Obituary of Delores Eileen Pemberton
Delores Eileen “Dee” Pemberton, 80, beloved wife, mother, (great) grandmother, aunt, cousin, friend, and neighbor, passed away on Dec. 16th, 2022 in her childhood home from heart-related issues. She was surrounded by family and the spirit of Christmas.
She was born on October 28th, 1942 in Tacoma and raised in Puyallup by her two loving parents, Murl and Verna Nelson. Delores graduated from Puyallup High School in 1960.
As a child, Dee loved picking berries in the fields that were her back yard. When she’d pick 200 lbs of blueberries in a single day, her Dad would treat her and himself to their favorite — black licorice ice cream cones. Her superior picking abilities would later earn her the job of field boss.
She also loved drawing, painting windows, ceramics, bowling, and Christmas. Christmas was her favorite time of the year so sometimes it came as early as October. She also loved hugs. Her big-hearted hugs are her legacy. She always said there weren’t enough in the world.
Delores loved the ocean, pushing her toes in the sand, and dancing her happy dance on the beach.
“Mom loved putting her feet in any water especially the ocean,” daughter Janine Ganwich remembered. “Each ocean trip she would continuously look out the window for the deer, day and night, in hopes they would be at our patio and yard. She loved feeding them and talking to them as if they were her babies.”
Dee also loved horses and knew how to calm them down – “a natural horse whisperer,” Janine said.
In the early 70’s when her kids rescued some tadpoles from an oil-soaked pond, she was able to nurse a few into adulthood and released them in the front yard. That Fall, it was a sanctuary for over 40 tree frogs. Dee often joked about her job as frog wrangler while her husband mowed the lawn.
She was an artist: a skilled painter of ceramics and windows. She’d spend hours painting ceramics at the dining room table filling orders for clients. During holidays, she traveled to friends and families’ homes and painted holiday themed scenes on their living room windows.
“She really brought out the best in everybody,” her son Jason Ganwich said. “She was as good hearted and kind as anyone could possibly be. She loved seeing me in theater and film. I’d often go into character with her and kept her laughing.”
Even as a teenager in the 1950s, Dee’s compassion overflowed. She would visit her uncle Gene at The Meeker Mansion, which was a care facility at the time. Gene was physically limited by paralysis that made communication difficult.
“She took it upon herself to stop by and visit with him every day after school and feed him,” Jason said. “She would play chess or checkers with him, and she would point to each piece, asking him if this was the game piece he wanted to move. He’d respond in the way he could. She said that it would take forever to play one game but it was everything to him.”
In recent years, with help from Jason, she cut back on favorite treats such as potato skins smothered in sour cream and salsa, cheese puffs and sweets. Trips to kids’ baseball games typically included those snacks, courtesy of Janine.
“The mornings I watched her, I would ask what she would like for breakfast, and she replied, ‘You know what I want,’ Janine said. "Well, that would be Lucky Charms, lol. She loved the marshmallows.”
Her first marriage to Donald Ganwich in 1960 brought three children: Janine, Jason and son Tracy, who worried as a child about dying. Dee helped him get over it.
“She taught me to be strong,” Tracy said.
Dee was well-known for her comical sense of direction. “Mom never got a driver's license. When she was learning to drive, she hit a cat and said it was a sign she wasn’t meant to be behind the wheel,” Tracy said. “I think deep down she was afraid she’d get lost. When leaving the grocery store, I loved letting her lead the way to the car. It was good exercise.
Jason reiterates, “In first grade, she walked me to my new school and once we arrived she said goodbye then looked distressed and wasn’t moving. ‘Do you need me to show you how to get home?’, I asked. She laughed and said, ‘Yes!’”
Dee married her second husband Darrall, a former high school classmate, in 1981. It was the start of a 41-year partnership in love and business.
Darrall had liked Dee in high school. She was a little cooler on him at the time, remembering how he yelled in her ear once. Later, she warmed up to him. Darrall’s family couldn’t help warming up in return. She had a knack for making them laugh.
Darrall was a truck driver. She would wait for him at base camp in the van, listening to the CB. She even had her own handle. Together, they ran a string of mini-storage sites, camped and traveled to the mountains and the ocean. Dee cared for her ailing parents in their final years before she retired.
In later years, her love for her children extended to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. “Grandma Dee” became a fixture at her grandson Cory’s baseball games, serving as head cheerleader and team mascot, shouting encouragement from her wheelchair.
Dee loved underdogs, even fictional ones. Sometimes she shouted at scripted jerks on TV. Cocky contestants on game shows she watched with her kids were another favorite target for hilarious scorn. Her favorite TV show? “The Golden Girls,” and the wisecracking stars. The show’s theme song, “Thank You For Being a Friend,” was her theme song, too.
“We're going to miss her so much,” Jason said. “We’ll miss her enchiladas, her Watergate salad, cheeseball, and most of all her laugh, her wonderful sense of humor, her hugs, and the joy she exhibited upon seeing you.”
Delores is predeceased by her parents, brother Gary Nelson, sister Lorraine (John) Budzak, niece Cathy Hill, and best friend and garage-sale partner Mickie Imler.
She is survived by her husband Darrall, 3 children, Janine Ganwich (Homer Dean), Tracy (Michelle) Ganwich, and Jason Ganwich: Grandchildren Devin, Kyle, Cory Ganwich; Great Grandchildren Chad and Ryann Ganwich; Nieces and nephews John (Tracie) Budzak, Terri Soliz, Barbara Budzak, Kevin (Mary) Nelson, Debbie (Russ) Mckee, Chris (Debi) Ganwich, Ron Nield, Michelle Simmons, and many cousins, friends, a few ball teams, and extended family including Hailey & Desiré who were incredible in the family’s time of need. Oh, and Dee’s beloved, loyal, and fellow cheese-loving dog, Boots.
A Celebration Dee’s life will be held at 1:00pm on Saturday September 9th, 2023 at 1520 12th Ave SE, Puyallup, WA 98372
We will gather under a tent in the front yard of Dee’s childhood home, where she spent her final moments. Please dress for the weather. Pastor Nate from Peace Lutheran Church will guide us through a celebration of our beloved, strong, funny, and endearing Dee. We invite any and all to share your undoubtedly sweet and hilarious stories. Dee was truly one of a kind and lives in our hearts and memories.
A reception will follow with many of her favorites: Brisket, Pulled Pork, Mac ’n Cheese, Fruit Tray, Cheese puffs, Lemonade, Ginger Ale, Coffee...and her not-so-favorite Veggie Tray. Please text 253-759-0455 with your name and number of attendees in your group. This will help us in preparation. That said, no RSVP is required. Please come!