Online Obituaries for the Seattle WA Area
Shirley Rae Alberts
March 19, 1919 - January 05, 2011
It is time to say good bye to our dear S’Rae Alberts who passed away in Seattle, Washington, January 5, 2011, of complications from pneumonia.
Born Shirley Rae Stronach in Cheney, Washington, March 19, 1919, S’Rae Alberts lived a splendid life. She was the last survivor of the three Stronach sisters – all talented, beautiful, and artistic. She played the piano and sang and studied drama, even going to Hollywood to pursue her passion for theater. But it was art that captured her and sustained her in her life. Through it all, she said, “…art has been my lifesaver. Art never hurt back. There’s always a challenge and there’s always something to learn.” She earned her BA in Fine Arts and Education from Eastern Washington College in 1939, and did graduate work in sculpture at the University of Washington. She studied in Paris with Monsieur Bijohn and with Mark Tobey in Seattle. She taught art to grade school students in Sunnydale and Seattle, and then applied to go overseas as an American Red Cross worker during World War II. It is her work overseas that began her long and successful career as a portrait artist.
As a member of the Clubmobile for the American Red Cross, S’Rae handed out doughnuts and coffee, but more importantly, she sketched soldiers all over Scotland, England, Germany and France. After nineteen months of Red Cross service, she had sketched over 5,000 soldiers in hospitals, on airfields after missions, and in a psychiatric hospital in Paris. Copies of those sketches were then sent by the Red Cross to relatives in the states. Her purpose in spending time with the soldiers and sketching them was to encourage them to want to live, to go on. Her letters home and diary entries during her time overseas reveal how deeply she cared about the soldiers….and our country. She wrote:
“They are great guys – these American youths – shot to hell in this war. They are giving so much – so very much….Little do we know of suffering. So little. Someday it must be a great, real and lasting peace, for so many are earning it in a thousand ways, and thousand fold. I pray I may do a little bit each day!”
When S’Rae returned to the states she continued her work with soldiers as a sketch artist and then became an “Artist in Action” at various department stores in Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, B.C., and Spokane. In 1965 she established her own Portrait Studio in her home in Innis Arden, painting portrait commissions. Her portrait credits read like a who’s who of the great Northwest including Governors, Senators, General Officers and Statesmen, her most noteworthy being her portrait of Harry S. Truman. Her success may have a great deal to do with her philosophy, as she said: “You have to get inside your client….What I try to do is to capture a person’s soul and heart.”
During her later life, S’Rae enjoyed many clubs and professional affiliations including membership in the Evergreen Chapter of ROAL, Seattle Allied Arts, Highland Opera Guild, and the 200+1. She loved giving parties and was surrounded with adoring friends at her gala events. Her last days were spent at the Foss House, where she wanted to be able to sit out in the hallway, so she could ‘look at the faces’. She never lost her fascination with people and her artistic vision. She was preceded in death by parents Alexandra Mead Stronach and H.N. Stronach, her loving companion Kenneth Bergstrom, her sisters Barbara Stronach Conley and Jean Stronach Gardner, her niece Kay Gardner Campbell, and nephew Todd Conley. Though “Auntie S’Rae” did not have children of her own, she is survived by her nieces and nephew and their families who all love her so dearly: Jan Conley Waldrup of Sandpoint, Id; Peggy Conley of Newcastle, WA; and Steve (Carrie) Conley of Richland, WA.; as well as Roy Campbell of Spokane, WA., husband of the late Kay Gardner Campbell. We hope she knows that she will always be a cherished memory and inspiration for the future. It is so very painful to say goodbye to S’Rae, to that magnificent generation who survived the depression, fought the war for us, and raised us in the fifties. We are losing them, one by one, shedding so many tears for our loss, and vowing to never forget them. God bless and God speed, dear Aunt S’Rae.
A celebration of her life will be held at Evergreen Washelli, 11111 Aurora Ave North, Seattle, Washington, May 14th at 2 P.M., in the chapel, with a reception to follow. (guestbook at www.washelli.com)
Cemetery: Map to Evergreen Memorial Park, Seattle