Renton’s first female Marine passes away at 106

Louise George retired at the end of World War II, making her way back to Renton.

A world traveler, a staff sergeant in the United States Marine Corps Quartermasters Corps and, in the words of her younger sister, a doppelganger to Queen Elizabeth II, Renton’s own Louise George, 106, was an impressive woman. So much so that she even wrote her obituary years ago.

“We always called her a spotlight,” said Gloria Duffey, 92, Louise’s youngest sister.

Louise and Gloria lived as neighbors at Merrill Gardens — and Louise was always dressed to the nines.

“She always had the fur piece and the hat on and so she was always dressed up,” said Gloria, who now has her sister’s fur stoles adorning her furniture. Louise and Gloria always had lunch, dinner and happy hour together while living at Merrill Gardens, having drinks and talking about current events. When their sister Florence was still alive, the three women often went out to dinner together in Renton.

“I always had a great fondness for Louise,” Gloria said.

Born March 9, 1918, Louise George was the eldest daughter of Florenzo and Matilda Giovanelli Delaurenti. She graduated from Renton High School in 1936, where she was a member of the Torch Society, president of the Business and Professional Women’s Club, chairman of the National Catholic Community Service, and secretary of the United Service Organization Council.

Before joining the Marines as a secretary, Louise worked the same position for District 10 United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) in Renton, and she then went on to work directly for the UMWA Chief Information Officer at the Smith Tower in Seattle, which was the tallest building on the West Coast at that point.

In March 1943, Louise signed up for the Marines, becoming the first woman in Renton to do so, and Gloria says that their family was “all for it,” though she was gone for two or three years. Louise made the journey to Washington, D.C., all by herself, later telling Renton High School reporters that she wasn’t scared during the journey. After retiring as a staff sergeant, Louise made her way back to Washington.

“She was very good. She changed a great deal — she grew up more than anything,” Gloria said of her sister’s return. Louise then became a secretary for the King County Elections Department in Renton, working there for 25 years. It was during that time that she had met her second husband, Louis George. Louise and Louis never had children and within a few years, he had passed away from a heart attack, making Louise a widow.

As time went on, Louise George worked for First Interstate and Wells Fargo Bank. In her free time, she was part of the Renton High School Alumni Association, executive board member of the Renton Community Fund, and a member of the Women Marines Association. She would love to travel with Gloria, the two of them taking trips across the country. She also volunteered at the Renton History Museum.

In 2015, Louise was part of the Puget Sound Honor Flight’s tour of Washington, D.C., telling the Renton Reporter that she was happy that she had gone, despite initially wanting to decline due to her health.

Louise talked about the changes to Washington, D.C., since she had lived there 70 years earlier, her appreciation for the crew and her favorite monuments, including the Women in Military Service for America memorial and the Iwo Jima memorial.

“I just really loved that statue. It’s beautifully done because even the wrinkles in their clothes were there and then their shoes,” she said of the statue of soldiers raising the flag at Iwo Jima. “It was like you were actually looking at them, you know.”

In April 2019, at the age of 101, Louise was recognized for her service in the military from the Marine Corps Recruiting Station in Seattle. The surprise event was planned by Mary Galbraith, a librarian assistant at Renton High School, who gave an opening speech at the event, calling Louise “gracious, alert, cheerful, and good hearted” and someone who didn’t “look or indeed seem like she is over seventy!”

In a later interview, Louise told Renton High School reporters that it was “the biggest recognition I’ve ever gotten in my life.”

A few years later, on March 9, 2022 — Louise’s 104th birthday — she was recognized by the City of Renton, and Mayor Armondo Pavone had proclaimed it to be Louise George Day. In the official proclamation, Louise’s leading of a rich and fruitful life and being “gracious, cheerful and good-hearted to all” were one of the many reasons for further recognizing her.

Louise peacefully passed away at Merrill Gardens on April 17, 2024. Her longtime friend, Katie Dugan, also described her as very gracious and very kind.

“What a lady. Like Queen Elizabeth, she was very poised,” Dugan said.

Louise George in her youth. Photo courtesy of Merrill Gardens

Louise George in her youth. Photo courtesy of Merrill Gardens

Louise George celebrating her 100th birthday back in 2018. Photo courtesy of Margie Nicosia

Louise George celebrating her 100th birthday back in 2018. Photo courtesy of Margie Nicosia