Renton’s first female Marine dies at age 106

Renton’s first female Marine dies at age 106

Louise George, 106, of Renton, who traveled the world, served as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps Quartermaster Corps and, in the words of her sister, was a Queen Elizabeth lookalike, was such a striking woman that I wrote her obituary years ago.

“We always called her Spotlight,” said Louise’s youngest sister, Gloria Duffy, 92.

Louise and Gloria were neighbors in Merrill Gardens, and Louise was always well-dressed.

“She always wore fur clothes and hats, she was always dressed up,” says Gloria, who now has her sister’s fur stoles displayed on her furniture. While Louise and Gloria lived in Merrill Gardens, they would often meet for lunch, dinner and happy hour together, discussing current events over drinks. When their sister Florence was still alive, the three would often go out to dinner together in Renton.

“I’ve always felt very attached to Louise,” Gloria said.

Louise George was born March 9, 1918, the oldest daughter of Florenzo and Matilda Giovanelli DeLaurenti. She graduated from Renton High School in 1936 and during her time there she served as a member of the Torch Society, president of the Business and Professional Women’s Club, president of National Catholic Community Services and secretary of the Council of United Service Organizations.

Before joining the Marines and becoming a secretary, Louise held the same position at United Mine Workers of America District 10 (UMWA) in Renton, and then worked directly for the UMWA’s Chief Information Officer in Seattle’s Smith Tower, the tallest building on the West Coast at the time.

In March 1943, Louise enlisted in the Marines, becoming the first woman from Renton to enlist in the Marines. Gloria says her family was “very supportive” while she was away for a few years. Louise traveled alone to Washington, DC, and later told a Renton High School reporter that she was not scared on the trip. After being discharged as a staff sergeant, Louise returned to Washington.

“She was a very good girl. She changed a lot. Most importantly, she grew up,” Gloria said of her sister’s return. Louise later became a secretary for the King County Election Commission in Renton, where she worked for 25 years. It was around that time that she met her second husband, Louise George. Louise and Louise were unable to have children, and several years later Louise died of a heart attack, leaving Louise a widow.

Over the years, Louise George worked for First Interstate Bank and Wells Fargo Bank. In her free time, she was an active member of the Renton High School Alumni Association, a member of the Renton Community Foundation Board of Directors, and a member of the Women Marines Association. She loved traveling with Gloria, and the two traveled all over the country. She also volunteered at the Renton Historical Museum.

In 2015, Louise took the Puget Sound Honor Flight’s tour of Washington, D.C., and told the Renton Reporter she was glad she went despite initially planning to decline for health reasons.

Louise spoke about how Washington DC has changed since she lived there 70 years ago, her gratitude to her crew, and her favorite monuments, including the Women’s Military Service Memorial and the Iwo Jima Memorial.

“I really loved that statue. It was so beautiful, even the creases in the clothes and the shoes,” she said of the statue of the soldiers raising the flag at Iwo Jima. “It was like I was really looking at them.”

In April 2019, 101-year-old Louise was honored for her military service by the Marine Corps Recruiting Station in Seattle. The surprise event was organized by Renton High School assistant librarian Mary Galbraith, who in her opening speech described Louise as “graceful, agile, cheerful and kindhearted” and said she “doesn’t look like she’s over 70 years old.”

In a subsequent interview, Louise told a Renton High School reporter that it was “the greatest recognition I’ve ever received in my life.”

Years later, on what would have been Louise’s 104th birthday, March 9, 2022, she was honored by the City of Renton, with Mayor Almondo Pavone declaring the day Louise George Day. The official proclamation noted that Louise lived a rich and fulfilling life and was “a kind, cheerful and compassionate person to all” as among the many reasons for further honoring her.

Louise passed away peacefully at Merrill Gardens on April 17, 2024. Her longtime friend Katie Duggan also described her as a very gracious and kind person.

“What a remarkable woman. She was so poised, like Queen Elizabeth,” Dugan said.

A young Louise George. Photo courtesy of Merrill Gardens.A young Louise George. Photo courtesy of Merrill Gardens.

A young Louise George. Photo courtesy of Merrill Gardens.

Louise George celebrates her 100th birthday in 2018. Photo by Margie NicosiaLouise George celebrates her 100th birthday in 2018. Photo by Margie Nicosia

Louise George celebrates her 100th birthday in 2018. Photo by Margie Nicosia

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