Irene Endicott Has Created a Golden Legacy
by Barbara Sleeper
Mill Creek resident, Irene Endicott, is a work in progress, a seemingly indefatigable force. She has written ten books, made national appearances as a motivational speaker discussing family issues, been a host on KOMO TV, a Christian radio host on KCIS-AM and KGNWAM in Seattle, and columnist for Grandparenting magazine.
For 18 years, she served as a Trustee and President of the SIDS Foundation of Washington, and later, as President of the Evergreen Republican Women’s Club in Everett. Then she became a national resource for seniors, particularly those challenged with the responsibility of raising their own grandkids.
“I learned early in life that I like to solve problems,” says Irene in the polished voice of a professional speaker. Quick, articulate and extremely witty, she sat across from me at the Mill Creek Lombardi’s, dressed immaculately as if ready to host another TV show.
In her 2017 book titled What Will Your Legacy Be? True Stories of Lives Well Lived, Irene says “we all leave a legacy. Billy Graham did. Margaret Thatcher did. Adolph Hitler did. So will you.”
According to her book, “a legacy is defined as the impact, influence or imprint we leave on the lives of those we care about. We create it either by purpose and intent, or we create it just by existing day by day. Every day of life contributes to our living legacy. The product of those many days will define the legacy we leave.”
Irene’s goal in writing the book was to offer true, heart-touching stories to inspire readers to examine the values and principles by which they live, and to think about how they will be remembered. At 87 years young, Irene has become her own heart-touching story as she continues to share her positive influence on others.
Irene was born September 4, 1934, in Pocatello, Idaho. She was the seventh of nine surviving children born to parents, Robert and Lila Peart. Just remembering all her siblings’ names is now a memory test unto itself: Robert, Margaret, Charles, Dean, Arnold, Merna, Irene, Carol and Betty. Two other siblings, William and Edith, died in infancy, both from health issues that could now be easily treated.
“My dad worked with international contractors on projects around the world, including Saigon and Afghanistan,” explains Irene. “My siblings were all born two years apart, because he worked on two-year assignments. Every time my mother gave birth, he would send a dozen red roses to the hospital. In 1941, our family moved to Washington state.
“My father was a brilliant man born in Manchester, England. I know it wasn’t easy for him to leave the family, but at the time, working in foreign countries was tax-free money. Without his sacrifice, our large family would have suffered greatly. My dear mother pretty much raised us all, keeping us healthy, safe and well-loved during wartime and peace alike.
“Mom was one of seventeen children born in Deer Lodge, Montana, in a log house built at the turn of the last century by Grandpa, with no nails, just logs and mortar. He left at dawn every Sunday morning on his old swayback horse with a big black Bible strapped to his saddle to preach the Gospel to Indian tribes in the area while Grandma stayed home with the children.
" Because of his friendship with the tribes, my grandpa was given special handmade gifts of gratitude: brilliant-colored feathers, bows and arrows, beautiful headdresses, fur pelts and other treasured items, so many items that a small museum was built to hold them.
“When I was seven, I remember listening to the radio with my mother. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was talking. He described the devastating surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and then declared war on Japan. My mother immediately started sobbing knowing her four sons would
enlist. Big sister, Margaret’s grief lasted a lifetime when her fiancé became one of the first casualties of war.”
Food staples were scarce during WWII remembers Irene. Flour, sugar, butter, meat and other foods were rationed. “My mother was a creative cook, her dinner rolls famous throughout our family. Each month, she skimped using our sugar ration to make us her legendary, moon-sized sugar cookies.
"When I was nine, I saved up 15 cents, and three different times, stole my brother’s bike and went to the local movie theater to watch Gone with the Wind. In between shows, Pathe’ News showed horrible war scenes on the big screen. I curled up in my seat, trying not to look, praying that my brothers were safe. Thankfully, they all returned home.
“I believe that living through that major world war influenced the successful outcome of our adult lives,” she says. “We learned how to sacrifice, the value of hard work, and we grew up proud patriots who love America and freedom, and always will.”
During her senior year, Irene was awarded a Lincoln High School scholarship that included one year tuition and books at the University of Washington. “In my sophomore year, I ran out of money, left school, and married the father of my four children, Tom, Steve, Doug and Melissa. I still mourn the fact that I didn’t finish my degree in Communications and Journalism, but I learned so much from my wonderful professors that I felt I didn’t need the paper degree to succeed.
“One of them was Dr. Bernard Goldstein, a distinguished professor of Journalism on sabbatical from a major east coast university. He taught me how to perform effectively, the correct use of a microphone and how to project my voice so people could hear what I was saying. He inspired me to reach for the stars as a communicator, writer, stage actress, and public speaker.”
Goldstein planned a special Sunday evening event at the UW Henry Art Gallery and chose four of his students to perform. Irene was one of them. “We stood in front of the audience behind four tall speaker stands with a single bright light over each of our heads. When the house went dark, we began dramatic presentations of major parts of the Greek Tragedies and the works of major poets. That was the moment I was bitten by the performing bug.
