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Obituary: Sonneland, Holly Frost

SONNELAND, Holly Frost Holly Frost Sonneland was born in Berkeley, CA, December 3, 1925 and died in Spokane December 23, 2013. Her final days were spent enveloped in words of love, appreciation and prayers from her extensive family. After her father received his PhD, her parents, Fred and Helen Frost, settled in Portland, Maine, where her father worked as an engineer and her mother was active in the community, including serving the city of Portland as one of the country’s first women mayors. She enjoyed a happy childhood with two siblings and loving parents. Summers included many hours in the backyard swimming pool - an in-ground pool made of WOOD (friends teased it would be “Fred’s Folly,” but her dad got the last laugh as it served the neighborhood for many years before he lined it with concrete), and lengthy stays at Lake Geneva, WI, where her grandfather headed the Yerkes Observatory at the University of Chicago. Holly was a Phi Beta Kappa at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, graduating with a major in Political Science and minors in history and English. During a sorority party she met John E. Sonneland, a student at Northwestern Medical School. Tired of rehashing the litany of biographical information to a new dance partner, Holly invented a tall tale on the spot - from a poor Alaskan family, dad an alcoholic, currently flunking out of school, etc. John was not easily dissuaded, however, and soon the two began a courtship that lasted through 65 years of marriage. During John’s surgical residency in Manhattan, Holly was a reporter and then a correspondent for Life magazine. Wanting to stay close to her new husband, she also declined an invitation to work in Washington, D.C. as a communications aide in Thomas Dewey’s 1948 presidential campaign. Children joined the family during those early years of marriage, with Jamie, Robin and John born during stops for John’s medical training and national service commitment in Portland, ME, and Chicago, IL. Holly also reduced her work responsibilities to focus on caring for a growing family. The Sonnelands settled in Spokane in 1957, with two more children, Stewart and Andrew, rounding out the family. As her children entered school, Holly began actively serving in the community, particularly with organizations serving the disadvantaged, in higher education and in Christian ministries. She was chairwoman of East Area Preschool, spending many hours volunteering at the school and carpooling children to a variety of field trips around Spokane. For years, Holly drove a weekly route delivering meals (often with her children in tow) and visiting with low-income shut-ins through the Meals on Wheels program. Holly’s compassion for the mentally ill was borne of her late daughter’s long struggle with Schizophrenia. Holly and John supported the work of Ogden Hall, and Holly chaired the Spokane Alliance for the Mentally Ill, including many hours delivering care packages of daily living items to mentally ill residents as they transitioned to independent living. Holly’s commitment to higher education included serving as chairwoman of the Joint Center for Higher Education, as board member of the Educational Loan Foundation, and as trustee at both Eastern Washington and Whitworth Universities. In recognition of her breadth and depth of service to the community, Holly was the recipient of both the Spokane and the Washington State Volunteer of the Year Award. Holly knew, lived-in, and demonstrated the love of Jesus. John and Holly have long supported Young Life - an outreach ministry to teenagers - with Holly serving as committee chairwoman of Spokane Young Life. Faithful in Sunday worship over the years, Holly served as an elder at Manito Presbyterian Church, and was a long-time member of First Presbyterian Church. While her contributions to the community are extensive, Holly’s primary focus was her family, who knew her as a kind-hearted, fun, considerate and grace-filled woman. She embodied many complementary qualities: classy, yet welcoming and down-to-earth; self-confident as she served with humility; and seeking practical solutions to situations that stirred her compassion. Whether in person or in one of her many notes, she had a gift for expressing the right word to those facing difficult times; never “preachy,” just thoughtful and encouraging. Holly was preceded in death by her siblings, Jocelyn and Brant, and by her daughter Jamie. She is survived by her husband John, with whom she shared many adventures traveling (and often sailing) the world, enjoyed years of tennis at the Spokane Racquet Club and skiing at Mt. Spokane, shared many close friendships, attended decades of Spokane Symphony concerts, spent countless weekends on their sailboat on Lake Coeur d’Alene, shared a full family life and gave assistance in John’s medical practice, telecommunications business, and political endeavors. She is also survived by her children Robin (Joe), John (Chris), Stewart (Patty) and Andrew (Krisi), and by 17 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren. She will be missed by many in this life, who already look forward to a joyful reunion in the life to come. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, December 28, 4:00 pm at the Whitworth University Chapel. Memorial donations may be made in her name to Whitworth University, Young Life of South Spokane or Camp Spalding.