Leslie Ann Venables was born on October 19, 1947 in Pelican Rapids, Minnesota. Leslie died peacefully on July 18, 2018 of natural causes at her home in Gig Harbor, Washington.
Leslie will be remembered as a fiercely independent woman with a large presence. She had great energy, determination, style, and a zest for life. She loved singing, dancing, crafts, drumming, listening to Elvis, and spending time with her family and friends. She enjoyed a busy life and was an active and integral member of her families’ lives, thanks to the efforts of her parents, both of whom preceded her in death. She enjoyed being a daughter, a sister, a niece, a cousin, an aunt and great-aunt, and was a valued friend to many special people who assisted her during her life.
Leslie was the first of four daughters born to Dr. Leslie Alexander and Hazel Engstrom Venables. Leslie was diagnosed with mental retardation at an early age, and in 1952 Les and Hazel relocated with Leslie and her sister Karen from Minnesota to Seattle. At that time in the early 50’s, services for Leslie
were more readily available in Washington than in other state. Leslie was later joined by two additional sisters, Vicki and Jodi, and the family relocated to Everett and then later to Stanwood, WA.
In the absence of public school programs to serve children like Leslie, she was enrolled at Rainier School, a state residential program located in Buckley, WA. Leslie remained a student at Rainier throughout her school years, always joining the family in their Stanwood home during school breaks, holidays, and summers. Leslie carried with her many happy memories of time spent with her sisters and tending the animals and pets the Venables raised. She deeply loved her family. Leslie’s disability was the impetus for her parents, Les and Hazel, to actively champion the development of services for the disabled in Snohomish County and throughout Washington state. Both Dr. and Hazel Venables remained in active leadership roles in the state throughout their lives in grant writing, and design and development of community and residential programs serving the mentally disabled. Many of those programs
continue to serve clients in the manner envisioned by Leslie’s parents those many years ago. Leslie’s life was important and her existence improved the lives of many people and will continue to do so in the days ahead. Leslie and her parents leave
a proud legacy.
As Leslie prepared for her next step in this life’s journey, she faced it with courage and she continued to sing, insist she could do it herself, and
fully participate as her own decision-maker. She loved her family, attending a large reunion in 2017 where she saw many cousins and her Uncle Paul Engstrom who turned 100. As the oldest cousin of many, she was loved and will be missed and remembered fondly.
She is survived by sisters Jodi Venables Coy of Gig Harbor, WA; Vicki Venables Blacken of Hubbard, OR; and Karen Venables Harper of North Bend, WA; as well as nieces and nephews Gillian Coy, Garrison Coy, Kylie Blacken Evenhus, Lars Blacken, Nels Harper and Hans Harper; numerous cousins throughout the
country, and Uncle Paul Engstrom.
At the family’s request, donations in remembrance of Leslie Venables may be made to Sherwood Community Services in Lake Stevens, Washington.
Thank you to Franciscan Hospice for their care and support during the final stages of Leslie’s life.