Rebecca L. Reich
Mar 18, 1956 - Dec 16, 2016
Rebecca L. Reich
Mar 18, 1956 - Dec 16, 2016
Rebecca’s family and friends lost a beloved, irreplaceable part of their lives when she left us early in the morning of December 16, 2016, after a courageous, private battle with breast cancer.
We are not alone in this loss. The land, waters and wildlife of the county she worked so tirelessly to preserve and protect, and the future generations who will be able to enjoy these natural treasures because of her commitment, have also lost a very special friend. For them and through them her legacy and spirit will endure forever.
A long time supporter of the Whatcom Land Trust, Rebecca was asked to join the Board of Directors in July 2007. From that time forward she dedicated herself to furthering its mission of protecting the natural and agricultural lands in our corner of the world. From 2012 until very recently she served as Chair of the Land Committee, bringing her professional skills as a realtor to evaluating and acquiring lands to be protected. She also took great joy in the on-the-ground work required, in wandering through and exploring special places under consideration.
Rebecca also had a life long love of gardening. She received a Bachelor of Science degree, with honors, in horticulture from Colorado State University. With her innate eye for beauty in art and nature augmented by her academic training, she created special places wherever she lived, alive not just with flowers but with birds, butterflies, and water. Her eye for beauty and composition, conveyed through her gardens, also found expression in her passion for photography. She approached both with an unwavering respect for detail and dedication to doing the best she could.
Rebecca moved to Bellingham in 1983. Soon after, she began a thirty-year career as a realtor, reaping satisfaction in helping people find their special places. Through hard work and study she earned the highest levels of certification in the field, rising to a position of trust and respect within the local business community.
With her grace and thoughtfulness, Rebecca touched so many in small and large ways. She was a person who would send a handwritten note on a carefully chosen card, on joyous or sad occasions or just to let someone know she cared. She was attentive to and celebrated the meaning and importance of the small as well as the large in life. By her example, she reminded us to always, even in the most difficult of times, be mindful of and thankful for the good and beautiful: the touch of a loving life partner, the grace of ever loving parents, the sweet smell of lilacs, a shared laugh with a friend, a glass of buttery chardonnay, dancing, dark chocolate, fresh local oysters, Dungeness crab, the Beatles, cheese enchiladas from Taco Lobo, moussaka, the smile of a stranger, the color turquoise, a walk on the beach. She treasured them all.
Rebecca loved to explore, whether camping and boating in places dear to her heart near home or roaming far afield. She was passionate about the water and returned often to Deception Pass and the San Juan Islands. She delighted in walking the tulip fields of Holland in May, relaxing on an Italian island in the Adriatic, pitching in with the harvest at the farm of friends in southern France, or following in the footsteps of the Beatles in Hamburg, Germany.
Rebecca leaves behind her beloved husband Dale Johnson and parents Doris and Gene Reich, brother Joe and wife Lori and family, brother Greg and family, cousin Roger Anderson and wife Lori and family, and sister-in-law Patty Morgan and family, as well as a large circle of extended family and friends. A celebration of Rebecca’s life will be held at 1 p.m., January 15th at Moles Funeral Home on Lakeway Drive in Bellingham. Donations in her memory can be made to Whatcom Land Trust.
“Don’t wish me happiness
I don’t expect to be happy all the time…
It’s gotten beyond that somehow.
Wish me courage and strength and a sense of humor.
I will need them all.”
― Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea
Rebecca did have courage, strength and a sense of humor and much of the time she found happiness. In many ways I think her diagnosis of cancer helped her to chart a new course for her life. The things she had always said she wanted to do became more concrete. Her time and dedication to the Land Trust, her desire to travel, to find the right partner for her business so she could retire, to set aside time for weekend getaways, creativity, gardening, family and friends, all became more important and her allocation of time shifted.
This week we lost a sister. Not a biological sister but a “wish sister”; one of seven sisters that chose each other and have had the privilege of gathering together, at least once a month, for over twenty- five years. Rebecca and I first met each other in the 1980’s while waiting tables to pay our bills. We soon learned we both loved family traditions and started hosting Sunday brunches and baking Christmas cookies together. Love of sailing and the saltwater took us to the islands and had us digging clams and dropping and pulling crab pots.
By coincidence, long after our waitressing days, we both attended a business conference at the Lakeway Inn. I remember the year, 1991, because I was sick that day and learned later that I was pregnant with our son Paul, who is now 24. One of the seminars at the conference was called “Wish craft”; a workshop on networking. We wrote down a business goal that we wished to accomplish and shared it with the other women in the room. The group gave feedback, offering any connections they had to help us reach our goals. Over lunch, several of us decided that we wanted to form our own group modeled after the seminar.