“Our family didn’t escape sadness. When my little sister Betty was eleven years old, she was one of the first children diagnosed with Adolescent Diabetes. She was treated with the new experimental diabetes drugs and therapeutic methods that are still helping patients today. Completely blind, she stayed with me years later. I drove her to white cane training, and each morning, gave her a shot in her upper leg.
“Betty would go to her window, pull the curtain back and put her face on the glass saying, ‘What a beautiful day the Lord has made.’ It was usually pouring down rain. I took her to church and for years people mentioned how inspirational she was. Betty kept a happy spirit through 13 surgeries and rehabs and loss of her eyesight. My beloved mother nursed Betty until her death at age 34.
“After 10 years, my marriage failed,” says Irene. “There was a divorce, followed single mom raising four kids. But every dark cloud has a silver lining. In 1967, while working as the host of The Morning Movie on KOMO TV, I was asked to be a judge for the Miss Washington Pageant. Bill Endicott of KTNT TV was also asked to be a judge.
“When we broke for lunch, he sat next to me,” reminisces Irene. “My stint at KOMO TV was coming to an end. When Bill called later to ask if I would join him conducting interviews of notable people for NBC Monitor Radio, I jumped at the chance. It meant income for my four children, all under the age of nine. Together, Bill and I interviewed dignitaries for many radio segments. We became such a great team that on December 29, 1967, we tied the knot to begin our remarkable 50-year marriage.
“Bill was a WWII veteran with the 33rd Infantry Division that liberated the Filipino people from the Japanese. He then became one of the first radio and TV reporters from the Pacific Northwest to report LIVE from Cape Canaveral on the early Apollo missions, meeting the first seven Apollo astronauts.
“Bill opened a financial public relations company called Corporate Communications, Inc, in downtown Seattle. For 22 years he helped major clients tell their company story to financial leaders on Wall Street. One of the firms he represented, Rocket Research in Redmond, designed and built the hand-held maneuvering unit that astronaut Edward White took into space.
“A humorous incident occurred when he put the gadget in the trunk of his car and took off to give a speech at a Canadian stockbrokers’ meeting,” recounts Irene. “Bill was arrested at the border as a potential spy because of the strange looking equipment in his car. Twenty hours later, everything got sorted out and he came home.
“Through those years, Bill worked for KTNT TV. He created the Captain Cosmic Show for young people and starred as the Captain with his funny sidekick named Robbie the Robot. Every Saturday morning, wearing a space uniform and white helmet, he educated children about the universe, the planets and travel into space.
“Bill sold his company and built a home on Lake Washington where we lived for nine years. Then he started a project to build six log homes on contiguous acreage near North Creek in Mill Creek, but the Growth Management Act passed and his dream died with all the new regulations. We built our next home on the Street of Dreams in the Evergreen Division where, in 1981, we were one of the early families to join the Mill Creek Country Club. Bill played golf and I played tennis.”
Bill was one of seven people who founded Horizon Airlines in 1981. He then wrote a book about the experience called Remember the Magic. He also created, edited and self-published a quarterly national newsletter for the 33rd Infantry Division. For 20 years, he and Irene planned and organized reunions across the country for hundreds of 33rd veterans and their wives.
“I had always wanted to try acting,” shares Irene, “so while Bill was busy on his projects, I performed in two comedies at Seattle’s venerable Cirque Playhouse. In The Man Who Came to Dinner, I played a slinky, seductive actress. In The Seven Year Itch, I played a distraught housewife whose husband constantly dreams of Marilyn Monroe, until she threatens to shoot him. I absolutely loved performing both roles.”
In 1986, Irene opened her own company in Bellevue, Eastside Employment, which filled clerical positions. Several years later, she added Endicott Personnel in downtown Seattle, headhunting for high level management prospects.
“Life was good. My beautiful children were growing up. Then, one day, I was sitting in the choir at Bethel Lutheran Church in Shoreline, and I thought I heard someone whisper my name. I looked behind me and got funny faces from the bass section. No, it wasn’t them. Then it came again, “Irene”.
“I remember suddenly feeling overwhelmed with sadness and a heavy heart. I believe the Lord was speaking to me, saying, “How much money can you make, Irene? What about Me?”
“I cried, sold my companies and went to work as the public relations director for the senior community at CRISTA Ministries in North Seattle. There, I also started a five-year stint interviewing live guests as host for World of Women, a Christian radio program on KCIS Radio at CRISTA. This was in addition to my paid job.
“Then I hosted a new radio show for women and families in Seattle called Women in Touch on KGNW for another five years. I interviewed dignitaries, movie stars, and famous clergy, athletes and authors. This period of my life was great fun and led to my writing and speaking career.”
In the 1980s, Irene served as a trustee and past president of the SIDS Foundation of Washington (SIDS) working successfully to reduce infant crib deaths through research. She was an on-air guest of Dr. James Dobson’s, Focus on the Family national radio program. She also served on the women’s committee for the two-day 1991 Billy Graham Crusade in Seattle at the Kingdome and Tacoma Dome.
