Phyllis Virginia Fraser Wirkala died peacefully at her home in Shoreline, Washington, on Friday, December 29, 2023. She was 100 years and 8 months old. She is survived by her children, Edwin Ross Wirkala of Shoreline, WA, Elwin Lorne Wirkala (Rita Sturam Wirkala) of Seattle, Washington, and Shirley Jean Wirkala of Lynnwood, Washington. She has seven grandchildren; Cristina de Melo Wirkala, Karen Rose Wirkala (Celso Gomes), Clarice Rosely Wirkala (Andrew Bryant), Elisa Rosely Wirkala, Justin Fraser Pedersen, Ashley Elizabeth Butkovic (Mario Butkovic), and Lauren Joyce Pedersen. She has six great grandchildren; Oliver and Livia Wirkala Gomes, Desmond, Ada, and Leia Wirkala Bryant, and River Wirkala.
Virgie was born on April 29, 1923 in Dauphin, Manitoba, Canada. Her earliest memories were of Richan, Ontario where she lived until the age of 9, when she moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Her mother established a boarding house in Winnipeg where Virgie helped with the meals, the shopping, and many other household tasks while attending school. A diving coach spotted her athletic ability at the municipal pool and offered her free lessons. She became a star diver, gave exhibitions for the mayor and aldermen and had her picture on the front page of the Winnipeg paper. Her coach encouraged her to train for the Olympics. Those games were canceled because of World War II.
On June 14, 1941, she married Edwin Wirkala of Naselle, Washington, who had been traveling for many years as the song leader for the Fox Party, musical evangelists. The couple lived for a short time in Naselle and then took a pastorate in Benson, Minnesota where their identical twin sons were born. After three years in Benson, they returned to Washington and built a home on the family farm along the South Fork of the Naselle River. Their daughter Shirley was born in 1950.
Virgie was Sunday School Superintendent at the Naselle Assembly of God for eleven years. She taught classes, developed a Junior Church program, and started the Women’s Missionary Council in support of overseas missions.
While in her forties, Virgie completed her high school diploma by correspondence, attended Lower Columbia Junior College and then the University of Washington in Seattle where the family moved so she could complete her bachelor’s degree. Once she had the degree the family returned to Naselle where Superintendent Richard Grabenhorst had offered her a job teaching home economics. Remaining perennially grateful to Mr. Grabenhorst, of whom she often spoke, she taught at Naselle High School and at Naselle Youth Camp for the subsequent several decades.
Virgie was widowed in 1988 when her husband died pursuant to open heart surgery. She continued teaching and then, now in her eighties, moved to Shoreline, Washington where she and her son Ed had purchased a duplex. It was in Shoreline that she began buying houses, flipping some and renting others. Her rentals continue to this day.
Four months short of her 101st birthday, Virgie suffered a stroke. After a two-week hospitalization she was returned to her Shoreline home where, on December 29, 2023 at 9:15am, she passed away in her own bedroom. She was a wonderful, cheerful person right to the end. She is greatly missed.
Viewing will be held at Pentilla’s Chapel by the Sea in Long Beach on Friday, January 12, 2024 between the hours of 1pm and 7pm.
Her funeral service will be held at the Naselle Assembly of God Church on Saturday, January 13, 2024 at 1pm. The service will be live streamed on Facebook and YouTube. She will rest alongside her husband, Edwin, at Peaceful Hill Cemetery.