Florence E. Smallwood

1917 – 2011

Florence Smallwood passed away on Saturday, November 12th at her senior care home in Bellevue at the age of 94.  Florence was the loving wife of Norton Smallwood, who passed away in 1997.  Florence and Norton were the parents of four children – Pamela Ann, Nancy Lee, Norton William and Bradley Walter.  The family lost their dear daughter/sister Nancy in 1981.  Florence and Norton had 12 grandchildren, 12 great grandchildren and 3 great, great grandchildren.  Her large extended family of nieces and nephews all loved her dearly.


Florence was born on September 14th 1917 in Spokane, WA.  She was the first of four children born to Walter and Dorothy Bartholomew.  All of Florence’s siblings have passed before her.  Growing up during the great depression left a lasting impact on Florence.  This time period laid the foundation for a life long work ethic, a commitment to thriftiness and a strong sense of family togetherness in overcoming challenging times.  Florence had great pride in her father and mother and dearly loved her younger twin sisters and baby brother.  After graduating from high school, Florence attended Eastern Washington College and received her Bachelors of Arts degree and her education certificate.  During her high school and college years she was active in drama and starred in several performances.


The Smallwoods were married in 1938 and after living briefly in Seattle, Florence and Norton settled permanently at Three Tree Point, now part of the City of Burien.  They managed to save and borrow to purchase their large family home, which they owned for almost 65 years.


Florence was an elementary school teacher in the Highline School District for many years, teaching at Mount View and Lake Burien Elementary (now a park with a monument) and finally, Seahurst Elementary School.  During her long career, she had an enormously positive impact on countless young students, many of whom have expressed gratitude for the lessons learned in Florence’s third or fourth grade classes.  Her unique style of kindness, personal accountability and a focus on each individual’s achieving their best was a hallmark of her teaching style.


In addition to the normal life of work and daily family activities, Florence was a witness and participant in many events including World War II, which necessitated rationing, blackouts and volunteering to watch for enemy planes.  Living at the “Point” was a lifelong joy for Florence.  She enjoyed a daily swim in the Sound during the summer, and she loved fishing and boating.  The family owned many boats of several types and explored the San Juan’s and other locations around Puget Sound.


Over the years, their home was the central gathering place for parties, weddings and family get-togethers. They frequently hosted friends & relatives from out-of-town.  This home and the life within it was the essence of who Florence was; a warm, welcoming shelter that always included great cooking, laughter and beach property for generations of family children and their friends.  As the family grew with grandchildren and their children, Florence became a confidant, a trouble-shooter, and a helping hand, always willing to do whatever she could to help out a child, a teen or their parents.


In retirement, Florence and Norton traveled extensively, both in their travel van as well as to far flung places in Europe or Mexico.  They continued to always maintain their landscaping, as both of them enjoyed gardening.  As Norton’s health declined, Florence took on the new role of care taker yet also found time to participate in a book club and a quilting group.  She was a ready and willing contributor in many activities for Lake Burien Presbyterian Church.


After retiring from the school district, she began conducting an English as a Second Language class (ESL) called “Speak Easy” at the Burien Library.  This program taught refugees and immigrants to speak English and helped them assimilate into the U.S. from areas such as Bosnia, Afghanistan, Somalia, Asia, Russia or Latin America.  There were many success stories as a result of her ten years of teaching this class one evening a week.


Florence continued to be active in her social clubs, visiting or hosting her family and volunteering for various tasks.  This determined, elegant lady was also tough, showing her pioneer grit when she broke her hip, suffered a heart attack, had a pacemaker installed and managed diabetes while still living independently with part time assistance from family members until she was 91.


In her last year of life, Florence lived in a beautiful adult family home in the Bellevue area.  She was cared for by a loving family who are dedicated to their residents.  On most visits to the elder home, Florence would welcome all with a smile and invite her guests to her beach for a picnic or say “sit down and I’ll fix you something” – always the gracious hostess.  She would often ask her children, “can we go home now?” during their visits.  Mom, you can go home now.  We love you.


Services:   Sunday, November 20th  2:00 p.m.   Lake Burien Presbyterian Church
15003 – 14th Avenue SW   Burien, WA  98166      (206) 242-6023

Memorial Donations:  In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Lake Burien Presbyterian Church and the Florence Smallwood Memorial Fund.

7 Responses to “Florence E. Smallwood”

  • Lynette Smallwood says:

    She was and will always be remembered as an absolutely wonderful woman. She welcomed me and my children with wide open, loving arms without a moment of hesitation. She carried herself with such grace and offered much love. I will miss her.

  • Gene Williamson says:

    Sorry to hear of your loss. I only met your folks a few times many years ago. Your mom impressed me then as a devoted mother and a real sweetheart. She lived a long life and must have been proud of her family.

  • Nancy McConnell says:

    Grandma Florence was one of the biggest influences in my life. She has been my hero all my life. I wish very much that i could have lived my life more like she lived hers. She helped me when I was a troubled teenager, it didn’t matter what I did, she loved me anyway. And she helped my son when he had problems. She was just full of love for her family. I am very fortunate to have had her for my grandmother. I will truly miss her.

  • Norman Patton says:

    Aunt Florence was a defining person in my life while growing up. She was always there when I needed help, sometimes stay at her home while making employment relocation’s and address changes. I loved spending time in the side bedroom off the master bedroom that overlooked the rear yard and Puget Sound. Florence seemed to take on the role of mother for her nieces and nephews, even as adults when we lost our mothers and father, her twin sisters and brother.

    It is a true joy to know that she is rejoined to Uncle Nort, but we who are left behind are sadly in poverty do to our loss of such a fine laday. I love you Aunt Florence.

  • Jerry Purcell says:

    Florence will always be remembered as someone who cared deeply about her family, students and friends. Her graciousness and hospitality made the Three Tree House far more than a house.

    Florence made a difference in so many lives. We were privileged to have known her.

  • Curt Winther says:

    As a former student at Mt View (51-57), I recall Florence as a very nice teacher. Also because my mother was a teacher there also. (Marie Winther) My mom always had nice things to say about Florence. I believe that group of teachers have all passed now and are now together talking about how things have changed from the good old days. I’m sorry for your loss but hope Florence is in a better place.

  • Tom Diefendorf says:

    The name “Florence Smallwood” made me think of all things that are good and I immediately wept. Florence and my Mother, Lillian Diefendorf, were great friends. My Mother thought the world of Florence and I thought the world of my Mother, so this would put Florence in a place quite unique to anyone I have ever known. My love to the Smallwood family and my condolences on the passing of such a special person in our lives.

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