Reprinted upon request from July 4, 2012
Rachel Helen Adams died peacefully in her home near the top of Mount Woolard on the 21st of June. As she was slipping away from us she was able to look out at her beloved trees and the view of the water and islands and the coast range beyond.
Rachel was born in 1926 in Rangeley, Maine, where her father was Superintendent of Schools and her mother had been a teacher. She grew up in Gorham, New Hampshire, where her father was again Superintendent of Schools, and she remained there throughout her years at the University of New Hampshire, graduating at the remarkable age of nineteen. She then entered the US Army’s physical therapy course at Ashford General Hospital in White Sulfur Springs, VA, graduating in 1945, three days before the end of WW II. She began her Army career at Ft. Dix as a 2nd lieutenant in the Women’s Medical Specialist Corps. Following that assignment, she left the Army and spent the summer bicycling with a friend in France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Holland and England.
She rejoined the Army in 1948 during the Korean War and spent the next 21 years in various assignments, including stints in Peru and at Walter Reed General Hospital. She also completed a graduate degree in Physical Therapy at USC in 1955. During her Army career Rachel continued her interest in the sports that had been an important part of her high school and college years, and in 1956 she won the Women’s All-Army Tennis Singles Championship and in 1957 the Singles and Doubles Championship. Her last assignment was at Brooke Army Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, where she was Chief of Physical Therapy. She retired in 1969 with the rank of lieutenant colonel and at that time was awarded the Army’s Legion of Merit medal.
Following retirement Rachel spent six years at her cabin on the Belgrade Lakes in Maine and then, in 1975, decided to join Marilyn Anderson on her small farm on Crane Island. On Crane they raised cows, grew and sold vegetables and participated in the activities of the Crane and Orcas communities. While there she began her 34 years of volunteering at the Orcas Library, as well as volunteering with several other island non-profits. Some of us will remember her with the other members of the Orcas Center Grounds Committee patiently tending the grounds each week. But besides pulling weeds, cutting grass and sorting books, she volunteered and contributed financially to many other non-profits. While still on Crane, she served as Editor of the San Juan Islands Audubon Society Newsletter the “Trumpeter,” as President of the newly established Crane Island Nature Preserve, and as a Board member of the Crane Island Association. She and Marilyn boated to Orcas regularly as members of the Orcas Island Community Band, in which Rachel played the saxophone.
In 2001 she and Marilyn moved from Crane to Mount Woolard on Orcas, where she continued her volunteering. She was a Board Member of the San Juan Preservation Trust for nine years, and also served as a member of the Steering Committee for the Trust’s Campaign to Save Turtleback Mountain. She remained a volunteer at the Library, both at the desk and on the Book Selection Committee, and she served on Orcas Center’s Executive Director Search Committees, was a member of the Center’s Nominating Committee, and its Grounds Committee. In addition, she served as a board member for the Mount Woolard Association, OPALCO’s “Project Pal,” and the Orcas Island Community Foundation.
As much as her volunteer and community work meant to her, what truly fed Rachel’s soul was the abiding grace and splendid design in the natural world. This brought her great joy. She was, by nature, a most devoted steward of the plants and creatures that share this world with us. We who knew her will miss her presence in our lives.
We will celebrate Rachel’s life with a memorial service on Sunday, July 29 at Orcas Center. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to a local charity of your choice.
Contributed by Marilyn Anderson, Molly Herzog and Ruthie Dougherty