In memoriam

Carl Christensen, Beulah (Bea) Mae Smith, Sheila FitzGerald Umlauf, and Marilyn Annette Walli

This story was published in the Spring-Summer 2024 issue of The Washington Nurse.

Table of contents

Carl Christensen


Carl Christensen, PhD, MSN, RN, the founding dean of the Buntain College of Nursing at Northwest University in Kirkland, passed away on Jan. 27, 2024. He was 72.

Dr. Christensen used his unwavering passion for the field of nursing education to teach, mentor, and inspire hundreds of nursing students at Northwest University.

His nursing career began in the 1970s. Over the course of his professional life, he held many nursing-related positions—from nursing assistant to registered nurse to nursing administrator to academic dean.

In 1990, Dr. Christensen earned his PhD degree in public administration from the George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

His deanship at Northwest University began in 1999. Dr. Christensen’s work as the founding dean of the Mark and Huldah Buntain School of Nursing was critical in establishing one of Northwest University’s most well-recognized and sought-after academic programs.

Northwest University described him as “instrumental in guiding the Christ-centered culture of the department, the academic prestige of the degrees that are offered, and the cross-cultural medical missions’ component that makes Northwest University’s nursing program unlike any other.”

Under his leadership, Northwest University nursing students traveled to India, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Mexico, the Philippines, the Republic of Georgia, Taiwan, and the Yup’ik region of Alaska on various medical mission trips.

Northwest University said that Dr. Christensen’s career vividly demonstrated the school’s value of “empowered engagement with human need.”

“Dr. Christensen was truly a godsend to Northwest University at the time we founded our nursing program,” said President Joseph Castleberry. “Along with the late Dr. Annalee Oakes, he designed and administered a truly distinctive approach to training nurses for God’s mission here in the USA and around the world. Carl was a true missionary and a great disciple of Jesus.”

Dr. Christensen retired from his role as dean in 2018.

Dr. Christensen was a lifelong learner, an avid reader, and a loving husband, father, and grandparent. After retiring, he earned a Master of Ministry degree from Northwest University in 2020. He also remained an active part of the Buntain College of Nursing as a professor emeritus, research fellow, and adjunct faculty member. He also volunteered at Fairview Ministries in Seattle. He is survived by his wife, Debra, two sons, two daughters-in-law, and two grandsons.

Beulah (Bea) Mae Smith


Beloved nurse Beulah (Bea) Mae Smith passed away Nov. 24, 2023. She was 88.

“Bea was an amazing nurse and a wonderful human being. She will be greatly missed, but the light and love she brought into this world will shine forever,” said Judith Huntington, former executive director of WSNA.

Bea was born in Baton Rouge, La., and moved to Bremerton in 1943 with her family. She graduated from Bremerton High School in 1953 as a straight “A” student.

Bea started her nursing degree at Seattle University in 1953 and became a pledged member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. She graduated from the University of Washington School of Nursing with a bachelor’s in nursing in 1963 and a master’s in nursing in 1971.

Her love of nursing led her to various positions. She was the first African American community health/visiting nurse with the Kitsap County Health Department, a health occupational instructor at Olympic College in Bremerton, and a maternal-child services supervisor at the Bremerton Kitsap County Health Department.

She also worked for Harrison Memorial Hospital in Bremerton, the South Kitsap School District, and Tacoma Public Schools. She ended her nursing career as a school nurse at Wilson Middle School in Tacoma.

In 1954, she married Edward Beard, had two children, Ronald and Katherine, and became a stepmother to Earl’s five children.

Bea was a 50+ year member of the Mary Mahoney Professional Nurses Organization and worked as a financial secretary and treasurer.

Bea had a strong sense of community responsibility. She was involved with the Kitsap County Health Department Family Planning Clinic, Head Start Sickle Cell Testing Program, immunization clinics, and the NAACP Bremerton chapter.

