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”

  • Jim McCullagh says:

    I am deeply saddened by this news and very sorry for your loss. I have very fond memories of sharing time and playing volleyball with Paula during law school and for a few years thereafter. 2020 has been a lousy year for a number of reasons, and this news ranks right at the top of bad things.

  • Peter Segall says:

    I did not know Paula well; however, as a Seattle Humane board member I was lucky enough to work with her while she was Interim CEO. I cannot thank Paula and her family enough for the work she did for Seattle Humane all while fighting a terrible disease. Paula’s leadership and guidance will be missed but will live on in the hearts and minds of all she touched at the shelter. Thank you.

  • Carol Kershner says:

    I am so sorry for your loss and just wanted to send my deepest condolences to the whole family. May she rest in God’s hands.

  • Jennifer R Albright says:

    Paula was a champion for innovative ways to further access to justice and always had time to provide information, assistance, input, and give presentations to those of us working on the same topics and who were just getting our feet wet, so to speak. I am grateful to have had an opportunity to learn from her and I extend my deepest condolences to her family, friends, and colleagues.
    J Albright

  • Ruth M Beardsley says:

    I have good memories of Paula beginning in 1997 at UW School of Law. So sorry to lose her; love and healing to her family.

  • The Robinson Family says:

    Paula was a inspiration as a parent, a coach, and a friend. We are so happy we had her in our lives and we will miss her very much. Scott, Ellen and Chelsea Robinson

  • Chris says:

    I remember meeting Paula for the first time in law school and she was my mentor. I remember feeling so encouraged that I saw a lawyer who wasn’t stuffy and really cared about me and helping me see how I could become who I wanted to be. When I’ve been in limbo with startups, she offered several times for me to stay in their basement. She just made me feel optimistic about life and that there are leaders who listen; showing me that there are people I can follow.

  • Destine Evers says:

    Sending my best wishes for comfort and healing to Paula’s family. I worked with her for several years at the WSBA, and I will always remember her strength and kindness.

  • Jennifer and Marcello Marelli says:

    Paula was a beautiful person who brightened our lives and we feel fortunate to have known her. She set a good example of living life to the fullest. We will miss her.

  • Lynn, Brandon, and Fiona says:

    Our family is so sad to hear of Paula’s passing. She was so generous with her volleyball knowledge, teaching two newer parents some of the finer rules of the game while sitting on the sidelines of tournaments. It was a joy to be able to cheer on her teams as well as our own when our kiddos were playing against each other, or cheer together when they were on the same team. Her presence and positive energy will be greatly missed.

  • Rob Lapper says:

    Steve, Parker and Sophie and family; We have lost a good and dear friend. Paula’s energy, good humour, candor made her a joy to be around. She stayed with us last January when we had an uncharacteristically huge snow storm that paralyzed Vancouver – but not Paula – my last memory of her is seeing her bravely venturing out to drive to Vancouver to meet her speaking engagement commitment. She was a gift to all of us – a great reformer and leader of the Bar, and all of her Canadian Law Society friends will remember her as the one we thought of as one of us – “the honorary Canadian”.

  • Catie Waits says:

    I met Paula as the Interim CEO of Seattle Humane. Although I did not know her well, I deeply admired her positivity, can-do attitude, and leadership skills. Paula brought so much to Seattle Humane and lead us through turbulent times. She will be deeply missed here. The positive changes she made within the organization will guide us through success for several years to come. I am so grateful for the time she spent with us.

  • Michael Cherry says:

    On behalf of the Practice of Law Board, and myself personally, I am saddened to hear of Paula’s passing. I would like to thank Paula’s family for sharing her with us, so that she could make her immeasurable contribution to the legal community and to justice. She will be missed. Michael Cherry, WSBA member, and Chair Practice of Law Board.

  • Rachelle Blair says:

    Paula was the friend I could literally call in the middle of the night. Paula was the mother that taught me the importance of giving your children wings to fly. Paula was at once one of smartest and most down-to-earth people I’ve ever known. She was well-travelled, well-read, well-respected, and above all well-loved. For those of us who were fortunate enough to know her, the loss is deep, but how much richer my life is for having had her presence and positive energy in my life.

    Parker & Sophie, she left you an amazing legacy. You are held and loved by all of those who loved your mom.

    Rachelle, Noah & Nathanael

  • Onno says:


    I will miss your energy, wit and passion for the game of Volleyball. Can’t believe it was only a couple of months ago that we were on the field coaching the girls.

    Love and healing to your family and the larger volleyball community. You will be missed.


