Kay Kimmel was born on Feb. 28, 1930, in Sunnyside, Washington. She lived with her parents in Satus, Washington, until she went to college. Her mother taught in a one-room school above Prosser in Rattlesnake Hills. She only taught a few years and then got married. Her aunt Alpha was a teacher/librarian in the same Granger area. Later Kay’s mother was a historical feature writer for newspapers, and her aunt was the post mistress. Her dad had acreage with cattle and worked as a mechanic in his own shop. He was very busy as it was the only garage from Toppenish to Mabton.
Kay went to grade school in Toppenish and Granger and graduated from Central University with a BA in education and music. “We all liked music so much, and mom’s priority was to get a piano; she taught me as much as she knew. I wanted to know more about voice, piano, guitar, and violin”. Kay was a music teacher in Washington schools for 27 years. She began in Chelan in 1951 and loved teaching. It was a wonderful atmosphere and faculty for a beginning teacher. Then she taught in Moses Lake, coordinating and doing demonstrations in eight schools, even the Air Force base. In Richland, she taught all music classes and a little band and organized a jazz band. That was fun! Kay wanted to teach overseas with a friend but could not get the paperwork through, so she returned to Richland as a 6th grade teacher. She taught music in Yakima for a couple of years and in Granger for seven years. Kay got her MA from Central and at the same time got her principal credentials for elementary school. She taught three years in Pullman as part of the WSU Music Dept.
In 1969, Kay and her mother moved to Goldendale. She taught at the primary and middle school with Dorothy Garner, Ruth Garner, Ruth Davenport, Pearl Shepherd, Sandra Landenglos, and Mary Nygaard. When she inherited $4,000 from her aunt, she fulfilled her dream and studied music therapy at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. Most of us know Kay Kimmel as the piano teacher. She taught piano, voice, guitar, and violin for 28 years in Goldendale before retiring in 2006. She changed the lives of many Goldendale children with her music teaching. She loved music and attended all music presentations locally and in the Gorge area.
Kay was an only child who never married and who took care of her mother for many years until she died. Preceding Kay in death were her parents Elmer and Thelma Kimmel. She is survived by her cousin, John Willmarth, and his wife, Hazel, of Tumwater. Kay liked to have adventures. They were exciting! “It is hard to be quiet, behave, and go slowly. Sometimes you need to jump in when you can,” she said.
Kay traveled in the summertime. She toured twelve European countries and visited Mexico three times. She joined a tour to Europe and came home with $10 in her purse ready to study Spanish at Yakima Valley College, but a Yakima Principal was desperate for a three-four combination teacher for one year. She went to Canada with her parents. Her neighbor boy in high school had been an exchange student to Chile and wanted to go to Mexico to learn Spanish for a semester, so Kay and his aunt joined him at Guadalajara University. She went to Washington, D. C. in 2000. Dorothy Garner and Kay took two Alaskan cruises and visited all four Hawaiian Islands. Of course, she enjoyed the summertime workshops, too, meeting some wonderful people and making new friends as roommates on the tours. She saw the Mediterranean long before she ever saw the Pacific Ocean. But those Cannon Beach music workshops were great, especially the Norman Luboff week-long conference in the early 1970s that she attended with Mary Nygaard. He had that group of teachers ready for a concert after only five days of practice.
She joined Delta Kappa Gamma, the Alpha Lambda chapter, in 1963 in Sunnyside. Kay’s aunt, Alpha Schlosser-Pilend, was the chapter president. Then in 1969, Kay transferred to the Goldendale Chapter where she was an active member as president, vice president, program and music chair, and was in charge of keeping up the scrapbooks. We appreciated all her talents, her sense of humor, the excitement she spread where ever she went. She was also a member of Soroptimist and the National Music Teachers Association. Her greatest accomplishment was working with children, watching them grow in music skills, and seeing the value of music classes as they learned to relax enough to be ready to learn other academic skills. Kay was a charter member and first president of Soroptimist International of Goldendale when it was founded in 1971, and she remained an active member until the end of her life.
She was such a good, caring person, and we relied on her to help with organizing ceremonies and celebrations. What an amazing mind for details about procedures and about people! She always brought brownie treats to our meetings, passed notepads and calendars on to our members, and was always sunny no matter what her personal challenges were. Her passing is such a loss for our club and for all Delta Kappa Gamma members.
A Celebration of Life will be help in the spring of 2021.