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Jan 2021 — Obituary

Lotus

June 14, 1947 ‑ January 18, 2021

Lotus was born Linda Johnson, to David and Dorothy Johnson in Chicago, Illinois, June 14, 1947. The family moved to Vashon when she was 5 years old. After graduating from Vashon schools, Linda attended college at Western Washington State College (later University).

Linda married Frank Miller and they had one son, Sonam.  After their divorce she took the name Lotus. She married Barbara Smith in the summer of 2013 after nearly 40 years together.

Lotus was curious and inventive. She enjoyed physical work, especially outdoors. She designed and built a seven-sided home, which reflected her ingenuity and respectful relationship to the land. She used logs harvested from her parents’ property and fir flooring salvaged from the old Vashon High School.

“When we are old, we will move uptown,” and one day the announcement came. In town, on a level plot, Lotus carved an orchard and large vegetable garden from an overgrowth of scrub trees and blackberries and built two sheds, a large chicken house, a portable chick raising house, and a greenhouse. Faced with the problem of grandchildren forgetting to close the gate to the chicken yard, she designed weighted gate pulls that closed the gates behind them. Some experiments, like passive rainwater irrigation, were less successful.

Lotus was a longtime faculty member at Green River College.  She began her time at Green River in 1993 in the Carpentry program and was the only tenured woman and out-lesbian faculty member in the Trades division. Her students built homes in the Auburn area, with Lotus guiding all aspects of the process. During this time, she completed her B.A. in “Gender, Culture, and Ethnicity” and then her Master’s in Sociology from Antioch University. She taught courses in Sociology and American Minority and Ethnic Studies before shifting to High School Completion, the program from which she retired in 2009.

At Green River, Lotus was a crucial voice in the campus-wide reorganization of the Multicultural Taskforce into a body with greater recognition and legitimacy. She was central to the battle to establish the Instructional Diversity Committee as an official and permanent committee of the Instructional Council. After a multi-year campaign, the Diversity Course Requirement (DCR) for the AA degree passed with the requisite 2/3 faculty vote in spring 2009, just as Lotus was retiring.

Lotus had a diverse career, starting as a teenager at Beall’s Greenhouse on Vashon. After college, she worked for the ACLU. With husband Frank and other young idealists, she founded the Ploughshare Collective which started several notable Seattle businesses (Little Bread Co and Soup and Salad Café at the Pike Place Market), and attempted farming in Lund BC. Returning to Vashon Island to start a family, she co-founded Sound Food Restaurant (where her young son Sonam wandered through the dining room, bringing all of the salt shakers to favored customers). She made and sold pottery, learned carpentry leading to the founding of Lotus Construction, and later worked for Pierce County Housing Rehabilitation assisting low income people to obtain funding to maintain their homes. After retirement, she turned her hobby of photography into a small local business.

Even more than creating things, Lotus valued creating community, from women’s softball, shared potlucks, and building projects to mobilizing like-minded progressive educators at Green River. She was a founding board member of Vashon Household and instrumental in supporting the Backbone Campaign’s Solutionary Rail Project. Lotus was an inspiring leader for orchardists and gardeners in Vashon Fruit Club, VIGA, Get Growing, and the Vashon Seed Project.

Lotus became a competent though cautious sailor, with an instinctive feel for downwind and the broad reach but no stomach for a good beat. Together she and Barbara explored Puget Sound, Hood Canal, the San Juan and Gulf Islands, the BC Sunshine Coast, and Desolation Sound. Since she got seasick at the buoy, she never ventured from protected waters.

In the past few years, Lotus’ disabilities gradually limited her physical activity. Visitors could find her lying in the paths in order to weed and later starting seeds for the greenhouse and mulching garden beds from her wheelchair. She was a voracious reader about soil health and plant diversity and during her last weeks Lotus remained eager to exchange information and ideas with her fellow gardeners and seed savers.

Lotus died in her home on Vashon, looking out at the garden she created, with Barbara and Sonam at her side. Her body will return to that garden, lovingly transformed to compost by new Seattle area business Recompose. Lotus is survived by her wife, Barbara, son Sonam, granddaughter Ava, aunt Judie (Bill) all of Vashon, and siblings Michael (Pamela) of Pennsylvania, Susan of San Diego, Alan (Barbara) of Snoqualmie, and Roger (Sherry) of Everett, nieces, nephews, cousins, and so many loving friends. A celebration of her life will be held in the garden when the pandemic allows. Memorials may be made in her name to Vashon Household, the Vashon Maury Food Bank, and the Interfaith Council to Prevent Homelessness.

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