Lee Grumman, former Mayor of Carnation, longtime City Council Member, and owner of Miller’s Mercantile, passed away on April 4, 2018, surrounded by loving friends and family in her home on West Rutherford Street in Carnation, where she had lived for nearly 25 years.
Born Elizabeth Sterling Grumman on December 22, 1956, Lee grew up in an historic suburban neighborhood outside of Boston, spending summers with her close-knit extended family at Squam Lake in New Hampshire. She started playing guitar in her early 20s, performing in local venues and busking around Boston and Harvard Square. She studied International Relations and Chinese at Tufts University and went to Beijing in the mid-1980s for a study abroad program. During that time, she was cast as the lead in a film and an hour-long television special featuring Lee singing with her beautiful voice at various locations in the Chinese countryside. She received her undergraduate degree from Tufts at the University of Hong Kong and worked for Save the Children there.
Lee moved to the Pacific Northwest in 1991 (talking a close friend into driving west with her in a T-Bird convertible) and soon became head grower at the Herb Farm in Fall City, cultivating many friendships and a connection to growing things, and to sustainable food and agriculture, that would last her whole life. She bought her house in Carnation in 1995, teaching African-based percussion in her living room and continuing to build connections with local musicians, farmers, artists, and longtime business owners, including Howard Miller, former proprietor of Miller’s Dry Goods, who gave his blessing for her to continue using his name when she opened Miller’s Community and Arts Center in 2004.
In line with Lee’s vision for Carnation—a thriving Main Street that retains a small town vibe—Miller’s became the cultural heart of downtown Carnation, first as an arts center and later as a retail store. Lee enlivened Miller’s with her generous spirit, bringing together artists, musicians, growers, and families from around the Valley (and the Puget Sound region) for a variety of fun events—music shows, dances, documentary film screenings, art exhibitions, historic celebrations. Lee loved to laugh and sing and dance, and greatly enjoyed the company of friends.
Her belief in creating neighborly connections between people allowed her to bridge political divides and accomplish extraordinary work for the town of Carnation. In addition to serving as Mayor in 2010 and 2011, she joined the Carnation Planning Board in 2001 and in November 2007 was elected to the Carnation City Council, where she served until October 2017. She took active leadership roles in the Carnation Chamber of Commerce, the Snoqualmie Valley Governments Association, Tolt Historical Society, Carnation Farmers’ Market and Sno-Valley Tilth, Snoqualmie Watershed Forum/King Conservation District, Hopelink, King County Flood Control District, Camp Korey at Carnation Farm, Sno-Valley Senior Center, and Mountains to Sound Greenway. She encouraged people take an active role in their government and was always looking for ways to give citizens a chance to contribute and share their own vision for the city.
Lee built her life around helping others and building community with a never-ending love of music, laughter, and friendships. She leaves behind her beloved partner Jules, two loving sisters Carol and Sandie, her nephews Bow and Shepard and her niece Hilary, and the many friends and citizens of the valley who’ve been touched by her warmth, kindness, and visionary work.
A celebration of Lee’s life is being planned for summer 2018. Further information, including opportunities to donate to a fund in her name, will be announced soon.