Ruth Lake Wilkison July 3, 1921 - August 8, 2013
Ruth Lake was born in Montgomery, Alabama, the oldest of five children born to Winfield Woolf Skinner and Nellie Agnes McCabe. She graduated from Sidney Lancier High School in Montgomery before earning a BA in English literature and journalism from the University of Alabama in 1943 (ROLL TIDE). During her time at U of A, she worked together with future governor George Wallace in their role as captains of the men and women’s spirit committees. Ruth Lake never feigned any fondness for the governor’s politics. After college, she served as a pharmacy mate in WWII from 1945-46. She married James L. Wilkison in Abilene, Texas on September 27, 1946 where she taught freshman English at Abilene Christian College while her husband worked toward a degree in chemistry on the GI Bill. The family moved to Houston when Jim was hired by Shell Oil Company in 1950. As a teacher at Reagan High School Ruth Lake sponsored the school paper and taught Dan Rather in his first journalism class, inspiring his career and earning mention in Rather‘s memoir, I Remember (p. 174). The family moved to Anacortes in 1956 when Jim began work at the Shell refinery. Ruth Lake and Jim were founding members of the Skagit Valley Church of Christ in Burlington where she taught Sunday school for many years. The Wilkison family moved on to Illinois, New Jersey, and Texas as Jim moved with his Shell Oil career. Ruth Lake taught school for 25 years, seven years of which (1957-1964) were at Anacortes Middle School. The couple retired to Anacortes in 1988. During their life together, they traveled to 17 countries and all 50 states. Ruth Lake died peacefully on August 8, 2013 following a series of strokes. She is survived by her husband of 67 years, James Wilkison, and six children: Steve Wilkison, Joy Thompson, June Steen, Jane Mayeux, Ron Wilkison, and Rick Wilkison. She had 13 grandchildren: Christine Thompson, Cassidy Thompson, Sara Steenhouse, Katie Congelli, James Steen, Kevin Steen, Stephen Steen, Jared Keahey, Jillian Keahey, Chase Wilkison, Cody Wilkison, Corey Wilkison, and Pharrah Peek. She had 4 great-grandchildren. Some of Ruth Lake’s favorite activities included watching professional tennis (especially Wimbledon) and midnight raids of the fridge to enjoy her favorite butter pecan ice cream. She was also known for catching giant halibut on her Alaska fishing trips with Jim. Ruth Lake loved the color red as demonstrated in her wardrobe and lipstick. Few would disagree that the color suited her dynamic, outgoing and often fiery personality. A memorial service celebrating the life of Ruth Lake will be held at Skagit Valley Church of Christ at 2pm on Saturday September 7. Address: 215 South Gardner Road; Burlington WA 98233. To donate to Ruth Lake Wilkison’s memorial park bench along the Guemes Channel Trail: Write your tax deductible check to Anacortes Parks Foundation and write Ruth Lake Wilkison on the check memo line. Mail your check to Anacortes Parks Foundation at P.O. Box 1902; Anacortes, WA 98221. Donations can also be made online at www.anacortesparksfoundation.org. Be sure to write Ruth Lake Wilkison on the memo of your donation.