Obituary: Virginia Wiese Challen – February 25, 2012

Virginia Wiese Challen Virginia passed away on February 25, 2012, after a brief illness at age 89.

Born in Spokane, WA, she lived in Olympia for more than 70 years. She was a graduate of Olympia High School and attended the University of Washington until leaving to work as a mechanic at Boeing during WW II. In 1943 she married Lieutenant Commander Herbert J. Challen (U.S. Navy), and they returned to Olympia in 1948 where Mr. Challen taught chemistry and coached tennis at Olympia High School until he retired.

Virginia first focused on raising their three children and became active in the PTA, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. She volunteered at the Olympia Community Mental Health Center and then began a career as a secretary and administrative assistant with the Washington State Department of Agriculture, retiring in 1985. She was a member of The United Churches in Olympia, where she sang in the choir and founded their book discussion group. An avid gardener, she also enjoyed music and attending symphony concerts, reading, sewing, playing bridge and, as a devoted life-long learner, she commuted to Seattle to continue her education at the University. Above all, however, she loved her family, and always took time to travel and stay in touch with her sisters and brother-in-law, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. She loved being around the water, and especially enjoyed boating in Puget Sound with family and friends, trips to the California coast, Florida,and Hawaii, and her summer visits to Cape Cod to spend time with family.

She was predeceased by her husband of 56 years, and by her older sister, Barbara McKinley. She is survived by her three children: Roger Challen and his wife, Karen, of Southborough, MA; Susan St. Thomas and her husband, Stephen, of Wellesley, MA; and Ozzie Wiese and his wife, Barbara, of Renton, WA. She is also survived by her younger sister, Janet Brown and brother-in-law, Jim, of Medford, OR, by her grandchildren: Nathan Challen of Chattanooga, TN; Nicholas Challen U.S. Army Captain of Milton, FL, currently serving in Afghanistan; Kelley Challen-Wittmer of Wilmington, MA; Jennifer St. Thomas of Wellesley, MA; Jeffrey Cooper of Los Angeles, CA; Emily St. Thomas of New York City, NY; Stephanie St. Thomas of Brookline, MA; Brian St. Thomas of Durham, NC; Travis Nelson of Graham, WA; Troy Nelson of Renton, WA; and by her 7 great-grandchildren.

The family would like to thank the caregivers at Sunview Care Home in Renton, WA for the excellent care she received during her last year. Contributions may be made in her memory to the American Heart Association ( or the American Cancer Society ( A celebration of Virginia’s life will be held in her honor at a later date.


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