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Flags, flowers and fanfare for Muriel Iverson Williams Waterfront Park dedication May 1
POULSBO — If weather forecasters are correct, May 1 will be a day that Muriel Iverson Williams would have liked.
According to most accounts, Williams would have shied away from being the center of attention. But the day ... Liberty Bay sparkling in the sunshine, flowers lightly scenting the air, Scandinavian flags fluttering in front of the Sons of Norway Lodge.
“Muriel would like that,” Mayor Becky Erickson said.
On May 1 at 1 p.m., Waterfront Park will be renamed Muriel Iverson Williams Waterfront Park. The mayor and family members will speak, and the new park sign will be unveiled. Barb Mitchusson said Sons of Norway Lodge Queen Anna Smallbeck and Princess Stephanie Doornink will present the Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Sami, Norwegian and Swedish flags to Leikarringen, or traditional dancers, who will raise the flags outside the lodge.
Williams died July 2 at Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton. She was 93. Proponents have said renaming Waterfront Park is an appropriate tribute to a person whose personal history and the history of Poulsbo were intertwined.
Williams was born Oct. 15, 1916, the granddaughter of Peter Iverson, who founded the Kitsap County Herald and served as mayor. In the 1920s, she and her sister worked for their grandfather and made 25 cents an hour, half of what boys doing the same job earned. She told the Herald in 2002 that, had there been an equal rights movement at the time, "we would have joined it."
Her husband, Clifford, survived the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, and she never missed a Memorial Day celebration. Her meticulous newspaper scrapbooks were a valuable resource during the development of the history book, "The Spirit of Poulsbo." She served on the boards of the Friends of the Library and the Poulsbo Historical Society, and was a longtime member of the Sons of Norway. She frequently wrote letters to the editor on local issues, including the new City Hall, of which she wrote in a 20-word missive, “The monster grows.” She frequently spoke on local issues at Poulsbo City Council meetings.
“She was a constant presence at every council meeting,” said Mitchusson, a Poulsbo native whose late husband, Mitch, was mayor from 1985-99. “When she wasn’t there, the mayor and council would worry, 'Where's Muriel?'.”
She added, “Muriel was feisty, but she was so wise and in a fun way. She cut to the chase on everything — no beating around the bush, but with just the right amount of political correctness.”
According to a Herald story in July, Williams’ auto insurance rates increased when she was in her 80s. Undaunted, she attended a defensive driving course to lower them and continued driving until after she was 90.
Published tributes after her death told of her impact on the community she loved.
Dale Rudolph, a former city councilman, wrote of her contributions to “The Spirit of Poulsbo,” calling the book “a timely and invaluable gift of Muriel’s legacy.”
“It was remarkable at her age that she could have, much less would have been willing and able to dedicate months of effort to help produce this amazing volume. I also want to say that Muriel was much more than a critic; she took time to send personal notes of both chastisement and support, but also encouragement in times of personal bereavement. Few of us take the time to get personal these days. Muriel was a good role model for our public and personal lives.”
State Transportation Department spokesman Joe Irwin, a Herald reporter and editor from 1997-2007, wrote last year that Williams’ frequent letters to the editor were composed on an old-fashioned typewriter, concisely written, “But the point was always, always made ... She could be sweet as fresh krumkake or cold as a Norwegian winter’s night.”
Irwin wrote that Williams taught him the media isn’t and should never be the only watchdog out there. “It’s the role of good citizens, their duty even, to stay apprised of what’s going on around them in their cities and counties, and speak up when they feel things are wrong or unjust. Muriel did just this.”
The decision to name the park after Williams was made when she was alive, and she didn't support the idea. She told family members, "I haven't done anything to deserve it." But she ultimately relented.
Mayor Erickson said naming a park or building in someone’s honor holds an important message for future generations. “It says being a good citizen, being a responsible caring citizen, is important. And doing it without (expecting) reward is important.”