Myrtle Anita Armstrong Slater
June 11, 1930 – December 3, 2021
Sonja Ellen Slater Geiger
June 8, 1958 – February 4, 2021
Today we honor and celebrate the lives of Myrtle and Sonja, mother and daughter, who both passed away in 2021. Sonja bravely battled metastatic lung cancer and Spinocerebellar Ataxia-6 (SCA-6) until February 4th. Myrtle died 10 months later of age, dementia and a breast tumor. We miss both of them dearly and pray that they are now at peace.
Myrtle Slater died in her Spokane home December 3, 2021, exactly 7 years and 1 day after Albert Slater, her husband of 64 years. She was born June 11, 1930 in New Haven, New York to Leonard and Grace Armstrong. Myrtle and her twin sister Myrta were the youngest of the six Armstrong children and, as twins, they were quite a novelty in their farm community. She was the last surviving family member and spent nearly all of her 91 years serving others.
Myrtle graduated from Mexico High School (NY) and met Albert the summer of 1949 before leaving for National College for Christian Workers in Missouri, with plans to become a missionary. She quit college after just one semester and married her sweetheart July 1, 1950. College was put on hold until after their children were grown, graduating at age 50 from Indiana and Purdue University in Public Administration. Myrtle and Albert had 4 children -- Keith, Sonja, Chris and Lillian, and later became foster parents for Stacey. Myrtle was a devoted mother and wife, and a remarkable volunteer and activist for dozens of causes. She was always ahead of her time, taking action for whatever needed to be remedied – a real trailblazer for equal rights. Her signature “unique bluntness” made her a “fireball of a woman for whom no task was too daunting”.
In 2016, Myrtle was awarded the Woman of Distinction for a Lifetime of Volunteerism. She spent 14 years fighting for wheelchair accessibility in schools and public buildings from late 1960’s through the early 80’s – before ADA laws were in place –urging contractors to make new public spaces accessible after she reviewed the plans they submitted for permit. She was an American Red Cross volunteer for 30 years, including her on-site work at 42 disasters, totaling an incredible 9,800 service hours from 1982-2011, helping victims of tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, fires and 9-11. She was honored by the YWCA for her work compiling police records to justify opening a Women’s Crisis Center for victims of abuse. Myrtle was a Girl Scout troop leader and Board member; held leadership roles in her church educational programs; volunteered at Parkview Hospital, Matthew 25 Diabetes Clinic, Volunteer Connection for Seniors, the American Cancer Society, the Animal Shelter, the New York Fresh Air Program; was active in local political campaigns and she worked to improve race relations when schools became integrated. Myrtle was a true servant leader, who once told a reporter, "I didn't do anything special. I just did what anyone else would've done.” And God said, “Well done, Myrtle, well done.”
Sonja Ellen was born in Syracuse, New York June 8th, 1958 after Dad sped to the hospital with a police escort. When she was a young girl, the Slater family moved from New York to Arizona to Indiana. Sonja graduated from Snider High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana. After graduation, she moved to California and then many years later to Nevada with David Hill.
Sonja was the brightest of the Slater children and the most sensitive – known for gracefully choosing words, penning them so beautifully, and writing poems. Her daughter Emily was the center of her life and best friend. Sonja and Emily had an incredible bond that mothers always hope for, but few can match. Emily’s amazing artistic talent was evident from a very young age and Sonja nurtured that talent at every opportunity. Sonja gave her life to Emily, who has grown into an accomplished painter, illustrator and tattoo artist. Sonja made sure Emily could attend Laguna College of Art and Design – no matter how many loans it took.
A huge lover of animals, Sonja always had cats, dogs, and many different pets to love and care for, so it was a natural that she worked with animals in several jobs as Veterinary Assistant. Her life was challenging, but when she met David, her world brightened. David loved her fully and cared for her every need – before and after she was sick. They enjoyed long rides in the mountains together, admiring nature and wildlife. The majesty of the mountains, trees and wild horses held a healing power for her.
Sonja was passionate about donating her body to medical research, especially for the study of SCA-6, so she decided to make her commitment a reality. Upon her passing, her corneas were donated to two patients, who can now see all the beauty in the world around them – just as Sonja did. In addition, students at the University of Nevada Medical School were given the privilege of learning anatomy through Sonja’s gift. Even in death, she has gracefully been giving of herself.
A Memorial Service will be held Saturday, May 28, 11:00 a.m. St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Spokane Valley, Washington. To leave condolences and share memories of Myrtle, please visit her Tribute Wall.