  • Alicia DeGon, LLLT 131 says:

    Paula’s courage and vision made a disproportionate impact in our deeply imperfect legal system. I know you were kicked around, hard, by the boyz in the boardroom who may have forgotten who they serve and why. Thank you, brave lady. For having made our world a better place during your short life! – Alicia

    My Legal Pit Stop, Legal Technicians

  • Penny Hazelton says:

    I knew Paula for nearly 30 years. She was a big picture leader, yet she possessed such humanity. You always had her undivided attention. Paula had a verve for life, living each day completely and passionately. She freely shared her experience, expertise and contacts with others, enriching everyone in the process. She infected those around her with possibilities. She was decisive and knew how to take action. We need more people like Paula in the world.

  • Sharon Nelson says:

    Dear family of Paula, I shared an office suite with Paula in the early 2000’s and grew to love her for her intelligence, energy, and great common sense. She was one of those people who is always fully present when you are with her. In the last few years we formed a quartet with two other women lawyers and veterans of the law school and public service, Sue Donaldson and Deb Eddy. We would meet about once a quarter for downloads about what was going on in all our lives but most essentially Paula’s as she dealt the issues at the WSBA. When she told us about her cancer, I know I believed that if anyone could beat this one, that Paula would. We saw each other this summer at Sue’s house and even though her hair was thinning out, I still had great hope. We became worried when we didn’t hear back from her around Thanksgiving. It was then she shared how fatigued she was. I am grateful she gave me Erica’s phone number. I will miss her terribly. And my heart goes out all of you. As you plan her memorial service, please let me know if there is anyway to be helpful.

  • Kelli says:

    To Paula, my “little sis” at Pullman High School. What a beautiful person you are. Blessed to know you.

  • Deb Eddy says:

    Family: I met Paula during her years fundraising for the UW Law School and our friendship grew over the years. Sharon Nelson describes our quarterly lunches in recent years; those lunches meant a lot to all of us. My shared passion with Paula was re-imagining the practice of law, the delivery of services to those somewhere in the middle – too strapped to afford legal services, but not quite ‘poor.’ She was a visionary, something that will be more appreciated in future years.The memories of my adventures with her in Indonesia are close to my heart. My sincerest condolences.

  • Steve says:

    It has been year (ok, maybe decades) since I’ve spoken with Paula. But seeing her photos reminds me of her infectious smile, positive outlook on life, and hearty laugh. We were students together, as well as fellow interns in an administrative office. I remember with joy Paula’s generosity of spirit and creativity. I can almost hear her laugh now.

  • Rory Link says:

    I am so very sad. I met Paula as a neighbor. Over the years we have stayed in touch. Parker and I became good friends. My sincere condolences to her parents, Parker and Sophie., also Will and all those who loved her. She will be missed.

  • Anthony L. Butler, Attorney says:

    To Paula’s family. I am so sorry for your loss. Tonight I went to the WSBA website to pay my WSBA license fee and saw the news of Paula’s passing. I am so crushed in spirit. I’ve known Paula for too many years to remember them clearly at this moment. We became acquainted while she was Assistant Dean at the UW Law School and I was a member of the Law School Alumni Association Board. Paula and the Alumni Board had a highly productive and wonderful working relationship. She worked so hard, among her other things duties, building relationships and funding for the new school project. It was hard work, but she made it real. If anyone can be credited with building the new University of Washington School of Law, it was Paula Littlewood. I saw first-hand her tireless, fruitful work. I recall so well her excitement when she told us (the Alumni Board) that Bill Gates, Sr., had agreed to support the plan for the new law school. Paula was an immensely admired, valued, and respected Assistant Dean. After many years working with her at the law school, our professional friendship continued when she became the WSBA Deputy Director, later its Executive Director, and I was involved in various capacities at times with the WSBA as a committee volunteer, employee, and member of the Board of Governors. Paula was a steady, calming, optimistic leader. I will miss her and remember her as ever inspiring and smiling.

  • Sue Donaldson says:

    I met Paula at the UW Law School. We bonded over our interest in politics, public policy and the law. I loved her energy, intellectual curiosity and passion for life.
    As Sharon Nelson and Deb Eddy have noted, our quarterly lunches were special: political and social justice discussions, workplace gossip, silly stories, family news.
    To Sophie and Parker: She loved you with all her heart. Every lunch, we heard a proud update. The TikTok dances that the three of you choreographed and performed brightened the summer and gave us all hope (even the bloopers!)
    Paula lived more in her short life than many could live in several lifetimes. She is missed but her legacy shines on.

  • Pam Xander says:

    To Paula’s Family and Friends:
    I knew Paula as a young mom caring for two beautiful children along with Will while the kids attended Wallingford Childcare Center. When one reads through Paula’s list of professional accomplishments, it is remarkable to think that she was simultaneously investing so much time, energy, and love into her two preschoolers. Talking with Paula at that time, there were no conversations about law, conferences, or career – it was all about Parker and Sophie. I pray that her love for them will continue to be felt by both of them as they choose their paths in life. I am so sorry for your loss.