In 1992, Irene was the guest speaker/teacher at the Bill & Gloria Gaither Praise Gathering attended by 20,000 people in Indianapolis. A year later, she was the on-camera host for Grandparenting by Grace, the national television family enrichment series. That year she also spoke on stage with Art Linkletter at the National Seniors Convention at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. In 2004, Irene served on the committee to bring Ann Graham Lotz to Key Arena for her famous presentation, Just Give Me Jesus. They filled the 18,000-seat arena.
Her column for the national grandparenting magazine was called Ask Grandmother, Irene lobbied for new laws and traveled to dozens of states teaching grandparents how to cope with the damage done by their children’s divorce, drug addiction and/or abusive parenting behavior directed toward their grandchildren.
Irene authored six books on grandparenting including Grandparenting Redefined, a summary of her 1989 research that showed more than three million American children were being raised by their grandparents. This statistic was verified in the 1990 Census, creating a national dialogue on a very heartbreaking situation.
Social Service experts estimated that there were thousands more seniors suffering in silence over the loss of their relaxing retirement years, and their retirement savings, to prevent their grandchildren from going into “the system.”
As a result, laws were passed giving grandparents a voice in the courts and in the lives of their grandchildren. Organizations began to financially assist care-giving grandparents and other state and national grandparents raising-grandchildren groups sprang up all over the country. Irene authored several more books on the topic including: Grandparenting by Grace, a Guide Through the Joys and Struggles (1994); Grandparenting, It’s Not What It Used to Be (1997); and Out of the Mouths of Grandchildren (1997). The titles are only available by contacting Irene.
“In 2000, while I ran for the state House of Representatives in the 44th District, Bill took a vintage open-air jeep trip of 12 days across the country from Fort Lewis, Washington to Fort Belvoir in Virginia,” says Irene. “He stopped in states along the way to fundraise through radio and TV interviews to build the Army Museum in Washington D.C. His partner for the trip was his fellow WWII buddy, Gene Poynter.”
The two great grandfathers were met by generals who surprised them with the great honor of laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Bill counted that a highlight of his life. When the museum became a reality, Bill and Gene were invited guests at the opening ceremony and introduced to the audience. Actor Tom Hanks was the national fundraising chair for the museum. They were on stage with President Bush, Sr. and the generals who had welcomed them at the end of the jeep trip.
Irene created and chaired Citizens for A Safe Snohomish County (CSSC) during the methamphetamine epidemic in the early 2000s. At the time, Washington state led the nation in mobile meth labs and two-thirds of all crime in Snohomish County could be directly linked to meth. A study published by CSSC in 2003 determined that the Snohomish County Methamphetamine Crisis was the single most compelling public safety issue threatening our community. The group then worked with the public and law enforcement to find solutions.
“Irene’s devotion to the next generation and the judgment she exercises to change the world around her make Irene a powerful leader,” wrote Lynn Harsh, former chief executive officer of the Freedom Foundation, headquartered in Olympia, WA.
From 2004 through 2019, Irene created a legacy program for the Freedom Foundation that became a national model for nonprofits. “An important part of one’s legacy is making sure your ideas and the causes you took a courageous stand for in life survive your death,” says Irene. “It is critically important that each person has a valid will or estate plan for the sake of their loved ones.”
Irene’s life has been riddled with worthwhile causes.
“Like all Americans who saw the twin towers fall in 2001, I was devastated,” she recalls. “I felt I had to have a place to put my heartbreak. For most of my career, I have been a national advocate for children and families. The countless children left to mourn their moms or dads haunted me as much as the horrific loss of thousands of other adult lives.
“So, for the next twenty years, I saved one or two petals from every flower I received from friends, family and organizations until I reached nearly 3,000 this year. Counting each petal as I thought about how I might display them was very difficult. It took eight tries to finish the counting because I could not stop the tears and had to start again.
“I located a shadow box big enough to hold them and began placing layers of dried petals in it. I lightly sprayed each layer with artist glue. When I finished the last rows, adding the remaining sprigs of baby’s breath, I let everything rest for 24 hours. Then I slowly closed the box, gently turned it over, and was overcome with emotion.
“My son placed my special 911 memorial on the wall of my home office in Mill Creek. I enjoy reminding friends and family who see it that it contains petals of flowers they gave me over the past 20 years. I tell them that their love and blessings are an intricate part of this tribute, and to Never Forget.
“In 2019, after three years in a dementia care facility, my beloved husband died at age 91. A member of the Greatest Generation, Bill personified service to others through his many projects and he did it all by attending just one quarter of junior college. North Creek Presbyterian Church held his beautiful memorial service for which our family will remain forever grateful.”
Irene credits her vitality as an octogenarian to Bothell internist Dr. Ruth Freeman and fitness trainers Koreen and John who work with Irene twice a week at Dr. Freeman’s Primary Care Gym. “I don’t have any other patients in their late 80’s that only take one prescription med,” says Dr. Freeman. “She’s remarkable.” So, is this the end of Irene’s legacy? “No way,” she says. “I’m still going strong and have much more work to do. But in the meantime, I have four highly successful children, three perfect grandchildren and six perfect great-grandchildren who I love dearly.
” * * * * * Irene can be reached at [email protected]
for free counseling on family issues or to obtain any of her books. Fasten your seatbelt before you make contact. She’s an energizer bunny