Lou Olmstead. Courtesy photo

Lou Olmstead. Courtesy photo

Longtime Federal Way civic leader Lou Olmstead dies at 86

Esther Louis “Lou” Olmstead built a life on celebrating community through volunteerism.

Lou Olmstead took pride in taking care of things for herself, for her family, and for her Federal Way community.

The 86-year-old, who died on Oct. 18, built a life on upholding and celebrating community through volunteerism.

“Volunteering, I often said, was her mantra and doing it with a smile was required,” Cindi Olmstead, Lou’s daughter, told the Mirror.

A Tacoma native, Lou Olmstead graduated from Lincoln High School. She earned her registered nursing degree and worked at Tacoma General Hospital, before marrying the man she had first met in third grade.

Lou Olmstead was a Navy wife, which required the family to move all around the country, finally landing in Federal Way in 1968 after her former husband got a job with Boeing Co.

When the family moved to a new town, Cindi Olmstead recalled, her mother would immediately register the kids for school, join the PTA and find a church to get involved in.

“Because she felt that was putting down roots,” Cindi Olmstead said of Lou’s outlook on community. “It was always important to make a difference wherever she was, but particularly Federal Way.”

Lou Olmstead was selected as the Mirror’s Citizen of the Month in January 2014 for her civic efforts.

Lou Olmstead was always trying to “make a difference in the world” by getting involved with something, Cindi Olmstead said.

She frequently organized rides to doctor appointments for people, donated food to the Reach Out program for the homeless and even helped to get a hospital in Federal Way, the Mirror previously reported.

She also worked on several campaigns, including for former state Rep. Linda Kochmar, former council member Diana Noble-Gulliford and former Mayor Skip Priest.

Lou Olmstead was involved in many Federal Way organizations, although her two devotions were the Steel Lake Presbyterian Church, where she served as a deacon, and the Historical Society of Federal Way, where she was a charter member.

Lou Olmstead gained the trust of many Federal Way residents over the years, earning enough votes to serve on the Federal Way City Council before it existed.

She won the Federal Way City Council election in 1985, but voters turned down incorporation, so the council was not formed.

Her daughter said she had a magnetic way with people and an unfailing patience from strangers in the community to her family members.

Cindi Olmstead remembers trying to help her daughter learn how to ride a bike years ago on Christmas day.

When her own patience ran thin, Lou Olmstead stepped in and “within 10 minutes, her and Molly were riding the bike up and down the street without the training wheels. She just had a calmness about her … she’d raised four kids, so she knew how to teach them how to ride a bike.”

She said this memory of her mother is a perfect example of how Lou Olmstead often could — and would — “step in to save the day.”

Throughout her life, Lou Olmstead won numerous battles with cancer. She died from an unforeseen diagnosis of lung disease, Cindi Olmstead said.

A few years ago, Lou Olmstead took an AARP class in Federal Way, which happened to have attendees write down how they’d like to be remembered.

She wanted to be remembered by her faith in God and by her commitment to her community — all done with a smile, Cindi Olmstead said.

“You’d walk in the room and she’d have a smile on her face, but that doesn’t mean she was a pushover,” Cindi Olmstead said. “She was not a doormat. But she would do what she needed to do with a smile.”

One of Lou Olmstead’s main focuses in life was to inspire others to get involved in whatever it is they cared about and encourage them to move forward.

“She never could understand being a member of something and not doing the best she [could] …” her daughter said. “I just think that was a part of her and Federal Way got to be a part of that.”

The community is welcome to celebrate Lou Olmstead’s life at her memorial service to be held at Steel Lake Presbyterian Church, located at 2415 S. 320th St. (Calvary Lutheran) at 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 16.


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