Obituaries » Paula Julene Yocum
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January 24, 1954 - September 29, 2019
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Paula Julene (Hickman) Yocum died peacefully at home early in the morning on Sunday, September 29, 2019 at the age of 65. She passed from this world with her loving husband and three children by her side.
She was born on January 24, 1954 in Pueblo, Colo. to Earl and Esta (Pertel) Hickman. She was the eldest of three siblings. Paula graduated from Chief Sealth High School in West Seattle and went on to earn a degree in early childhood education. In a 1973 speech class at Highline Community College, she met Tom Yocum and fell for his curly black hair, blue eyes, and rogue smile. A Sunday bike ride in Seward Park sealed their connection and Tom quickly became Paula’s best friend and partner in all things fun and meaningful. The two were married in 1976 and raised three children in Redmond, Wash.
In Redmond, Paula could often be spotted at the wheel of her Volkswagen Beetle with license plate R BUGGY. She was a stylish dresser who accessorized with flair and loved colorful outfits—but she was never above driving her kids to school in pajamas when they missed the bus.
Paula had a strong sense of justice and deep compassion. Over the years, Paula worked as a preschool teacher and an office administrator in school, medical, and retail organizations. She also volunteered as a PTA president and soccer-league organizer. She especially loved her final job before retirement, working at Molbak’s Garden + Home in Woodinville, Wash.
But her real life’s work was to lift people up. Paula spent a lifetime performing thoughtful gestures: countless handwritten cards, uplifting gifts, homegrown bouquets, and all-out lavish giving—often in the form of entertainment. She hosted countless themed gatherings ranging from a decade of beer-tasting parties to bridal and baby showers to Christmas Sisters Soirées and a recent just-for-fun summer pirate party with her grandchildren featuring arrrtichokes for dinner. Nothing made her happier than to bring delight.
Paula always made her homes and gardens into colorful works of art. Bursting with blooms, her garden beds were dense with symbols and meaning. She planted perennial varieties with names in common with her loved ones, designed flowerbeds to attract butterflies and hummingbirds, and mixed in bobbing showy flowers that she hoped would make children laugh. Spending time in her hydrangea-surrounded gazebo made one feel like royalty.
Paula made friends with everyone she met, whether they were neighbors, schoolmates, coworkers, soccer friends, fellow parish members, connections through her children, or anyone else she felt drawn to. She was curious about the world’s people and places and loved to learn and grow. She adored music—especially from the jukebox that anchored her 1950s-diner-style kitchen—and she filled her walls with hundreds of photos of the many people whose fun-loving personalities helped make her life so unforgettable. Among all the framed photos, she sprinkled in funny quotations and affirmations that just wouldn’t let any glum visitor stay blue.
She also worked to develop in herself and instill in her children a sense of spirituality, both religious and ethereal. A cherished Sunday routine for the family involved inspirational readings, Catholic prayer, and each family member drawing a one-word Angel Card to carry as a touchstone for the week. Paula’s last Angel Card was the word “expansiveness.”
When Paula retired from Redmond to live at the beach on Harstine Island in 2015, her new yard soon burst with color, her new neighbors quickly experienced what a Paula party is all about, and she poured her efforts into making a beach retreat her children and grandchildren would enjoy.
She also spent quieter times learning to identify the shorebirds that paddled along the beach (her favorites were mergansers and goldeneyes), listening to novels on audiobook, gracing Pinterest with her cheerful good taste, and collaborating with Tom to renovate, decorate, and design and construct new areas of the home so that the whole extended family could spend weekends and holidays together. Paula loved adorning her home for any holiday and every season, never failing to add at least a touch to each room.
Days before Paula’s recent diagnosis, she selected two new Japanese maples for her yard. She planted the Acer Palmatum “Bihou” by the front walkway, envisioning its golden-bark branches arching out to frame the figures of her growing grandchildren on the footpath to her door.
Paula was lionhearted in facing the sudden news of incurable peritoneal cancer delivered less than a month before her death. She chose to leave the hospital in the care of hospice to return to her island home, where she relished the fresh air and soothing scenery in the company of her loved ones.
With clarity, grace, and spunk, she poured her last energy into telling her husband, children, grandchildren, and friends how much she loved, appreciated, and learned from each of them. Not one to stop there, she also made sure to send thank-you notes to each doctor and nurse who had helped her. As the month of September passed, she grew in acceptance and reassured her family that although she was sad, she was not afraid. In the evenings, she sat up late with Tom laughing over Stephen Colbert’s monologues, and even dropped the occasional gallows wisecrack of her own. When one of her adult children foolishly complained of a headache, she raised an eyebrow. “Try dyin’,” she drawled.
Paula leaves behind a great many adoring friends and family members from past and present, near and far. Preceded in death by her parents and her brother Gregory Earl Hickman, she is survived by her devoted husband Thomas Victor Yocum, her brother Curt Pertel Hickman, her children Bonnie Julene (Yocum) Rough (Daniel Rough); Amanda Rose (Yocum) Underhill (Robert “Josh” Underhill); and Luke Thomas Yocum; and by her grandchildren Josephine Julene Rough, Louisa Jean Rough, Lenora Rose Underhill, and Arthur Thomas Underhill.
A funeral mass followed by a celebration she named “Paula’s Grand Finale” will begin at 11 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 11, 2019 at St. Jude Catholic Church in Redmond, Washington (10526 166th Ave NE, Redmond, WA 98052). Wear color! Gifts in her memory may be made to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (ccfa.org), the National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias (nfed.org), or REACH (reachhd.org). A perfect gesture in Paula’s memory would be to carry out a random act of kindness.