Myrna Overstreet, a force behind the founding of the Imagine Children’s Museum, is shown here with some of her grandchildren and other kids at the museum’s 2004 opening. From left are Billy Burton, Matt Overstreet, Jake Burton and Caroline Overstreet, with their proud grandma behind Matt. Myrna Overstreet, 82, died Aug. 19. (Dan Bates / Herald file)

Myrna Overstreet, a force behind the founding of the Imagine Children’s Museum, is shown here with some of her grandchildren and other kids at the museum’s 2004 opening. From left are Billy Burton, Matt Overstreet, Jake Burton and Caroline Overstreet, with their proud grandma behind Matt. Myrna Overstreet, 82, died Aug. 19. (Dan Bates / Herald file)

Myrna Overstreet’s legacy: Imagine Children’s Museum and more

In a life devoted to family and community, she served long and well. Friends remember a caring spirit.

A gentle force, Myrna Overstreet helped found the Imagine Children’s Museum.

Those who knew her remember an unfailingly kind woman. She was a teacher who became a community treasure. The widow of longtime Everett City Councilman Bob Overstreet, a mother of four and friend to many, she served on a number of local boards. In the 1980s, she was part of a core group that started Providence General Foundation’s Festival of Trees.

She was also “a huge Coug,” said Jill McKinnie, the eldest of the Overstreets’ children. In 1978, she was Washington State University’s Mom of the Year.

Everett’s Myrna Lee Overstreet died Aug. 19. She was 82.

McKinnie, the Snohomish County Public Advocate, said her mother’s death was related to a coronary bypass surgery she’d had eight years ago.

Born in Oregon, Myrna moved to Everett with her parents, Rello and Viola Pierson, in 1954. She graduated from Everett High in 1954. A senior class vice president at Everett High, she later supported its students through the nonprofit Blue & Gold Club.

Myrna Overstreet died Aug. 19 at age 82. (Family Photo)

Myrna Overstreet died Aug. 19 at age 82. (Family Photo)

Myrna and Bob met at Washington State College, now WSU, where she was a Gamma Phi Beta sorority member. They married in 1958. She taught home economics at Lake Stevens High School and other area schools, and went on to teach clothing construction and early childhood classes for 18 years at what’s now Everett Community College.

Along with Jill McKinnie, she is survived by sons Bruce and Jeff Overstreet and daughter Amy Burton; 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren; sister Janice Rucker; and by Jenny Overstreet, her former daughter-in-law, who gave the eulogy at a celebration of life Aug. 26 at Everett’s Imagine Children’s Museum.

“Myrna was one of those very special folks, she made the choice just to be kind,” said Bob Drewel, Snohomish County executive from 1992 to 2004 and a former EvCC president.

In the 1990s, Overstreet was a part-time project coordinator for the county’s human services department. A small part of her work was supporting the fledgling children’s museum, funded by admissions, grants and donations. Early on, the nonprofit museum was in a small space at the Marysville Town Center, and was later on Everett’s Colby Avenue.

“Myrna would stop by the office trying to convince me how small this was,” Drewel said. Her interest was “always the children of the community. She was one of those treasures who left a legacy.”

The Imagine Children’s Museum opened at 1502 Wall St. in 2004. Last year, it served 270,000 people, said Nancy Johnson, its executive director. Overstreet, she said, was part of the museum’s board of directors for years.

“She had enough faith to believe this could happen,” said Johnson, who also mentioned Idamae Schack and the late Mary Duyee, “real icons who left a legacy.” Schack, with her late husband, John Schack, donated $1 million to buy the museum’s current building.

McKinnie and Burton recalled their mother’s quiet strength when their father broke his neck in a diving accident. “She was a mom with three kids 4 and under,” Burton recalled. “They didn’t have health insurance. He was in the hospital a long time,” McKinnie added. “She was just strong, she kept everything together.”

The Overstreets lived in Marysville’s Shoultes area before moving to Everett in 1976. Bob Overstreet was elected to the Everett City Council in 1977 and served for three decades.

“She was such a traditional mom, but she was nontraditional in the way she really set the pace for women,” said Burton, whose mother made her wedding dress.

Overstreet’s long list of community involvement included Camp Fire, the Evergreen Community Orchestra, Music4Life, the Everett Woman’s Book Club, Zonta Club of Everett, United Way, the Assistance League, and the Marysville United Methodist Church.

Before Bob Overstreet died, the Everett couple had moved to the Washington Oakes retirement community. Jenny Overstreet, her former daughter-in-law, joined Myrna for dinner there every Wednesday.

“We had a unique relationship,” said Jenny Overstreet, who teaches English at North Middle School. In her eulogy, she said, “the theme was that she gave little pieces of her heart away everywhere she went.”

Linda Shockey said Overstreet coaxed her to join the Woman’s Book Club in 1980. They were dear friends who walked together three mornings a week for 15 years. Shockey and her husband, Reid Shockey, spent New Year’s Eve 1998 with Bob and Myrna Overstreet in London. “Trafalgar Square was packed, and all the people were 20 years younger,” she said.

“She was an idea person,” Shockey said. “We wouldn’t have had a Festival of Trees, the children’s museum or a symphony without her.” Burton said that while Nancy Johnson has overseen the museum’s growth, “Mom was the seed.”

Snohomish County Auditor Carolyn Weikel met Myrna Overstreet about a dozen years ago, “probably at some sort of campaign thing.”

“I had this immediate love for the woman, who had the smile of all smiles,” said Weikel. She believes the Overstreets came from “a generation of giving back.”

“That was their mission, to give,” Weikel said. “I wish I could grow up and be like Myrna.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@herald

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