Our first meeting was at Rebecca’s house on Knox street. We sat at her dining room table and designed a template for our meetings. We were rather business like in the early days. We decided that we would meet once a month, rotate houses, would have a topic, each person would have a set amount of time to speak and we would take minutes. Our goals were professional and we exchanged business cards and information. Soon, we added dinner and wine and had a social hour before the meetings started. Over time the relationships changed as we learned to trust each other. As our trust deepened so did the subjects we tackled. Our focus on business shifted and we began sharing the personal journeys we were on. We supported each other through divorce, new relationships, health issues, aging parents, losses, job changes, raising our children; the passages and the milestones of our lives. We became “The Wish Sisters” the sisters we weren’t born with but the sisters that we had chosen.
One of the challenges we faced as a group and still do, is time management. We take turns going in a circle and sharing; It is usually a weeknight and when we look at our watches it is quite often nearing midnight. We have tried various ways to manage our time; a timekeeper, talking stones, having a topic; each of us taking turns as the facilitator. None of it has worked because the problem has grown out of our love of being together; we never have enough time to share all that we want in one short evening. We have added retreats and weekend get-a-ways. We have gone to Harrison Hot Springs, The Willows, taken trips to Seattle and to Grandville Island. For many years we walked around Lake Padden in the morning as another way to stay connected. The relationships have extended to our spouses and our children. It has become a support group of friendship, solidarity and love. Quite often we have had different opinions about things with heated discussions, but the bonds of friendship are far deeper than the opinions, and the relationships simply grow stronger. Our group varies in communication styles. Some members are outgoing, some are quiet and reflective. Rebecca usually liked to sit and listen and would be one of the last to share. But when she did say something it was usually with wisdom and insight. She was an old soul with a great sense of humor and a heart of compassion.
I think of Rebecca as a “water girl” She loved mermaids, beach glass, turquoise jewels, shimmering white sand, sea shells, starfish, sailboats and collections of things; rocks, agates, beach combing treasures. As the only “non-gardener” in the group I was in awe of her garden and appreciated her botany lessons and starts of plants for my own garden, all of which I have killed.
We shared some amazing nights stargazing from hot tubs and summer fun playing in the lake. She had exquisite taste in wine, cheese, seafood, restaurants, artwork, narrow shoes, well-made clothes and friends. She was a perfectionist in many ways but was also carefree and loved being silly with wild abandon. Early on we were ski partners and she usually had a flask of schnapps in her pocket and liked to wear crazy hats. The craziest was a 4 foot- long striped stocking cap and a favorite memory I have is of her and Jude making snow angels. After a knee injury she stopped skiing but would always ask me to take a run for her. She loved the snow and mountains; the changing seasons of nature. Last week she looked out the window and said, “I am lucky that I love my house and the view from the window. I love this world of white on white.”
She loved her family and was dedicated to all the roles in her life; Godmother, aunt, daughter, sister, wife, niece, cousin, good neighbor, business woman and friend. A hard worker, an activist; she was committed to causes to protect the environment and she leaves long lasting and strong ties to the community.
To some of us she was “Madam Babboska” a gypsy Fortune teller who made unexpected and surprise appearances at social gatherings with her assistant, Sue, who lugged her battered suitcase that carried her crystal ball which was wrapped in a velvet scarf. Rebecca, the groups quiet listener, after donning her gypsy robes, was transformed into a visionary and the “for-seer” of all our futures. Madam Babboska, like Rebecca, was unique, hilarious, wise and irreplaceable.
I can’t eat an olive, a spritz cookie or a pistachio without thinking of her. We shared an addiction to salt. An addiction in solidarity…we had secret salt shakers in our purses. We poured it on everything when no one was looking. During one of her rounds of chemo everything tasted too salty. She told me it was a bummer for her but it meant all the more salt for me.
My favorite memory will always be getting to be one of her six wedding planners when she and Dale married at Doug and Christine’s home. It was a spectacular day and they chose an amazing setting, a wonderful ceremony, food, music and flowers. The opportunity to meet so many of her friends and to get to share in the joy of the day was an incredible gift.
These last few weeks have been days to anguish over and to cherish. So much sorrow but also so much light radiating from her and her devoted friends. Her shiny blue eyes filled with so many feelings. Both she and Dale’s patience and kindness filling this house with love and gratitude. Rebecca was a private person and it was a privilege for each of us to get to share in this intimate chapter of her life; to see her grace and strength as she allowed us to help her. She always said thank you. She has left an empty seat in our circle. I have tried to imagine what she would tell us. I think it would be to seize the day. Do the things you keep putting off. Say “yes” to the things you value and hold dear those you love. I can imagine her walking on a quiet beach somewhere. In the words from Gift from the Sea:
“I walked far down the beach, soothed by the rhythm of the waves, the sun on my bare back and legs, the wind and mist from the spray in my hair.”
― Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea
Celebration Of Life
- Date & Time: Jan 17, 1152 (No Time)
Venue: Moles Farewell Tributes - Bellingham
Location: 2465 Lakeway Drive Bellingham, WA 98229
- Phone Number: 360-733-0510