On July 4, at the ripe, old age of 103, Redmond resident and influential community volunteer Audrey Gorlick passed away at the Evergreen Hospice in Kirkland.
A memorial service for family and friends took place in Edmonds on July 14.
According to a former caregiver and “honorary granddaughter” Alexa Munoz, Audrey attributed her longevity to “good genes,” as well as the belief, “Always find the good points in people, keep a positive attitude and you’ll find you will get along much better and you’ll be happier for it.”
Born Rachel Cohen in Glasgow, Scotland on January 27, 1905, she was called “Raie” as a child and young teen. Her family then moved to Chicago to assist a sick relative and decided to stay there. They’d been antique dealers in Scotland and also opened such a business in their new hometown.
While attending a party at the age of 18, a young man told her date that he was calling her the wrong name.
“Her name’s Audrey,” he insisted. She liked the name and adopted it. Her name changed again when she married Simon David Gorlick at the age of 29.
Trained as a teacher, Audrey eventually became the sole proprietor of her own shop, DeLee’s Antiques, which sold jewelry, miniatures, porcelain, glass, furniture and other collectibles, according to Munoz.
“She was cherished by her family and devoted to them, but knew that family is only supported by the greater community,” Munoz explained in a July 15 phone interview. “During her years in business, she figured out the importance of service to the community. It was important for her to see progress and to do good for others.”
Audrey cultivated warm friendships with her customers, often inviting them to meals and tea, served from a kitchen located in the rear of her shop.
She became a widow in 1967, closed her shop in 1978 and made plans to relocate to Redmond, where her only son, Arthur Charles Gorlick lived with his wife Lynne and three children, Peter, Karen and Lisa. Born in 1935, Arthur preceded his mother in death in 2004.
May 18, 1980, the day Mt. St. Helens erupted, was the day Audrey arrived in Washington state.
A few days later, she went to Redmond City Hall to register to vote. While there, she asked for a referral to a medical doctor and was told that the people at the senior center could probably give her some suggestions.
The trip to the senior center led to networking, invitations to luncheons and volunteering at the Marymoor Museum, in the Clise Mansion in Marymoor Park. Audrey’s extensive knowledge of antiques came in handy as she identified, dated and appraised donated items now housed at the Heritage Museum in Bellevue. She later participated in the Redmond Historical Society.
Another contact from the senior luncheons, Marie Wood, asked if Audrey could assist with a recycling center which pre-dated the City of Redmond’s curbside recycling program.
According to Munoz, Audrey and other volunteers sorted glass bottles and jars by color and separated cardboard from newsprint. All proceeds from what was recycled between the early 1980s and 1993 went to organizations such as the Redmond Police and Fire Departments and the local food bank.
Audrey and Wood were also instrumental in the planning and construction of the Redmond Senior Center that opened in 1990.
As an amusing aside, Munoz noted, “She felt the center should have a ‘homey’ atmosphere and was adamant that the women’s lounge would have an adequate number of stalls to comfortably accommodate the women who would use the center.”
Fittingly, Audrey was also a staunch supporter of Nokomis Club, a local women’s service organization which was founded in 1909 and established the first Redmond library.
Audrey acted as the club’s historian and liaison to the Redmond Regional Library. She served as a member of the Nokomis scholarship committee that determines which Redmond High School senior would receive a $1,000 annual scholarship. And her great-nephew, Richard Hersh, of Sherman Oaks, Calif, donated enough money to ensure that talented students will continue to receive scholarships long beyond Nokomis’ upcoming 100th anniversary.
Audrey also volunteered in the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) and the Operation Schoolbell project, knitting caps for low-income children.
Munoz further mentioned Audrey’s enthusiasm for exercise and reading.
“She’d had a lot of childhood diseases in the days before inoculation. Scarlet fever inhibited the calcium in her bones and she had hip problems all her life, but exercised, doing adult aerobics, into her 90s, when she ended up in adult care because she was immobilized,” said Munoz.
And although Audrey was shy to speak in public, “she had a sharp, intelligent business mind,” no doubt honed by the fact that she’d started reading at the age of three, when her father used to take her to one of the very first Carnegie libraries back in Glasgow, said Munoz.
“The last time I saw her, about five days before she died, she had a little magnifying glass and was still trying to read. She’d been reading and learning for more than 100 years,” Munoz marveled.
Another of Audrey’s good friends, Linda Hussey, who also considered Audrey “like a grandmother,” said Audrey would have liked the community to contribute to Nokomis and the Redmond Historical Society in her memory.
Remembrances can be sent to Nokomis in care of Amo Marr, 7935 170th Place NE, #102, Redmond, WA 98052. To donate to the Redmond Historical Society, visit www.redmondhistory.org.
Donations to the American Heart Association are also encouraged: www.americanheart.org.