  • Professor Bill Andersen says:

    Paula was a student, then for several years a valuable colleague at the University of Washington Law School. In her 16 years as Executive Director of the state bar association Paula demonstrated an untiring dedication to the public interest and her commitment to expanding the availability of legal service to the public. This latter emphasis made her a well known and widely sought speaker around the country, as well as a target of criticism by factions of the bar who did not share her dedication to that goal.
    We will miss Paula’s steadfast adherence to principle, and her broad view of the the role of the legal profession. We will also miss a warm, intelligent, and caring friend. Our deepest sympathy goes out to her family.

  • Lee C Littlewood says:

    Paula had a pretty wide range of experiences and she enjoyed sharing them with friends. When she came back to the US after teaching in Taiwan she stayed with us for a few weeks while she got over her culture shock. We may have helped with that because we had two sons in junior high, so she could tell them about the wide world outside of Portland, Oregon, that they would be able to visit in a few years, and some of the ways that world might differ from theirs. I particularly remember her teaching our boys how to pick up girls – it was all about seeing the world from a different perspective. I wish someone had explained that to me when I was in jr. high.
    I am the eldest of the seven cousins, Paula was the youngest. At family gatherings we always took a photo of the two of us together: ‘Fall & Spring’ or ‘Age & Energy’ or something like that. I am going to miss those photos.
    Lee Littlewood

  • Amy says:

    I have known Paula for almost 20 years, playing volleyball and recently coaching volleyball with her. And during that time as our friendship grew we were able to connect about our professional lives and the role and challenges women face. She was always authentic, funny, confident and compassionate. One of the few women leaders who I saw reach great heights and yet stay so connected to the ground. I was so proud of her when she left law and focused on other ways to help. The humane society, coaching, mentoring were all done with grace and energy and love. I can’t quite imagine walking back onto the court again and find her not there. Just shows how impactful she was, and the hole her passing leaves.

  • Lori Cloninger Sweeney says:

    I knew Paula best at the beginning of her adult life, when she worked as my intern at Claremont McKenna College (although I am just 5 years older than she and remarkably dumber!). She managed it all–humor, politics, CMC’s craziness–excelling at work and academics. We shared an office and it wasn’t even 6 feet between us, but we got along and laughed and figured it out. And Paula loyally stayed in touch, came to my wedding, visited over the years and somehow remembered my birthday each year. All the while I didn’t know she was this superstar advocating for affordable legal access, skiing (something I gave up in the 1990s) and what, coaching volleyball, in addition to keeping in touch with an old friend. And, it sounds like, a helluva mother, a role which really makes all the difference in the world. I am heartbroken to lose not just my friend, but a force for good in the world when we so badly need it.

  • Joann Pheasant says:

    Paula was a glorious person. She embraced the world and made genuine contributions that will last far into the future. I was a classmate at UW Law. My deepest condolences to her family, particularly her children. She loved you beyond words.

  • Nick Gellert says:

    Professionally I always appreciated Paula’s dedication to all the people of the State of Washington, and personally I always appreciated her good humor and the twinkle in her eye. Always enjoyed when we randomly ran into each other in the Wallingford neighborhood. I will miss all those interactions. Very sorry for this loss for her family and extensive circle of friends.

  • Carey Steingraber says:

    Paula was one of those people that was ALWAYS a bright light. She was not someone that I had seen all the time but when I did bump into her in the hood it was a hug (pre-Covid) and quick catch up to update the status of our kids who went to Wallingford Childcare Center together many years ago.
    My heart aches for her loss and my sincere condolences go out to her family during this incredible time of loss.
    She will be forever missed and never forgotten.

  • Elizabeth Simcox says:

    The legal world has lost an icon. Paula was a superstar in so many ways and she will be greatly missed. I am so glad I had the chance to know Paula and learn from her. My heartfelt condolences to her entire family.
    Liz Simcox

  • Michele Carney says:

    I will always remember Paula as a legal innovator. I serve on the Practice of Law Board and Paula would often come to our meetings and her insight, guidance and knowledge were priceless. My favorite saying from Paula was – It’s not where the hockey puck is now, but where it is going. She was always ahead of the game and was one of the most creative people I have ever encountered. Her brilliance, kindness and innovation will be deeply missed by the Seattle community. Also as a lover of animals, I can only imagine the wonders she would have accomplished at the Seattle Humane Society. She left the world in a better place.

  • Crystal Rutherford says:

    I met Paula when our two sons were at the same daycare in Wallingford. Soon we were hanging out with our kids and having a great time. Taking the kids out for trick-or-treat was the best. The last time I saw her was at Justice Gonzalez’ swearing in. Life got busy, the pandemic hit and I did not see her at all this year and now I cannot believe that I will never get to talk to her again.

