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Verda Mae (Griesinger) Averill, Long-time Kitsap County journalist, died May 8 at her home at Madrona House on Bainbridge Island. She was 88 years old.
She was born in 1928 in Portland, OR, granddaughter of German and Swiss immigrants who settled in eastern Washington. She was an accomplished young musician, becoming harp soloist with the Portland Junior Symphony (now the Portland Youth Philharmonic).
After graduating from Stanford University, she married classmate Dave Averill. They settled in Eugene, OR, where she taught music while he began a career as a daily newspaper reporter. She was proud to have been a founder of a local chapter of the League of Women Voters.
In 1959, the couple moved to Poulsbo, buying the Kitsap County Herald and beginning a joint career in community journalism. Three years later, they also bought the Bainbridge Review from Walt and Milly Woodward. Through the 1960s and 1970s, they operated the two newspapers as a family business, while raising four children in their home overlooking Manzanita Bay.
When they divorced in 1979, Dave moved on, and Verda assumed sole management of the newspapers. She was the first woman to serve as president of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association, and among the first journalists to travel to China when that country was opened to American visitors in the 1970s. She participated in journalism education programs at the UW and Western Washington University.
After retiring in 1988, she spent ten years pursuing photography, travel, and music, and enjoying her new role as a grandmother. But at age 70 she returned to journalism, establishing the quarterly Bainbridge Island Library News, which she edited for the next 15 years, publicizing library events and particularly promoting local authors.
She is survived by four children, Charlie of Bainbridge Island; John of Madrid, Spain; Sue of San Diego; and Bob of Enumclaw; grandchildren Elise and Nino; great-grandson Cash; and many nieces and nephews.
The family suggests memorials to the Bainbridge Public Library, or to another literacy cause. A celebration of her life and her photography will be scheduled later this summer.