Coupeville school board President Kathleen Anderson passed away peacefully on Wednesday, Sept. 22, Superintendent Steve King announced the following day.
Anderson, 83, has been a pillar in the local and state education systems for more than four decades, serving on the Coupeville school board from 1980-1989 and again from 2004-2021 for a total of 26 years. Sandwiched in between her local school board terms, she served on the state Board of Education for 15 years.
King said Anderson was a woman of great integrity and grace who loved kids more than anyone else he has ever known.
“While we are saddened by the loss of Kathleen, we are thankful for her many years of service and leadership,” he wrote in a Facebook post to the district’s page. “I personally am filled with gratitude to have had the opportunity to have worked closely with her these past few years.”
Anderson grew up on a farm in Iowa and was brought to Whidbey Island by her husband’s Navy career. The couple settled in Coupeville, where Anderson first became involved in the school district as a substitute teacher.
Throughout her decades of service in the district, Anderson touched many lives. Former Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard, who had Anderson as a sixth grade teacher, described her as “a fabulous woman, just a wonderful person.”
Conard fondly remembered Anderson teaching her sixth graders songs from “The Sound of Music” and bringing them homemade brownies to incentivize them to study for spelling tests.
Later, when Conard started working as a business manager at Coupeville schools, she got to know Anderson as a colleague and a friend.
“She just worked hard, and just poured herself into doing the right thing for kids in Coupeville,” Conard said. “We were really fortunate to have someone of her caliber and commitment.”
Former Coupeville Superintendent Dick Smith, who was superintendent when Anderson began her first school board stint in 1980, praised the many contributions she made to the district through her hard work on various committees and her fearless propensity to stand up for what she felt was right for the students.
“She was a real leader, she was a real contributor, she gave it her all, and her all was greatly appreciated,” he said. “Coupeville schools are better because of her. There’s no question about it.”