Lee Ockinga-Kopines, former Beachcomber publisher, dies

“She had her finger on the pulse of everything that was happening on our island, and she loved it.”

Leslee (Lee) Ockinga-Kopines, who was deeply involved in many causes, nonprofits and civic enterprises including The Beachcomber, died on March 18. She was 63 years old.

Her death, in a group home in Auburn where she had resided since 2022, was caused by the progression of progressive supranuclear palsy, a neurological disease. She was diagnosed with the disease in 2020.

During Lee’s more than 25 years on Vashon, she was known as a tireless force to be reckoned with by many on the island.

She moved to Vashon in 1996, after being hired to work as the associate publisher of The Beachcomber — bringing with her experience as the administrative coordinator of another Sound Publishing weekly, The Lakewood Journal.

In 1998, she was promoted to become The Beachcomber’s publisher, overseeing all operations of the newspaper, including circulation and advertising. Her tenure at the newspaper lasted until 2005.

From the start, she immersed herself in all things Vashon.

In an article announcing her Beachcomber hire in 1996, Lee said that she intended to move from the Tacoma area to the island — a place that reminded her of the small town where she grew up in Nebraska.

“I want to live in the community right away,” she said, “because I intend to get involved in local activities.”

And that she did, with gusto.

During her years on Vashon, both during and after her tenure at The Beachcomber, Lee was a fixture at local events, meetings, and on community boards — often taking her young children along with her to evening meetings.

“Lee was a true community activist who had her hands in everything,” said Daralyn Anderson, The Beachcomber’s current publisher, who was hired by Lee to work as a marketing representative for the newspaper. “She thrived on nonstop networking.”

Anderson recalled that Lee, as the newspaper’s publisher, knew all the island’s business owners, and their children, and they knew her.

“She had her finger on the pulse of everything that was happening on our island, and she loved it,” Anderson said.

Lee was active in numerous island organizations both during and after her tenure at The Beachcomber, including Vashon Rotary, the Interfaith Council to Prevent Homelessness, Vashon’s food bank, and VARSA, the island’s youth drug prevention program. She also served as the first executive director of the Vashon Island Chamber of Commerce and later founded Seeds4Success, a nonprofit whose mission was to help people with disabilities find employment.

“She touched a lot of lives,” Anderson said. “There will never be another Lee.”

See a full obituary on page 15.