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Poulsbo loses a sparkling gem

POULSBO — Charles and Agnes Sellers couldn’t have known it at the time, but the name they chose for their eldest daughter was more than just a name.

That’s because Ruby Watland was truly a jewel to all who knew her.

Watland, a ground breaker in Poulsbo business, the grand dame of Miss Poulsbo and a faith-filled woman who brightened her community, died Feb. 11 in Seattle. The nearly 80-year North Kitsap resident was 87.

Watland graduated from Poulsbo schools and later owned Ruby’s Florist shop in the Landmark Building. She was one of only three female charter members of the chamber, served as its first female president and family and friends still laugh about her being the first woman named “man of the year” by the organization. When the theme “Little Norway” was chosen for downtown, Watland spearheaded several beautification projects for the business district.

“She’s left a heritage not just on us but on everyone,” said daughter Barbara Ann “Barbie” Tinius.

Known for her fierce independence, Watland also went by the nickname “Hot Rod Ruby.” Son-in-law Bill Tinius said the name wasn’t just a joke — one time, his mother-in-law drag raced with him in downtown Bremerton.

“She liked to say, ‘Don’t touch my heels and don’t touch my wheels,’” Barbara Ann Tinius said.

And heels she had. Watland always had her hair coiffed, her nails done and a pair of high-heeled shoes. Even during rehabilitation following a stroke in 2002, Watland insisted on wearing her high-heeled boots.

“She always wanted to look very, very best at all times and she was always very glamorous,” long-time friend Lynda Nilsen commented.

That spirit and style melded perfectly with her role in helping found the Miss Poulsbo Organization, which turned 50 last year. In 2000, she again assisted the group by taking the lead to seek affiliation with the Miss America Organization.

“She said, ‘Lynda, we need to turn this into a more upscale program for the girls,” Nilsen recalled. “That’s how we got into that. Otherwise, I don’t know if we would have.”

The new affiliation afforded the organization a chance to send its finalist to Miss Washington and to renew Miss Kitsap. It also meant more scholarship money available for local women. In the last five pageants, the organization has given away $63,000.

“(Michele Nilsen Wasson) told the girls yesterday, ‘It’s because of her that we’re all here today,’” Nilsen said of Watland.

In 2002, Watland and her granddaughter Talia Hastie, a former Miss Washington, were honored with a “persons of the year” award from the Miss Poulsbo Organization. She was again honored last year with the first “Ruby Watland Community Service Leadership” scholarship. Nilsen said this year’s pageant will feature a special tribute to Watland.

Besides her tireless work for the Miss Poulsbo Organization, Watland was also an active member of the Christ Memorial Church congregation. Pastor Mark Pearson said Watland was already a long-time member when he started there 27 years ago and though not everyone in the 5,000-member congregation knew her, she made an impression on every life she touched.

“I think people who knew her knew when you spent time with Ruby, you always went away a better person,” Pearson commented.

After losing their son Fred in a tragic accident, Watland also came up with the idea for the “Love and Loss” support group through CMC. The group still meets to help community members through grief.

“She just felt like she wanted to do something to reach out to people who were hurting,” Tinius said.

Other work at CMC included serving as a Sunday School teacher and dedicating more than 20 straight years on its Missions Board. She and her husband Alf also participated in several missions trips including the Philippines, Korea and Portugal. But more than anything, Watland is remembered as a Christian woman who passed along her faith, positive attitude and compassion to everyone around her.

“My parents loved life and they lived it to the fullest,” Tinius said. “I wish I could be just like her when I’m her age. I just think, ‘Man, what a heart.’”

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