Lynn Murray Willeford has touched many lives on South Whidbey and beyond with her kindness, focus on community, her writing, and her brilliance. She was born on January 31, 1948 in Milford, Connecticut, and graduated with double honors degrees in History and English from the University of Connecticut in 1969, having joined a sorority because they had fantastic cream puffs (and because they were wonderful women). Her younger sister and best friend Laurel Watts joined her at UConn. After graduating, she lived and worked in Philadelphia and San Francisco before moving out to South Whidbey.
Arriving on South Whidbey in 1972, she worked at Spring Valley Press and elsewhere. In 1976, she built her own house near Baby Island, sharing a generator with the man she would later marry, Blake Willeford. The two moved into the house that he built across the road, and made their lives there. She joined him at The Clyde Theatre, where she would later say that she “swept her way to the top.” They had a son Brook in 1980, and while raising him (and unintentionally teaching him to curse), Lynn wrote for textbook companies, crafted articles for New Age Journal, ghostwrote Dr. Andrew Weil’s newsletter, and co-authored a book on childrearing: Healthy Child, Whole Child.
She and her family were passionate about travel, and about giving back to the communities they travelled to. They served with Global Volunteers across the United States and the Western Hemisphere, working alongside the locals using local methods on local projects. She was a runner, but also someone who loved to sit down (or preferably lay in the sun) with a good book for hours at a time.
While doing all of this, she still found time to found or co-found 8 community non-profits, including South Whidbey Free University, SW Community Co-op, the Back to School Program, Hearts & Hammers, Friends of Friends, Whidbey Island Local Lending, Women of Whidbey, and South Whidbey @ Home. Each of these addressed a particular need in the community, and allowed members of the community to help those around them while still receiving help from other friends and neighbors.
Although the teens of South Whidbey learned to fear her if they were talking during the movies, Lynn was still a paragon of community, love, and life. She taught those around her the value of doing something the right way, how to be one equal half of a partnership in life and love, that the benefit of helping someone is not in the giving but in the receiving, and what it means to be loved unconditionally for who you are.
Lynn passed away in her sleep on January 31, 2021 after a long fight with brain cancer, beating the odds for three years so that she could forge a relationship with her granddaughter. She had Blake and Brook at her side at the end, and the love of the community around her. She is survived by her mother Audrey Baston, her sister Laurel Watts, her husband Blake Willeford, her son and daughter-in-law Brook and Katja Willeford, her granddaughter Hazel, and the many community-based non-profits she founded in her time on South Whidbey.