Obituary for LEE WALKLING —
written by ALICE COAKLEY
Connie Lee Walkling, 72, passed away peacefully on January 31, 2019. In lieu of a funeral which Lee did not want, she asked that you download Elvis' "Amazing Grace", Elvis' "How Great Thou Art", and if you can keep a straight face, Sammy Davis Jr.'s "I Did It My Way". Play those while you're reading this. Have a single shot 12 oz. latte and remember just one time when Lee made you smile. Buy flowers for a complete stranger. Or make a contribution to your local Friends of the Library group.
Born April 13, 1946 in Pasadena, California this daughter of Lee E. Walkling and Marion L. (Chisholm) Walkling was mistakenly named Connie Lee (for her father's favorite uncle whose last name was Connelly). She spent her early years growing up in sunny California surrounded by family and maternal grandparents.
At age 8 her family now including sister, Nancy, moved to Centralia, Washington. She spent the next 10 years in the rainy Northwest, graduating from Centralia High School in 1964. Connie Lee escaped this exile by returning to Pasadena in 1965 to attend Pasadena City College and then UCLA, attaining a degree in Motion Picture Production. When employment eluded her, Connie Lee got a Master's Degree in Library Science. She worked for Los Angeles County Public Library as an Audio Visual Librarian for five years. This position did not provide the challenge she was searching for. In 1975 Connie Lee made a bold move; quit her paying job, and walked out of the library.
Thankfully, Connie Lee had a core group of friends who provided support and encouragement throughout her life. It was one of these contacts which turned her on to an ad in Variety magazine. She applied for and got a job as an apprentice Script Supervisor (or Continuity Expert). Shortly thereafter she began her career in the film industry, and like many others, adopted a "stage name" by dropping her hated first name. Almost immediately she was christened with her nickname, "Lady Lee"; a name that followed her from job to job for the next 20 years. Over those next 20 years she built a reputation for her meticulous attention to detail, powers of observation, and her obvious ability to multi-task. Working closely with the director, Lee was the person who made sure that scenes shot out of sequence would end up making sense, especially visually, and that costumes and sets were consistent between takes. She tracked the timing of the show, keeping records of shots taken, and reporting back daily to the producer.
The first movie Lee worked on was shot on location in Arkansas where her patience was tested with a novice director who didn't know when to say "action" or "cut". She also worked on a horror movie, "Where Evil Dwells" in Japan. One of Lee's proudest credits was a job that led her to Canada to work on a film called "The Grey Fox" based on a true story about a train robber. It starred Richard Farnsworth as Bill Miner. The movie was highly acclaimed. Farnsworth received a Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal. Other travels led Lee to Australia where she fell madly in love with the country.
During her career in Hollywood, Lee also worked on several TV shows including "Eight is Enough" and "Knots Landing" but the majority of her career was on the set of "Falcon Crest" which ran on CBS from 1981 to 1990. This is where she met and became friends with various stars including Jane Wyman, Lana Turner, Celeste Holm, Morgan Fairchild, and Willie Nelson — just to name a few. All in all, a fascinating career filled with wonderful memories.
When long hours and deteriorating working conditions coincided with her mother's kidney dialysis, Lee quit showbiz and returned to Chehalis, Washington to help care for her mother. After a series of lucky decisions and introductions, her job as a volunteer led to a permanent job with the State of Washington, Department of Natural Resources, Division of Geology and Earth Resources as librarian for the state's geology library in Olympia. Lee had always thought rocks were described in carats and worn to awards ceremonies, and dirt was dished; not dug up or mapped. She quickly learned otherwise. As always, she immersed herself in geology giving it her creative twists; helping write a cookbook "Geology Bites: A Cookbook That Really Rocks", and founding the now infamous "Rock Auction", a fundraiser that has grown bigger each year. Her favorite assignment at the DNR was being editor of Tsulnfo Alert, a newsletter of the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program. After 15 years as Geology Librarian, she retired in 2013 and began enjoying her new life. Sadly, by late 2016, the ravages of dementia began to steal this charismatic and creative woman's life.
She was preceded in death by her parents and her beloved sister, Nancy. Lee is survived by cousins, Alice Coakley and Marilyn Clark and longtime friend, Bill Reichardt of Centralia, WA as well as cousins Raedena Wiley of Tucson, AZ, Frank Kottenbach of Yreka, CA and Steven Chisholm of Foster City, CA.
She asked that you remember the 11th Commandment — Pursue whimsy!
A celebration of life will be held February 17, 2019 from 2 – 4 pm at Stillwaters Estates — The Gathering Place, 2800 Cooks Hill Road, Centralia, Washington.