Club, an early member of the Island Quilters and a very active member of the Fred Hutch Quilters.

Besides all her needlework, Kimmel loved to grow flowers, create crazy dolls and wear colorful clothes with wild footwear. She was a fabric artist with a great sense of humor and had a wonderful outlook on life.

In an “expression of love,” 10 members of Lorraine’s friends and family gathered to paint on the simple pine casket in which she requested to be buried, said Priscilla Schleigh Kimmel, Lorraine’s daughter-in-law.

Flowers, hearts, geometric quilt squares and high-top pink tennis shoes adorn Lorraine’s final resting place.

The words “Sweet Lorraine” are painted on the casket as well.

Lorraine was an inspiration to many. She was well loved and will be missed by her family and friends. 

“She was the most amazing person and just had love and forgiveness in her heart,” Schleigh Kimmel said. “She had some hard times in her life, and she just found a way to bounce back and always forgive.”

Lorraine leaves behind her sister Peggy Oldfield of Seattle, her children all on Vashon:  Mike, Jim (Priscilla) and Penny, her daughter-in- law Barb (George) Brenno, her sister-in-laws: Sally Kimmel and Elsie Ibsen, 14 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren, plus six nieces, two nephews and many close friends.

A celebration of her life will be held at 3 p.m. Jan. 25, 2009, at Camp Burton.

In lieu of flowers, Kimmel asked that donations be made to the Vashon-Maury Senior Center (P.O. Box 848, Vashon, WA 98070) or the Vashon Maury Island Heritage Association (P.O. Box 723, Vashon, WA 98070).

Lorraine had always been a big supporter of the senior center, Penny said.

“She always said the senior center was for old people,” she said. “She was never old.”

Services are entrusted to Island Funeral Service. 

Please sign the online guest registry at www.islandfuneral.com.

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