Poulsbo matriarch Muriel Williams dies at 93

Jake Moe, a descendent of the Moe pioneer family, shares a laugh with Muriel Williams during Poulsbo
Jake Moe, a descendent of the Moe pioneer family, shares a laugh with Muriel Williams during Poulsbo's centennial celebration. Williams, 93, died Friday at Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton.
— image credit: File photos

POULSBO — When community matriarch Muriel Williams found out Poulsbo was planning to rename the Liberty Bay Waterfront Park in her honor, her immediate response was a flat-out "no."

"I haven't done anything to deserve it," Williams told family members. She eventually relented, calling the renaming "an honor."

Muriel Williams died July 2 at Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. at Vinland Lutheran Church on Saturday, July 10.

When the sign is installed proclaiming it to be Muriel Williams Waterfront Park, that will be a physical reminder of a woman many considered to be the living spirit of Poulsbo.

Muriel Williams' life was deep-rooted in all things Poulsbo, a city in which she lived for nearly all of her 93 years. Her personal history and the history of Poulsbo were deeply intertwined.

Born Oct. 15, 1916, she was the granddaughter of Peter Iverson, who founded the Kitsap County Herald in Feb. 1, 1901. In the 1920s, she and her sister, Dorothy Kasnick, worked for her grandfather and made 25 cents an hour, half of what the boys doing the same job earned. While she was grateful to have the job, she couldn't help but mention the inequity, even 80 years later.

"I tell you, if there was an Equal Rights for Women (movement) we would have joined it," she told the Herald in 2002.

It was that spunk for which Muriel Williams was known. A frequent writer of letters to the editor, her writings were succinct and specific. For the past two years, her letters centered on her distaste for the new city hall going up on Third Street.

Her final letter, written in April, was a quiet protest: "There are natural disasters and then there are man-made disasters as witness, Poulsbo’s new City Hall. The monster grows."

She'd rarely miss a Poulsbo City Council meeting as she kept a careful eye on the comings and goings of local government.

City officials weren't the only ones she held to task. Whomever sat in the editor's chair at the Herald also received a fair amount of attention.

"Muriel was one of the first people who came to welcome me as editor of the Herald," said Chris Case, who served as editor in the mid-1990s. "Over the years she would never hesitate to come in and tell me when she thought I had done something good, or something stupid."

She and the editor formed a bond, Case said.

"She was a living history for me. She knew all of the people, and the thinking behind all the decisions that were made in Poulsbo over the years. I don’t think she ever missed a Poulsbo City Council meeting, or the opportunity to put her two cents in."

A woman of boundless energy, Muriel Williams was driving herself around town well into her 90s, her son, Peter Williams, said. At one point, sometime in her 80s, she called him, distraught, because her insurance rates increased. To lower them, she attended a defensive driving course.

"She was very quiet, but determined," he said. "If she believed in something she would listen to what others had to say but if her mind was still made up, she wouldn't bend to the will of the mob."

Her strong belief system — and her love of her country — were her driving motivations, he said. A survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor — her husband, Clifford, was stationed at Pearl Harbor 1941 — she'd never miss a Memorial Day celebration.

She'd often spend her days going through newspaper clippings on the hunt for news about Poulsbo. She'd clip out items and put them in scrapbooks. When she was cleaning out her scrapbooking room, she'd find the newsmakers' surviving relatives and send them the news clippings. Other news items went to a project to which she contributed significantly, the recently published "Spirit of Poulsbo," written by Judi Driscoll of the Poulsbo Historic Society.

Muriel Williams was involved in the entire process; many of her news clips served as a basis for the book. She proofread the entire volume — all except the last two pages, which served as a tribute to her, Driscoll said.

To Driscoll's surprise, Muriel Williams was quite pleased with the tribute.

"She was outspoken, but was pretty accurate with what she had to say," Driscoll said of Muriel Williams. "She was one of the most organized people I've ever met."

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