A half-century of service

SNOHOMISH — The legendary couple live quietly in a home on Avenue J, says Gene Sams, their longtime friend.

Since Leeon and Virginia Aller moved there in 1953, they have made an enormous contribution to the community. Sams is at a loss for words as he tries to cite just a few of their achievements.

Leeon Aller, 83, a retired physician, volunteered for decades to help injured high school athletes and to support Snohomish County Search and Rescue, caring for the injured in remote locations.

His most memorable experience came about 30 years ago when Aller saved a girl who had fallen off a trail and spent the night on a cliff edge in the Sultan Basin. Aller rappelled down to the ledge, gave her immediate medical care and accompanied her on a helicopter to a hospital in Seattle.

The list of good deeds goes on and on.

Sams, 66, said the town’s old-timers know the couple and what they’ve done. But newcomers don’t.

That’s why Sams and several other residents decided on a celebration for the Allers. On Saturday, March 13, the public is invited to Dr. Leeon and Virginia Aller Recognition Day at First Baptist Church in Snohomish.

"We wanted to let some of the newcomers know of the history of the town," Sams said.

He said he got to know Leeon Aller through prison ministry programs. Aller has volunteered to help inmates for about 40 years.

At home, the Allers adopted seven children and were foster parents to about 80 while working at a family clinic in town.

The federal government selected Aller as family doctor of the year in 1987, and he appeared on national television.

But the couple’s volunteer activities go beyond Snohomish. Their missionary work has taken them to about 40 countries, including Guatemala and Ethiopia.

"I’m not a nurse, but learned to be one to support things he does," Virginia Aller said.

Sometimes she took the initiative.

"I am the one who said I want to go to Africa" on missionary service, she said, sitting in a wheelchair after a stroke 10 years ago.

"So, we went to Africa," Leeon Aller said, standing next to her.

They took two adopted children with them to Ethiopia in 1972, Aller said. He worked for about a year as the only surgeon in a central province where about 650,000 people lived, and also trained doctors and nurses.

"It was very busy, and there was a civil war going on," he recalled.

The couple met in Sequim on the Olympic Peninsula a couple of weeks after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. She was a senior in high school, and Leeon Aller was serving at a military medical clinic that used the school’s gym. They were married in 1945 after he returned from World War II.

Since then, Virginia Aller, 79, has always been with him, guiding him toward success.

"She’s been my adviser," Leeon Aller said of his wife. "She is much wiser than me."

Even though they are retired, their passion for volunteering hasn’t waned.

"I like to help somebody," Virginia Aller said.

Reporter Yoshiaki Nohara: 425-339-3029 or


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