Grace Genevieve Muse of Eastsound died in her sleep Dec. 17.
Born June 1928 in Chicago to Oscar and Ina Hjerpe, Grace moved to Torrance, Calif. at age six. She spoke of her youth fondly, of the lifelong friends she made in grade school and never lost touch with, of her German Shepard Norby, “the smartest dog in the world” and of skipping school with friends to see Frank Sinatra.
Grace started a lifetime of work at 14, using her height to sell a lie about her age. She used some of the money for flying lessons and told of soaring over the strawberry fields and orange groves around Torrance. She graduated from Torrance High School at 16 then went to college but never graduated; it was a lifelong regret. Money was tight and work came first. She became an expert typist and knew shorthand.
Always a hard worker, Grace often held multiple jobs, as when she was a secretary by day, Bob’s Big Boy waitress at night and part-time bookkeeper at KPPC radio. She was personal secretary to Stan Avery and James Pigott, managed the Eastsound branch of Washington Federal bank, worked at Orcas High School and the Islands’ Sounder, ran a typing service out of her home and volunteered at the Orcas library into her 80s. In Grace’s elder years, she often commented how strange it felt to not be needed somewhere.
She married a jazz drummer when she was 24, divorcing six years later. Grace said she knew the union was doomed when he gave her an ironing board for her birthday. While working as a part-time model, she caught the eye of Bill Muse. They married in 1959 and had a daughter, Marla, of Arlington, and a son, Bill, of Seattle, both of whom survive, as do two granddaughters whom Grace loved very much. Her husband passed in 2002, and she never got over it.
Grace loved reading, her family, feeding birds and traveling. She baked terrible cookies because she tried to make them healthy. She drove a ‘75 BMW from 1978 until a few months beyond when she should have, and she looked great in it. The only thing more rare than a harsh word from Grace was a person who had something bad to say about her. A nurse in the adult family home where Grace spent her final two months said Grace always made the others laugh, “except today; that’s how we knew something was wrong.”
Scarlet fever as a child gave Grace a weak heart the rest of her life; the doctors say it’s what ultimately did her in. But those who knew her knew a woman with a large strong heart, who was kind and funny, cheerful and thoughtful, hard-working and honest.
Remembrances can be made to Friends of the Orcas Island Library at orcaslibrary.org/friends.html. See pictures and share stories at grace.muse.muchloved.com.