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Originally published Monday, February 25, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Lorraine Durkan, 83, "always willing to listen"

When someone needed support, whether it was family or friends, Lorraine "Lolly" Durkan was there with an open heart. The 83-year-old Seattle woman...

Seattle Times staff reporter

When someone needed support, whether it was family or friends, Lorraine "Lolly" Noonan Durkan was there with an open heart.

The 83-year-old Seattle woman, who died of cancer Saturday, was known by her children as a person who infused values and ethics into their lives.

Honesty was a cornerstone in the household, said son Tim Durkan, of Seattle.

"All you have in this life is your family and your word, and I can remember living this experience," he said.

Jenny Durkan, a Seattle attorney, said her mother "was defined by her generous soul, sharp mind and will of steel."

Mrs. Durkan graduated from Queen Anne High School in 1942 and from the University of Washington in 1947. While attending the UW, she majored in English and was president of her chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority.

During World War II, she applied to drive a jitney on the waterfront and was told it wasn't for women. Jenny Durkan said her mother was never one to take no for an answer, and after talking to the man in charge she was employed to drive the jitney, followed soon by several of her best girlfriends.

After graduation, she traveled with her friend Betty Bradley to Cuba. Then they joined the United States Special Services and were stationed for two years in Germany, where she ran the officer's club.

She returned to Seattle in 1951 to marry her college sweetheart, Martin Durkan, who served in the military, then went on to more public service in the Washington state House of Representatives and state Senate.

On the campaign trail, people gravitated to her smile, and she rarely forgot a name or face, Jenny Durkan said.

While Mrs. Durkan supported her husband's political work, she also raised their eight children.

At home, she welcomed children from around the neighborhood, even raising one of them from the age of 12 after his parents moved out of state.

"Her home and heart were always open to countless others who were quickly adopted as family," Jenny Durkan said. "Her motto: There may not be much food, but there are always plenty of chairs."

Tim Durkan, who works in the Seattle mayor's office as a project manager for community relations, was amazed at his mother's ability to raise eight children. He said his mother made him the man he is today.

He remembers when he got caught lying to her as a teenager and she wouldn't talk to him for weeks. He never made that mistake again, he said.

She was compassionate and always willing to listen, Tim Durkan said. "She could shoulder so much if you let her in."

She eventually put her English degree to work as executive editor of the Ballard News Tribune, where she wrote editorials. She also traveled extensively by sea, reaching ports in Asia, Europe and Egypt.

Mrs. Durkan and her husband eventually retired to Maui, Hawaii, where she resided until her recent move to Horizon House.

She is survived by her children Kathleen, Martin, Ryan, Jenny, Matt, Timothy and Megan; grandchildren Jamie, Danny, Taryn, Colman, James and Teegan; sister Doris Liming; and dozens of nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband.

Services are pending.

Christine Willmsen: 206-464-3261 or cwillmsen@seattletimes.com.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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