We will remember those we lost this year

Oak Harbor lost too many pillars of the community this year.

They shared a lot in common. They were kind and compassionate, they were dedicated to their communities and they were selfless.

And they won’t be forgotten.

Gary Wallin was known for being where he was needed in the community. He was a longtime school board member, a volunteer and a community leader. He consoled families during their most trying times for more than 50 years as a funeral service provider and owner of a funeral home. It seems that everyone who knew him remembers his big heart.

Wallin died unexpectedly March 21 at the age of 68.

Wallie Funk was especially unforgettable. The former co-owner and editor of the Whidbey News-Times documented the lives of those who lived in North and Central Whidbey Island for a generation. He was known for being at every event in the community, camera in hand.

He loved to tell stories and could talk for seemingly hours but somehow always got the newspaper out. He cared deeply about the communities of Oak Harbor and Anacortes and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for different causes, including the start of the Whidbey Playhouse.

Funk passed away Aug. 12 at the age of 95.

Jo Balda was the consummate volunteer and joiner. At one time it seemed that there wasn’t an organization in town that she didn’t belong to. She received innumerable awards and honors over the years for her dedication to the community.

Balda died May 26 at age 94.

Jan Ellis’ name was inextricably tied to the Holland Happening event and not just because of her pride in Dutch heritage. She was chairperson of the Holland Happening committee for 23 of the first 25 years and was grand marshal on two occasions. Music was also a big part of her life — she played the accordion — and she belonged to a long list of community bands over the years.

Ellis died Aug. 31 at age 85.

Jill Schacht was a familiar face in downtown Oak Harbor as the longtime owner of the Casual House, a business her parents founded nearly 60 years ago. She loved the island, having spent much of her life in Oak Harbor.

She was very active in efforts to improve downtown and the economic climate for small businesses. She wasn’t afraid to voice her opinion and was frequently quoted in the Whidbey News-Times.

Schacht died Dec. 1 at the age of 67.

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