Inger Margrethe Christiansen Wittmann died in her home in Coupeville, WA on March 17, 2019. Her journey — long and difficult at times — has ended, but it encompassed life-changing experiences and deeply rooted relationships.
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It began on January 1, 1944 in Aarhus, Denmark, when she has born the third and last child of Christian and Petra Christiansen. She joined Sister Else and Brother lb, both of whom have predeceased her.
After obtaining an Associates' Degree in Bookkeeping, 18 y/o Grethe (as she was known in her homeland), left Denmark headed for Sausalito, San Francisco to become a nanny. She traveled across the world alone, speaking minimal English, but it was only the first of many situations that would require remarkable bravery.
There she met a German named Ed Wittmann. The 19 y/o bride moved to Alaska with her new husband to start yet another life. Her Alaska chapter included the birth of her two beloved daughters Erika and Heidi, building several homes, acquiring multiple rental properties and working as a bookkeeper. 22 years later the novelty of Alaska had waned and she and her husband moved to Oak Harbor. After 24 years of marriage, she & Ed divorced and Inger became a single mother of two pre-teen girls.
Inger enrolled in a simple Basic First Aid class, and it changed her life forever. She was drawn to helping others and she became a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician. One of the first female firefighters in the department, she fought for her place and gave it her all. She was so dedicated that she was named Firefighter of the Year in her first year of service, and Emergency Medical Services Provider of the Year in her second year of service. She ultimately served the public through Island County Fire District #2 for 18 years, gathering many accolades, but more importantly instilling in others the importance of community and garnering life-long friendships in the process. It was during this experience that Inger experienced her heart's deepest bearings, and centered even her career around the service to others.
Her work as an EMT on Whidbey General Hospital's ambulance service, as well as her duties as a phlebotomist in their lab, kept patient care at the highest priority in her working life. Because she spoke four languages, the hospital also called upon her to act as interpreter.
Her personal life, however, centered around her daughters, believing that their success in life depended upon education. Eldest daughter Erika (now of Grant's Pass, OR) obtained a Master's Degree in Environmental Science, and Heidi (of Whidbey Island) became a Naturopathic Physician. She exposed her daughters to international travel and their European roots and ensured that they were close to their Danish family, heritage and cultural ways (and food!).
In 2006, her birth roots called to Inger; she sold her home and car, crated up her furniture and moved back to Denmark. A very brave move for a 62 y/o single woman! We tearfully said our goodbyes, and bravely wished her well; However, things had changed a great deal there. She realized her true roots were on Whidbey Island, so she reversed the process and came home to her thankful friends and family. Even Whidbey General Hospital welcomed her back to the phlebotomy lab. She built another home, bought another BMW and settled back into her familiar life before her retirement in 2016.
Over the last few years her path has been encumbered by health conditions which gradually sapped her physical strength, but not her spirit, wisdom or insight. Sometimes we make the journey, but always the journey makes us.
Those of us who know and love Inger would probably share these adjectives in describing her:
Unique, strong, stubborn, fiercely independent, loathe to ask for assistance, capable, generous, dependable, kind, pragmatic, emphatic, passionate defender of what she believed in, and always a role model for righteousness and kindness. She held steadfastly to her integrity and never regretted doing the right thing.
She was a woman of her word. She once said that she belonged to two countries and yet belonged to no one. She belonged to all of us who loved her and will be deeply missed. Per her wishes there will be no funeral services. If you wish to honor Inger's memory, please donate to your local fire department or emergency medical service.