Longtime Snoqualmie resident Gloria McNeely dies at 104

‘She loved making Snoqualmie a better place.’

Gloria McNeely, an over 80 year resident of Snoqualmie and former editor of the Snoqualmie Valley Record known for her dedication to the historical society, various art groups and chamber, died Sept. 14.

She was 104.

Born in 1919 in New York, McNeely graduated from Seattle’s Franklin High School. She met her husband, Denton, at 16 and the couple moved out to Snoqualmie in 1940.

In 1951, McNeely got a part-time job at the Snoqualmie Valley Record, working as a bookkeeper under then-owners Charlotte and Ed Groshell. Two years later, she was promoted to associate editor.

She left the paper in 1961, and spent the next decades working at the King County Flood Control District until her retirement in 1981.

File Photo
Gloria McNeely poses with a lifetime achivement award given to her by the city of Snoqualmie.

File Photo Gloria McNeely poses with a lifetime achivement award given to her by the city of Snoqualmie.

After Denton died of cancer in 1987, McNeely thrust herself into community service, volunteering with the historical society, library board and Snoqualmie Methodist Church. It was a way of coping with the tragedy, she said.

“I was absolutely at a loss. I started getting out and volunteering for stuff, because staying at home was not an option,” McNeely told the Valley Record in 2010. “That’s what motivated me. How do you fill this gaping hole?”

A strong proponent of arts and music, McNeely sang in local choirs and helped form Snoqualmie Arts Live in 1993 to bring inexpensive live music to the Valley.

During the start of the 2000s, she helped form the Snoqualmie Arts Commision, a role she served in until her health began to deteriorate, said Sally Rackets, a fellow commisoner who served with McNeely. The group later honored her as a lifetime member.

Rackets said McNeely had a “great impact” on arts in the Valley and was always an encouraging and kind presence, who was tenacious in her efforts to improve the city.

During the Great Recession, when many downtown storefronts were left empty, Rackets recalled her and McNeely put artwork up in store windows to help liven up downtown. Their work eventually turned into the Finally Friday Artwork, she said.

In 2003, McNeely and the arts commision brought a new mural to downtown featuring three logging trucks. One of those three painted trucks, a yellow one of the right side of the artwork, is a rendering of the one driven by McNeely’s husband, Denton, who worked as truck driver.

A mural of logging trucks in downtown Snoqualmie. Photo by Conor Wilson/Valley Record.

A mural of logging trucks in downtown Snoqualmie. Photo by Conor Wilson/Valley Record.

“She was important to everyone and was just such an encouragement to everyone,” Rackets said of McNeely. “She loved being part of the community. She loved making Snoqualmie a better place.”

For the historical society, McNeely was a key figure in planning the Centennial celebrations of Snoqualmie, North Bend and Snoqualmie Methodist Church. She contributed to multiple Snoqualmie history books and wrote articles for Snoqualmie Museum Magazine.

“Gloria was always involved in some way volunteering her time and energy for a deep love of the community,” said Matt Larson, who served two decades as mayor beginning in the 2000s.

“I served for 20 years and it pales in comparison to Gloria’s years of being a part of the community,” he said. “Gosh, she was coming to chamber events and the arts commission well into her early 90s. She was just a delight.”

McNeely was always in the background, Larson said, never one to grab the limelight or stand out and take credit.

“She wasn’t real flashy or big in terms of getting out and getting the crowd motivated,” he said. “She was just a quiet, encouraging presence.”

Carol Peterson, a longtime resident and wife of former mayor Charles Peterson, said McNeely used to live downtown near the post office. They, alongside her husband, used to meet there and plan improvement projects for the city, she said.

“She could be very determined in her opinion and how she wanted to do something … and of course lots of times she was right,” Peterson said. “But I always knew when I was doing a volunteer project, I could count on Gloria to help.”

During the 70s and 80s, Peterson recalled, Snoqualmie was much smaller. The Snoqualmie Ridge was a few decades away and Snoqualmie had only recently gotten its first official parks. Often, if the community wanted something done, it was left up to a small but dedicated group of volunteers rather than the city government, Peterson said.

That included her and McNeely doing things like hanging lights and baskets of flowers downtown around Christmas time — often using their own money to do so.

“We didn’t think about taking out a contract and getting paid when something needed done,” she said. “Very often it was just Gloria, Chuck and I and a couple others.”

In 2010, the city of Snoqualmie awarded McNeely a key to the city and a lifetime achievement award for her decades of service.

“Gloria has given so much to the city,” Joan Pliego, a former city employee who organized the award celebration, said in 2010. “We give out the key rarely, and always to a very significant person.”

A year later, McNeely celebrated her 100th birthday at city hall, telling the attendees, “I try to give back a little for all the good that I’ve received here.”