With family surrounding her, Lela “Roberta” Giles died quietly at her Tacoma, Washington, home on August 5, 2014.
She was born on January 15, 1918, to Stanley Robert Fincham and Ellen Martina Christensen Fincham at her parents’ farm in Story County near Colo, Iowa. Roberta was the oldest of seven surviving siblings.
At 16, she graduated from Fernald High School and began college at Simpson College. She graduated from Iowa Methodist Hospital as a registered nurse in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1939.
One of her first patients was her own mother when at 18 on a holiday break, she delivered her youngest sister.
She left home before rural electrification came to Colo, and when electricity did come to her family home, she used a portion of her first paycheck to purchase a waffle iron for her mother.
This trait of making gifts that empowered the receiver would remain a hallmark for the rest of her life.
In 1941, she married Joseph William Giles and became a World War II Navy wife living in Astoria, Oregon. Following the war, Joe and Roberta moved to Marshalltown, Iowa, where they owned and operated Camera Shop and Sporting Goods until the business was sold in the mid-1960s.
Roberta then became a pioneer in geriatric nursing care at the Iowa Veterans Home. When they moved to Bellingham, Washington, in 1973, she was the director of nursing at Alderwood Park Convalescent Center and became an advocate for hospice.
She moved in 1979 to Forks, where she helped establish a hospice chapter and was its treasurer for several years.
In Marshalltown, she was active in First Congregational Church and participated in many capacities. She was a member of PEO in Marshalltown, Bellingham and Port Angeles.
Roberta was an avid gardener and also loved to sew, crochet and quilt. She was the first wardrobe seamstress for the Rainforest Arts Players of Forks.
During her lifetime, she completed over 100 quilts, each made and quilted entirely by hand. Her quilts have been displayed multiple times in different venues.
She sewed christening gowns for each of her grandchildren and crocheted lace dresses for her two great-granddaughters.
Roberta also sewed formal gowns for special events and many family weddings, including her own. She was a volunteer at the Forks Clothing Bank for more than 20 years.
Lifelong learning was especially valued. She read three or more books every week and discussed each at length even years later. In her 70s, she was given a computer and connected to the Internet.
At 94, she purchased an iPad to stay in touch with family and friends. Hours before her death, she spent time on “FaceTime” with her newest great-grandchild.
Roberta loved traveling to see family and friends. At age 75, she got her first passport to tour Kenya. Her recollection was often more accurate than those half her age. She was sharp until her last breath, for which she was fully prepared.
Roberta was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Joseph; son, Joel F.; and sister Lois Parlova.
She is survived by her sisters Phyllis Ray, Beverly Johnson, Monna Scheid and Gladys Sawyer; and her only brother, Robert “Bud” Fincham.
She will be missed by her surviving children, Lela Jeanne Kriebel of Forks; Joellen Giles of Tacoma; Mary Muriel Giles Derfner of Charleston, South Carolina; and Val James Giles of Forks. Roberta lived to enjoy her seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, October 4, at Forks’ Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 250 North Blackberry Avenue.