Laura Ann Hamilton, 62, passed peacefully from our sight to join Jesus, her savior, at Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, Wash., in the early evening Friday, April 3, 2020. She was born May 27, 1957, to Dean and Vie (Jenks) Hamilton in Onalaska, Wash. Laura lived most of her adult life in Onalaska and Chehalis, until recently when she retired to a little beach house in Westport, Wash., to enjoy well-deserved full-night slumber, calmed by the ocean, after over 40 years of nursing and midwifery practice.
Laura learned about hard work early in life on her family’s award-winning dairy farm where she was raised. She graduated Salutatorian from Onalaska High School, Class of 1975, and earned her Licensed Practical Nurse diploma from the Centralia College Nursing Program the next year. After working several years at local community hospitals, Laura knew that serving childbearing families was her life’s calling, so from 1981 to 1983, she commuted to the Seattle Midwifery School to earn her Licensed Midwife credential. Community-based midwifery then defined her professional life, 24/7, for the next 36 years during which time she delivered 4000 babies in Lewis and neighboring counties. Each baby to her was one of God’s children and she never lost the awe of watching a mother fall in love with her newborn. Delivering the grandbabies of patients from earlier in her career was also one of the joys that kept her energized well into the 21st century.
Laura’s sense of adventure and duty to service took her beyond Southwest Washington several times during her long career. She worked alongside midwives, nurses and doctors in Samoa, South Africa, Mali and St. Lucia West Indies. While a student midwife in St. Lucia, Laura befriended the St. Catherine family. She returned many times to that lush island to enjoy time with her St. Lucian family (Tina, Ernest, Victor, Kurt, Ern and Ernst) and to swim in the warm Caribbean Sea in between shifts at the hospital maternity ward. Willing to brave the northern weather, the St. Catherine family members visited Laura in her Lewis County home many times as well. Victor tragically lost his life here, in a vehicular accident while he was only a teenager.
Laura’s sense of family knew no bounds and she knew no stranger. Her generosity, which often included a room in her house, embraced more people than can be named here.
Kevin Kurt St. Catherine (Teresa Sio) of Olympia and Arsene Estwick James (Mariette Harris) of Chehalis were like sons to her. Nieces and nephews who will miss her are Caleb, Gabe, Cesce, Haven, Teaya, Katie, Brad, Shawn, Olivia, JD, Levi and Emma. Her extended-family grandchildren, all of them precious to her, include Victoria, Fiona, Alivia, Tyler, Layla, Maya, JR and Jade.
Cal Robert, her “Caliman,” was an adored grandchild born into Laura’s hands in 2016, who since he could walk kept her safe as he patrolled their land on the banks of the Newaukum River. Cal’s father, Taylor Rushton (Robin Meier) of Onalaska, who survives his mother, was her son by birth during her marriage to Robert Rushton. Laura is also survived by both of her parents, father Dean (Bev) and mother Vie Ann; and all of her siblings, Lanna (Connie), Dave (Rita) and Jim (Elizabeth).
Laura’s family also extended to the Aleut (Sugpiaq or Alutiiq) people of Alaska. She was a proud enrolled member of the tribe, which she was able to join as a descendent of John “Benny” Benson, Jr. He won a contest in 1927, at 13 years of age for designing the Alaska territorial (now state) flag. Laura herself was also a designer, of jewelry, inspired by the natural world and she sewed a marvelous variety of purses, holiday items and other products intended to bring people joy. She had been looking forward to spending more time at her Westport crafts shop, Butterfly Wishes.
A memorial for Laura at the Toledo Baptist Church will be deferred until later this year due to the current challenges regarding social gatherings at this time. Her final resting place will be at the Alpha Cemetery in Onalaska.