Paula Charis Littlewood

December 11, 1965 – December 14, 2020


image of Paula Charis Littlewood

Paula Charis Littlewood

Paula Charis Littlewood passed away on December 14th, 2020, in Seattle, Washington, from pancreatic cancer. She was 55.

Paula was born in Pullman, Washington to Patricia and Robert Littlewood. With her sister, brother, mother and anthropologist father, Paula started globetrotting at a young age, and by the time she was five she had lived in Tasmania and traveled extensively in Southeast Asia and Europe. These early experiences set the stage for a lifetime of travel and exploration.

Paula attended Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California, graduating magna cum laude. Following graduation, Paula traveled to China to visit her sister, and ended up staying in Asia for almost three years. Paula taught English in Taiwan and explored as much of the region as possible, laying the groundwork for a lifelong interest in the Chinese language and culture.

After returning to the United States, Paula worked on political campaigns and contemplated her professional goals. She was accepted to the University of Washington School of Law and the Jackson School of International Studies, completing her Juris Doctor with Honors in June 1997 and receiving a Master of Arts in International Studies (Chinese) in December 1997. From 1998-2002, Paula worked at the UW School of Law as an assistant dean, overseeing fundraising for a new building and coordinating several aspects of law school administration. After leaving UW, Paula spent a year in Telluride, Colorado, where she was the assistant head of school at the Telluride Mountain School and spent as much time as possible on the slopes.

In 2003, Paula returned to Seattle to begin work as deputy director of the Washington State Bar Association. Paula then became executive director, serving the legal profession in this role until early 2019. During her sixteen years at the Bar Association, Paula managed the implementation of innovative programs and was passionate about furthering access to legal representation for all people. In addition, Paula served on many national and international boards working to reform the regulation of the practice of law. Paula was invited to speak extensively in North America, Europe and Asia about the programs she and her colleagues were initiating in Washington state.

Paula received multiple honors and awards for her work in the legal profession, and served on the boards of several nonprofit organizations. Through her work and community service, Paula formed scores of professional and personal relationships.

For the past year, Paula was the interim CEO of Seattle Humane, helping to guide the organization through a time of transformation and to navigate the challenges brought on by the pandemic.

Paula and former spouse Will Wasson co-parented their two children, Parker, born in Colorado, and Sophie, born in Seattle. Paula and Steve Crossland were life partners for many years, and Paula and Steve traveled extensively for professional and personal adventures.

Paula with the kids at Whistler-Jan. 2020

Paula’s athletic passions were volleyball and skiing. Paula played volleyball continuously for over 40 years, and was the head volleyball coach at Lincoln High School and Hamilton Middle School in Seattle. She began skiing as a very young child, and throughout her life spent every winter traveling to the mountains in Washington and British Columbia.

Paula was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in February 2020. Paula surrounded herself with family, friends and positivity while pursuing treatment, certain she would be a “unicorn” and beat this disease.

Paula is survived by her children, Parker Blue Wasson (17) and Sophie Rose Wasson (15); her parents, Patricia K. Littlewood and Robert A. Littlewood; her brother, C.K. Littlewood, and sister, Erica Littlewood; cousins, a niece, nephews, and many other loving Littlewood clan members. Paula’s passing is mourned by family, friends and colleagues from every corner of the world, and her legacy will be carried forward in our memories.

Details about opportunities to honor and celebrate Paula’s life will be forthcoming. In the meantime, comments may be left below, and messages to the family may be sent to

58 Responses to “Paula Charis Littlewood”

  • Anne Paul Kong says:

    I am deeply sadden to learn of Paula’s passing. Paula and I were fast friends and spent hours of fun together especially in our freshman year at Claremont McKenna College. She was a confidant and a sounding board for me. I cherished our time together as we were just beginning to form as adults. I spent a school break in Pullman, WA meeting her family and was so warmly welcomed by her family and friends while being introduced to Eastern Washington for the first time—made more memorable and hilarious given that I grew up in the tropics. Paula’s giggle and smile will stay with me. I mourn with you, her dearest loved ones and survivors. The world has been made more full of friendship, richer with shared experience, and more equitable for her service. Thank you, Paula.

  • Laurie Simonson says:

    Paula and I were teammates at Claremont McKenna College. Any by “teammates” I mean partners in crime. Paula always had such a zest for life and an infectious laugh. I remember a number of times we showed up late for practice because of some type of shenanigans involving Paula. She was a wonderfully kind and generous teammate and always uplifting others. I am so sad by her passing.

  • John Richard says:

    I’m extremely sad to hear of Paula’s passing. As I write this, I’m remembering the great times I had with Paula and our group of friends from Phillips Hall at CMC–I remember the times goofing around, hanging out, going to class and just talking…so many memories of her friendship and the time I spent in her company. Those years were transformative and Paula was an important part of my transition to adult life. She went on to do wonderful things and will be missed by many.

  • Pat Mead says:

    It was truly an honor and a privilege to have been a member of the staff of the Washington State Bar Association under Paula’s leadership. She was so very wise, energetic, thoughtful, and inspiring. I have met many talented individuals over my lifetime, and Paula was truly one of my heroes. Thank you, Paula.

  • Robin Murphy says:

    Oh what a shock to hear this sad news. Paula and I were friends in middle school, dated in High school and remained friends throughout our lives. I first met her when we moved to Pullman in the 1970s. She was kind and generous and I will very much miss her. My heart goes out too her family.

  • Rich Maki says:

    So sad Paula was one of the most fun humans I have ever known!!! Greatest smile ever so sad … Great life and will Iive for ever in our hearts for ever… RIP…

  • Kelley Feldsott Reynolds says:

    Sending love and condolences to Paula’s beautiful family. I knew Paula from CMC. She was absolutely a bright light in this world and touched many hearts. RIP, friend.

  • Ian Leslie says:

    I hope this obituary is still being reviewed by family. I was deeply shocked and saddened by the news that Paul had passed away. I am in New Zealand and was told by our good friend Samson Suen from Hong Kong. Paula , Samson and myself travelled in Thailand and then we continued through Malaysia and Indonesia. Paula was an incredibly positive spirit and mainly through her good efforts we have remained in contact since the late 80’s and her and Will stayed with us in Tauranga in early 2000’s. I would like to share some photos with Parker , Sophie and family if possible and extend a welcome to family and friends to visit us in NZ. Thinking a lot about our great friend Paula

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