In the long sweep of June Visger Doyle’s life, the Olympia resident has seen so much:
Two world wars. The Great Depression. The dawn of the nuclear age, right in her backyard.
She sent her oldest son off to Vietnam and spent decades advocating for her middle boy, who is developmentally disabled.
She lost her husband of more than 50 years, the curly haired pilot she met while working in her family’s drugstore in downtown Kennewick.
She lost her sister. Her brothers. Her parents. That oldest boy, a gentle soul who carried the weight of war with him even after he returned home.
She saw fashions change. And music and movies.
She saw the Civil Rights Movement. She saw a black man win the White House, twice.
This week, Doyle — who is 101 — hopes to see one more big change unfold before her eyes: a woman elected U.S. president.
Doyle was born before women had the right to vote, and marking her ballot for Hillary Clinton was meaningful.
“I thought, things have changed, haven’t they?” she said.
Doyle’s memory is little fuzzy these days when it comes to things like specific dates. “I am 101,” she said with a laugh. “I guess I’m looking for an excuse.”
By phone, she’s engaging, charming. This presidential campaign has been bruising, but Doyle seems above and apart from that.
Donald Trump might do a fine job if elected, she said. But she likes Clinton.
So when her ballot came, the choice was easy.
“I think it’s good women have more of a say now,” Doyle said. “I think it’s time we had a woman’s opinion on things, more than we’ve had.”
I thought, things have changed, haven’t they?
June Visger Doyle, 101
Doyle entered the world in 1915, five years before the 19th Amendment was ratified, securing women’s suffrage.
She lived in the Tacoma area until she was 13 or 14, when her family moved to Kennewick.
Her father, a registered pharmacist, took over King’s Pharmacy, which became Visger Drugs. He ran it for years before his two sons took over.
Doyle was the second-oldest of the family’s four children. She attended Kennewick High School, graduating in 1933.
While in school, she helped run a bakery, said her youngest son, Robert Doyle, a retired attorney who lives in California. She saved up money and bought a horse, Red, and would ride south of town.
She also spent years working at the family drugstore.
“I loved it,” she said. “I worked as a clerk, helped (my father) with things. I made window displays, trimmed the showcases, waited on customers. I did everything but fill prescriptions.”
In a move that was somewhat unusual for the time, Doyle went to Los Angeles, studying executive fashion arts at what’s now Woodbury University.
She and her sister talked about opening a shop in Kennewick, specializing in garments in larger sizes. But that never happened. The sister became sick with cancer and eventually died.
Doyle married her husband, Tom, in 1942. In the early 1930s and 1940s, he worked surveying southeastern Washington, earning his pilot’s license, his obituary said.
He managed a charcoal refining plant in Seattle during World War II, returned to the Tri-Cities in 1945 and began a long career at the Hanford nuclear site.
He was a labor union leader, with a history of standing up for the marginalized. He fought for integration of the unions, Robert Doyle said.
“You don’t judge people by the color of their skin, but by their character — that’s how we lived,” Robert Doyle said. “I was really proud of him.”
To me, now is an amazing time. I’ve really believed — because of what my dad taught me and what my mom taught me — that we have to achieve equality. We really could have something if we could get over our fears.
Robert Doyle is proud of his mother too.
She and her husband had three boys — Thomas, named for his dad, followed by Donald and then Robert. Donald is developmentally disabled, and June has been a vocal advocate.
Robert Doyle remembers when, decades ago, she fought a Kennewick city ordinance to restrict group homes.
“Mom fought for group homes; she fought for good mental health services,” he said.
He wonders what she could have done had she been born in a time when women had even more opportunities.
The family drugstore, for example, he said — she was so good there. What if it had gone to her instead of her brothers?
I think it’s good women have more of a say now. I think it’s time we had a woman’s opinion on things, more than we’ve had.
June Visger Doyle, 101
“To me,” Robert said, “now is an amazing time. I’ve really believed — because of what my dad taught me and what my mom taught me — that we have to achieve equality. We really could have something if we could get over our fears.”
June Doyle and her husband left the Tri-Cities after he retired from Hanford in the late 1970s. He’s been gone about 17 years.
Donald lives near his mother, in a group facility. Her oldest boy died in 1996, a few years before his dad.