Commentary: A Life of Love — Thoughts About Donna Karvia


One of the biggest churches in Lewis County probably won’t be big enough for the many friends and fans of Donna Karvia, whose memorial will be held at the Chehalis Bethel Church 1-3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 4.

Karvia served in elected office for many years as Lewis County clerk, retiring in 1999. She remained active in many groups and efforts, from serving survivors of abuse at the Human Response Network to being an optimistic part of the political process in the county Democratic Party.

In honor of her life and service, the Lewis County Commission will be declaring Feb. 4 to be Donna Karvia Day, in recognition of her “profound contributions to public service and volunteerism.”

It’s an apt and well-deserved homage.

I didn’t know her well, but whenever we spoke I came away from the conversation feeling both energized and peaceful. She had that way of gently but urgently pushing us onward toward whatever task lay ahead. 

Because of her foundational work, the sick and hurting of Lewis County can get affordable care at Valley View Health Center. She mentioned to me that when she would host international visitors, they were always fascinated to tour Valley View. 

Karvia responded several times to my columns over the years. In 2007, when two of my distant German cousins came to visit their American relatives, I put out a call for suggestions on where I should take them to visit. Many people offered good responses, but Karvia gave me a specific contact — her son, Mike, who is a firefighter in the tiny Pacific County community of Oysterville. 

I took up her offer to contact Mike, and he was a delightful host for our family on a most memorable trip to Willapa Bay, Long Beach and the edge of the continent. 

It was one small example of her ability to connect people, creating new threads of community to enhance our lives individually and collectively.

Afterward, Karvia sent us an email and mentioned her own experience as hosts of foreign families. 

“We have had many exchange students,” she said to me by email. “Viewing our wonderful community and country through the eyes of those who do not take it for granted gives us an appreciation of the things and people around us.”

One of the last email exchanges I had with Karvia was when I solicited advice from long-married couples on the occasion of my own 15th wedding anniversary. In her email to me, she said: 

“Even during the strongest disagreement treat your husband or wife with dignity and respect. ‘I’m sorry’ cannot take back words spoken or actions taken. You serve as an example for your children.

“The words on the card my wonderful husband gave me are very true. Love is not for sissies, love is not all music and moonlight and romance. Love, real love, takes patience and courage and commitment. Real love — the kind that makes two people make a promise as big as ‘I do’ — isn’t easy, but if anything in life is worth the effort, it’s real love.”

Perhaps that can stand a fitting eulogy for a woman I respected, and whose devotion to our community was a dear and enduring gift. 

Thank you, Donna, for the lifelong commitment you gave to us. We felt the love. 


Getting to Know

 Our George Washington

One of the best parts of our growing bicentennial recognition of Centralia founder George Washington has been the collective experience of discovery as we all learn about this man’s remarkable life. His life story is told most completely in “Centralia: the First Fifty Years.” There are other records of his life as well, and several of us have been researching to find out more. Kerry Serl, of Napavine, has made many discoveries in online public records and archives. 

With your indulgence, I’ll be devoting a little space in this column each week to telling George’s life story, one snippet at a time. 

It’s a fascinating and worthwhile journey, and a timely excursion as our community begins celebrating the 200th birthday of our first and founding citizen.


Brian Mittge can be reached at, on Twitter @bmittge, or every second Monday of the month at 5:30 in the Centralia library during meetings of the George Washington bicentennial committee.