Kristin Ellen Ekern

May 29, 1947 - June 12, 2023

Kristin Ellen Ekern entered the world on May 29, 1947, the second of three children born to Kerm and Dorothy Ekern. She was known as Krissy to her family, Kris to friends, mom and mama to many, and Gramma to her biological and chosen grandchildren. Kris was born in the South Seattle area and grew up all over Washington as Kerm moved with the Washington State Patrol, including Burien, Spokane, Vancouver and Tumwater where she graduated from high school as a Thunderbirdette. She studied nursing at Seattle Pacific University where she met Greg Gay, who she married and had three daughters with, moving with the Navy to California, Oklahoma and Texas before returning to Washington permanently.

After residing in Snohomish for 15 years Kris returned to her ancestral neighborhood on Bainbridge Island, where she spent the next 18 years immersed in family and community, working for local businesses including the Bainbridge Review, and later caring for her mother Dorothy full time until her passing in 2010. It was during this time that Kris carried forward the long standing involvement of her father Kerm in the local Kiwanis chapter after his passing in 1997. Kris was honored with the Kiwanis George F. Hixson Fellow award in 2003 and with the Bainbridge Island Kiwanian of the Year award in 2007. She was also Secretary for the nonprofit Bainbridge Student Loan program for several years, even after leaving the island. Kris further dedicated her time and resources to community service by volunteering at elementary schools and through involvement with Rolling Bay Presbyterian Church. After her mother’s passing, Kris remained on Bainbridge in the family home for another eight years in her retirement role of choice, which she referred to as Granny Nanny, before moving to Gig Harbor with family to continue this role for the last four years.

Kris was a jack of all trades and excelled at everything she set her mind to. She learned many careers throughout her life, including authoring the book Herschel’s Special Dream, developing curriculum for private Christian elementary schools, custom home construction, office management and bookkeeping, church administration and youth leadership, catering, and one of her favorites, customer service for Washington Mutual when their brand marketing centered around the Rodeo Grandmas.

Kris was exceptionally self taught and well read with a vast repertoire of knowledge and interests. She was a master of many crafts including sewing, crocheting, woodworking and building, gardening and landscaping, cooking, baking, canning, writing, and she was known for her custom gingerbread house replicas made each year for a different recipient. Kris loved planning and personalizing celebrations that brought friends and family together, and hosted guests with attention to detail, warmth and welcoming. She possessed a unique spirit and way of making everyone around her feel special.

Possessing an unparalleled work ethic and dedication to others, Kris embodied strong values of faith, family, service, community, integrity, creativity, equality and purpose. Being present with her family was her priority for decades, and she frequently spoke of how grateful she was for the opportunity to spend her days passing down traditions, sharing wisdom and humor, being a source of guidance and support, and watching her family grow every day. Kris spent her days often whistling or humming, looking for ways to live a life of purpose and calling, and asking herself the question, how can I help? She was self-sacrificing, resilient, exceptionally giving, full of grace, and always looked for the good in people. Kris leaves an indelible impression and will be dearly missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing her.

After a two month valiant fight, Kris succumbed to complications associated with viral Meningeal Encephalopathy on June 12, 2023. She is survived by daughters Linsey (Todd), Deanna (Dan), Carmen (Sara); grandchildren Darrin, Ashtyn, Hadleigh, Isabel, Sophia; siblings Carolyn and Kerm (Lynnie); niece Dawn and nephews Jonathan (Katie) and Andrew; and many extended Ekern and Belling family members.

A celebration of life will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers or gifts for the family, please consider donating to the Summit Scholarship Fund. This annual college scholarship will be awarded to local graduates demonstrating resiliency in overcoming adversity in the honor and memory of Kris. Please contact Summit Mental Health Services in Gig Harbor at for donation information, thank you.