Vivian Hazel Adkins, 86, a Washington native who spent most of her adult life in Pullman, died Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019, at Overlake Medical Center in Bellevue, Wash., after having suffered a stroke.
Vivian was born in 1933 in Seattle, the second of two children of Ernest and A. Lillian (Taylor) George, of Bremerton. She grew up in nearby Illahee, a bucolic shoreline community on the Port Orchard strait of Puget Sound, and Bremerton, and graduated from Bremerton High School in 1951. It was there that her aptitude for art blossomed, and her skill advanced to a point where some of her early paintings were put on display at Fredrick & Nelson’s flagship store in Seattle.
After a short modeling career in both New York City and Los Angeles, Vivian returned to the Puget Sound area and enjoyed working as an engineering draftsman, and a member of Local Union 12, at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton. Vivian rekindled a relationship with her high school beau, Ronald James Adkins, and they were married in 1953. As Ron neared completion of his doctorate studies at the University of Washington, the couple decided to spice up their lifestyle with two coveted amenities — a sports car and a dog.
While their dog, Angel, was the first in a long and varied line of Adkins family pets, the sports car was a short-term luxury; the couple returned it when they happily found out Vivian was pregnant with their first child, Tracy. Another daughter, Cynthia, would follow four years later, and soon after the family would move to Pullman, where Ron took up a 30-year career as a professor, researcher and administrator at Washington State University. Ron was one of the founders of WWAMI, the UW medical school education program for Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho, and Vivian played an important supporting role.
Vivian relished life on the Palouse. While working in graphic design at WSU and later as office manager for Pullman physician Kenneth Sato, Vivian continued to dabble in artwork, enthusiastically engaged in gardening and indulged her daughters’ willingness to adopt any animal that needed a loving home. In addition to countless dogs and cats, the family’s collection of pets included a rabbit, an iguana and a horse named Bobby.
Tracy and Cindy were the light of Vivian’s life. She bestowed on them her love for animals and music, and imbued them with confidence that they could accomplish anything. But her kindness and giving nature transcended family ties — she was a born helper who cared deeply for friends and neighbors, as well as the patients of Dr. Sato.
After Tracy and Cindy left the Adkins’ Pullman nest, so did Vivian. Divorced from Ron, Vivian moved to Seattle, where she lived near Green Lake and worked for Seattle Radiology. Upon retirement, she briefly resided in Lewiston before returning to Pullman, and spent her latter years there, then at Medina and, finally, at Aegis in Bellevue where she enjoyed sharing meals and swapping stories with staff and new friends. Along the way, she continued to light up rooms with her smile, and she never lost her zest for fun and adventure, her gift for storytelling, her penchant for laughter or her desire to be of service.
Vivian is survived by her daughters, Tracy (husband Jim Browitt), of Lewiston, and Cindy, of Medina; her former family-in-laws whom she loved like siblings, including Lorraine and James Robert (Bob) Harmon, of Kennebunk, Maine, and Gary Adkins (wife Terri), of Chico, Wash.; and her numerous nephews and nieces. She was preceded in death by her brother, a Marcus Whitman teacher Richard L. George (wife Felicia Zapatka), of Southworth, Wash.
In a final gesture typical of Vivian’s selfless character, at her request her remains were donated to the University of Washington’s Willed Body Program for biological and medical research. Also at her request, there will be no service. Donations may be made in Vivian’s name to UW Medicine or MEOW Cat Rescue.