  • Tiela Chalmers says:

    I am so sad to hear of Paula’s death. I knew of Paula from her groundbreaking work in the law and legal services, and deeply admired her persistence and belief in good works. We invited Paula to come to speak to a group of us in California and she was gracious, persuasive, and inspiring. My condolences to all of you, and may her memory be a blessing.

  • Carol Madeja says:

    I knew Paula for a number of years both when I worked at the ABA and the State Bar of California. She was an inspiration and I know that she will be missed by all. My condolences to her family and many friends who will miss her precious smile.

  • Scott Railton says:

    I am so sad to hear this news. I was friends with Paula at the University of Washington Law School. Paula was Editor in Chief for the Pacific Rim Law & Policy Journal, which I also served on, and so I had great opportunity to work with her during that time. She was terrific, as both a leader and a friend. She worked hard, and always had a smile. Just a really good person. My condolences to her family.

  • Kristin Peterson says:

    Paula and I first crossed paths at the UW Law School. I didn’t know her well but based on my interactions with her then and briefly since, I knew she was compassionate, caring, and had a passion for life and adventure. My condolences to her family and friends. May they find comfort in her memories and everylasting love.

  • Randall Gaylord says:

    To Paula’s parents, my neighbors, I am so sorry. It breaks my heart that she’s gone. Paula stood out as a valiant leader of lawyers and their professional association. She knew how to bring out the best in everyone and make things happen for the good of the community. She shared her optimism this past year, and love for continuing service to the Humane Society notwithstanding the medical troubles. Only very strong people do that. To Paula’s children, I hope these remembrances remind you how much your mother was respected and loved by her many friends and colleagues.

  • Daniel Jurdy says:

    I meet Paula and her sister Erica on a boat from Shanghai to Hong Kong over 30 years ago and was able to stay friends and keep up with her for those 30 years. I can truly say what an amazing woman she was and she has a special place in my heart. My prayers go out to her and her whole family. She I know has amazing children and was a great sibling and daughter. I think of the times we were able to spend time together and were able to develop a lifelong friendship.She will always live in my heart and mind as she made me a better person ….one love Paula

  • Aleta J Blakely says:

    If there ever was proof needed that the eyes are the windows to the soul, Paula would be that evidence. What a bright eyed, intelligent, caring person. She was more than a pillar of strength. Amazingly humble in her straightforward and well thought out responses to issues presented to her. You will be missed.

  • Jane Lowell says:

    Paula was a wonderful, caring person, true leader, and treasured friend. What a loss for us all. We will miss her.

  • Gail McGaffick says:

    I was so saddened to read about Paula’s passing today in an email from WSBA. As a long-time WSBA member, I thought Paula was an absolutely excellent Executive Director. My sense was that the organization became much more professional under her strong leadership. And on a more personal note, she always made time to respond to my emails or phone calls over the years. I felt like I knew her through the competence and warmth of her communication with me. Finally, I am so sorry that WSBA did not continue to support her in the manner in which she deserved. My heartfelt condolences.

  • Janet Garrow says:

    I was stunned to read of Paula’s passing in a WSBA message. I am so very sad to know she is no longer with us. Our local and national legal community is certainly diminished with this loss. Paula and I met when I served on the Washington state Board for Judicial Administration, and she attended in her role as WSBA Executive Director. While BJA meetings were lots of serious business among a group of opinionated judges and other stakeholders, Paula brought a special spark, wonderful humor, important information, and valuable insights into our work. I will truly miss seeing her in the future. My sincere condolences to her children and extended family.

  • Amber Hollister says:

    As a student at the University of Washington School of law, and later when she led the WSBA, I witnessed Paula’s energy, commitment and drive to make our systems work better for the common good. I am so saddened by her passing, but know her legacy is here to stay. My deep condolences to her family on this tremendous loss.

  • Darlene Bakes says:

    Heartbreaking. Such a terrible loss of a life well-lived and a person so dearly admired. My deepest sympathies; all my love to the family.

  • Will de Jong says:

    I played volleyball with Paula for several years. We weren’t close friends, but I counted her as a friend nonetheless. She was a special person, and I am saddened to find that she is no longer with us.

  • Ellen Miller says:

    Paula was one of a kind. She was a valued bar executive — thoughtful, wise, innovative and fun. I appreciated her leadership, insights and bravery. She will not be forgotten.
    To her family, I wish you peace as you go through this journey.

  • Kelli Schmidt says:

    I went to law school with Paula and crossed paths with her at the WSBA when I was a section leader. She was always calm and thoughtful. And, while she was undoubtedly passionate about improving the profession, she was also down to earth and practical. Her passing is a shock, even in this year where so much is shocking. My heart goes out to her family, friends, and her children at this tremendous loss. Sending light and strength.

Leave a Reply

Please be respectful. Disrespectful comments will not be published

When you have successfully submitted a comment, look in the space above to see your comment.

Your comment is awaiting moderation.

If you do not see your comment, click HERE