Violet Edith "Vi" Watson 1919 - 2020

Violet Edith “Vi” Watson was born  April 28, 1919, in Enterprise, Oregon, to William and Edith Wolter of Sultan, Washington. She passed away June 6, 2020, at Life Care Center in McMinnville, Oregon, at the age of 101 after many years of dementia.

Vi’s home at birth was rural Sultan, Washington, just off Hwy 2 East. She joined four brothers. Her parents then had eight more children and also cared for a young grandson. As the oldest girl, Vi was busy helping her mom with household chores and raising her younger brothers, sisters and nephew. The family lost their father to a farming accident at the family home when Vi was only 16.  Vi survived being run over by a piano truck at age 13. She wasn’t hurt except for her feelings. Her shoe buckle was broken on a pair of shoes that her uncle had just bought for her.

Vi excelled at school, graduating as salutatorian of her Sultan High School Class of 1936. After graduating high school, Vi worked at JC Penney in downtown Seattle. She also worked as a nanny for the Thompson family. Early employment also found Vi cooking and cleaning at a camp in Coles Corner, Washington.

In 1941, Vi married her neighbor, Berthold T. “Bert” Keck, who lived across Hwy 2 from her home. Bert came to their marriage with 5-year-old Joanne from a previous marriage. At age 22, Vi became an instant mom to Joanne. The Keck family moved to Grand Ronde, Oregon, where Bert worked as a union agent for the local Union 5-92, IWA-CIO. From Grand Ronde they moved to Sheridan, Oregon, where Vi made many longtime friends.

Van was born in 1943 and Judy in 1947. The family moved to an 80-acre farm five miles from Sheridan and one mile from Ballston. They harvested walnuts, filberts, grew fields of grain, and managed a large herd of milking cattle and eight horses. Vi’s hard working ethic continued with gardening, canning, sewing, farming and raising farm animals. During this time, Vi and Bert were avid supporters of their children, who attended schools in Amity, Ballston and Sheridan. They enjoyed many fun activities with the kids at Ballston Community Club.

Vi and Bert enjoyed many social activities, including Eastern Star, Masons and square dancing. They were members of the Sheridan Canter Club, taking their horses to many parades, rodeos and trail rides. They participated in the 1960 Pony Express Centennial celebration, riding in Polk County.

In the mid-1950s Vi worked at the DMV in Dallas, Oregon, and also at Bankers Life and Casualty in Salem, Oregon, as a clerk and secretary.  In 1960 she purchased the Burger Hut in Rickreall, Oregon, and moved it to Sheridan in 1961. It was an immediate success, taking up home across from Sheridan High School. The Kecks replaced the Burger Hut with the newly constructed Fireside Café, which they operated until 1963.
The Kecks divorced in 1962, and Vi moved back to Sultan to care for her ailing mother. Vi worked as a waitress in Snohomish, Washington, after her mother passed.

Vi rekindled an old flame in Arthur “Art” Schwartzmiller. Art was a musician and sawdust peddler. His band, Art Schwartzmiller and the Banana Peelers, was very popular big band cover players. Vi enjoyed many nights of dancing to the band. Art created the Sauerkraut Marching Band and Vi followed the band all over the state, passing out sauerkraut and pretzels. She also helped Art bag and sell sawdust to meat markets as far away as Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. They divorced in 1978.

Another old flame returned to Vi’s life in 1981, Raymond L. Watson, of Sultan, and Vi retired as a custodian at Snohomish High School in 1981. Ray taught Vi how to fish and she caught a big salmon in the Skagit River. Ray passed away in 1991.

Vi stayed in Sultan until 2007, when she moved to Buckeye, Arizona, with daughter Judy and her husband, John. She moved into Jolly Family Assisted Living in Buckeye in 2008. Vi broke her ankle in 2012 and was transferred to Sun West Rehabilitation in Sun City West. She was never able to walk again and became a permanent resident. Vi returned to Yamhill County in December 2013 to be near her daughter and son. She lived at Parkland Assisted Living, Pacifica Memory Care, and Life Care Center.

Vi celebrated her 101st birthday on April 28, and was honored by an exciting and colorful birthday parade at Life Care Center. She passed away one month and eight days later. The parade was a fitting memorial to her always joyful approach to life.

Vi was preceded in death by her parents and her husbands; siblings, Clarence Wolter (Margaret, deceased), Elmer Wolter (Adele, deceased), Art Wolter (Lucille, deceased), Van Wolter, Wilbert Wolter, Fred Wolter (Delores), Leona Dawson (Lee, deceased) and Phyllis Oster (Ellroy, deceased); daughter, Joanne Kilmer (Alan, deceased); and granddaughter, Kari Andrews.

Vi is survived by her children, Van Keck (Glenda) and Judy Januscheitis (John); siblings, Jack Wolter (Ruth, deceased), William John Wolter (Gloria), Dorothy Morris (Frank, deceased) and Alice Riemland (Bill “Jug” deceased); grandchildren, Sheri Kimbrough (Kenneth), Jodi Silversparre (Daryl), Keli Wright (Kevin), Kristen Bell, Jennifer Januscheitis, Lisa Nabal (Dominic) and Mara Vogt (Nickolas); great-grandchildren, Glenlee Simenthal (Sequoia), Jaxson Bell, Camden Bell, Riley Murphy, Arianna Nabal, Lucy Vogt, Jesse Becker, Buck Becker (Anna), Gary Kimbrough, Phyllisia Kimbrough, Dustin Kuss and Jared Kuss (Rachel); 11 great-great-grandchildren; and 38 nieces and nephews.

Services will be announced and held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to Brighton Hospice, c/o Macy and Son Funeral Home. To leave online condolences, please visit





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