Longtime Herald employee leaves $61K to animal shelter

Sue Strong loved cats and gardening. She volunteered annually for United Way’s Day of Caring.

Sue Strong volunteered at Imagine Children’s Museum in Everett during the annual United Way of Snohomish County Day of Caring. She died in October and left $61,000 to the Everett Animal Shelter in her will. (Contributed photo)

Sue Strong volunteered at Imagine Children’s Museum in Everett during the annual United Way of Snohomish County Day of Caring. She died in October and left $61,000 to the Everett Animal Shelter in her will. (Contributed photo)

EVERETT — Roxann Van Wyk still knows the drink Sue Strong wanted during their Tuesday coffee outings.

They visited “every single Starbucks in Snohomish County” over their years-long friendship, Van Wyk said. Strong always got a venti Frappuccino with two pumps of vanilla and no whipped cream. She’ll cherish those drives and conversations with Strong, who died in October at the age of 64.

Strong’s legacy will live on in gifts from her estate to organizations, including $61,563.76 to the Everett Animal Shelter.

The Everett City Council accepted Strong’s donation at its regular meeting Jan. 26.

“Sue had a real soft spot for animals,” her family told city staff. “She always adopted her pets and made sure they were loved and cared for. She wanted to leave her money to go to good causes and the animals were first on her list. She was a kind, funny and loyal woman and had a heart of gold. We know that her donation will be making her smile down upon all the good it will do.”

Her bequest supplanted Greg Stewart’s $22,042.82, made last year, as the city-run program’s largest. Stewart’s estate evenly split over $44,000 to the Everett Animal Shelter and the Sarvey Wildlife Care Center near Arlington.

The Everett Animal Shelter.

The Everett Animal Shelter.

Both donations to the Everett Animal Shelter surprised Lindsay Roe, who handles the shelter’s fundraising and marketing.

The Fund for Animals is special revenue in the city’s budget that goes to veterinary expenses such as clinic supplies, medicine, microchips and vaccines, “whether it’s a dollar or $61,000,” Roe said.

There’s a campaign to get monthly donors called Everett Animal Shelter’s Loyal Litter, but she hasn’t done anything to solicit estate gifts or large donations like Stewart’s and Strong’s.

“That line in my budget is zero every year,” Roe said. “If we end with anything in it and it’s green at the end of the year, that’s great.”

The donation didn’t surprise Van Wyk or Kim Heltne, another friend and former co-worker. For many years Strong took a day off to volunteer for the annual United Way of Snohomish County’s Day of Caring.

Sue Strong volunteered at a women’s shelter during the annual United Way of Snohomish County Day of Caring. She died in October and left $61,000 to the Everett Animal Shelter in her will. (Contributed photo)

Sue Strong volunteered at a women’s shelter during the annual United Way of Snohomish County Day of Caring. She died in October and left $61,000 to the Everett Animal Shelter in her will. (Contributed photo)

“Her generous nature was always there,” Heltne said.

They met while working for The Daily Herald decades ago. Heltne was in the publisher’s office, while Van Wyk and Strong were at the printing facility.

They each described Strong as serious at work, which they understood given the hard deadlines Strong faced so that papers arrived at subscribers’ doorsteps each morning.

“She would always say, ‘This is business, it isn’t personal,’” Van Wyk said.

It later became a funny-but-true joke when Van Wyk learned Strong wanted to fire her at one point in their careers.

“I’d say, ‘You know what, you didn’t get to, did you?’ and she would always laugh,” Van Wyk said.

Strong was a hockey fan and Silvertips faithful, and even traveled to some away games, Heltne said. She also loved the ocean and spent vacations on the Oregon coast.

Strong and Van Wyk both liked gardening and would shop at Snohomish Garden Center in spring. Van Wyk said Strong had “quite a few” plants, including geraniums and vegetables, on her apartment’s deck.

Van Wyk drove them to their coffee outings and other ventures after Strong had a stroke years ago.

She didn’t mind. Except for maybe when they went to a pet store and Strong bought a scratching post “taller than I am,” Van Wyk said. The store’s employees loaded it into her car, but later Van Wyk had to get it into Strong’s apartment.

“Her cats were very, very spoiled,” Van Wyk said. “She wouldn’t spare any expense on food and toys. She was really good about taking care of them.”

Strong’s donation to the Everett Animal Shelter ensures veterinary care for more pets, too.

Ben Watanabe: bwatanabe@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3037; Twitter @benwatanabe.

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