Bea was an active church member. During her childhood, she belonged to Ebenezer Methodist Church with her family, and after her marriage to Earl, she became a long-time member of St. Luke’s Methodist Church. She was also a member of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Bremerton and Seattle for many years and at New Beginnings Church in Renton.

Among her many achievements was being named the 1976 Woman of Achievement by the Bremerton Business and Professional Woman’s Club and being appointed to the Washington Board of Nursing by former Gov. Dan Evans.

Bea had a love for travel and adventure. She enjoyed nature, camping, music, singing in her church choirs, sewing, quilting, taking pictures, and being the family historian.

She especially loved spending time with family and friends.

You can honor her memory with a scholarship donation to the Mary Mahoney Professional Nurses Organization.

Sheila FitzGerald Umlauf


Sheila FitzGerald Umlauf, who started her nursing career during World War II, dedicated her life to causes and became a lawyer at age 60, doing pro bono work. She died at 99.

Umlauf was born in 1925 in Scottsbluff, Nebraska—the second daughter of Attorney Joseph M. and Mrs. Gretchen Easterling FitzGerald. She was close to her family, especially her only sibling, Mary Jo FitzGerald Prudhomme (deceased). The family moved to Denver in 1935, and Umlauf won a scholarship to the University of Denver, where she joined the sorority Pi Beta Phi.

She received her nursing diploma from Denver’s Children’s Hospital and passed the Colorado State Registered Nurse exam in 1947.

After a year at the University of Denver, Umlauf enlisted in the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps, which was created to fill the needs of civilian hospitals since so many nurses were working with the U.S. Army or Navy.

While on a tour of duty in 1947 as a cadet nurse at the veteran’s hospital in New Mexico, Umlauf met and married USAF Major John L. Umlauf (now deceased)—a marriage that lasted for 28 years. Her husband was a West Point graduate, and their family traveled frequently across the United States as well as abroad. In 1962, John Umlauf was transferred to Seattle, where he retired.

Umlauf then enrolled at the University of Washington, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree and was honored as an outstanding Registered Nurse/Bachelor of Science student in 1965. In 1968, she completed a master’s degree in public health nursing, with minors in sociology and business administration.

Umlauf pursued a career in public health, mainly with public schools, and was selected to help develop the Washington State School Immunization Manual.

Umlauf also obtained an Educational Staff Associate (ESA) Certificate—a credential for support staff in nonteaching positions, such as school psychologists. She worked in Kent and Seattle and was appointed as a supervisor of Health Services for the Seattle School District. She filed a gender discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to enable school nurses an equal salary as other staff with ESA Certificates. She won.

Umlauf spent more than 25 years volunteering with the King County chapter of the American Red Cross. She served as a disaster response nurse in local and national emergencies, including a Red Cross shelter after the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980.

Encouraged by her lawyer son, Roy, Umlauf retired from nursing and completed a law degree from Seattle University in 1985, at age 60. She passed the Washington State bar exam in 1988.

Umlauf received a pension, an annuity, and social security, so she spent her entire legal career doing pro bono work. She volunteered weekly at the Northwest (NW) Women’s Law Center (now Legal Voice), served on its board of directors, and helped develop materials for women who needed help with their legal problems.

Umlauf was also actively involved in the King County Bar Association and served as co-chair of the Volunteer Legal Clinics Committee. She supervised a free weekly law clinic and visited home-bound clients to assist them with their estate planning. Umlauf was also trained by the IRS to assist seniors with their tax returns.

She received awards for her pro bono services from the King County and American Bar Associations and the NW Women’s Law Center. She was also commended by the Washington State Bar Association for her help in obtaining emeritus status (with reduced bar dues) for retired attorneys willing to offer free legal counsel.

In her leisure time, Umlauf loved music. She was a long-time supporter of the Seattle Symphony and opera. She was also a lifelong baseball fan. She attended the games of the Seattle Pilots’ only season and kept her ticket from the very first Seattle Mariners’ game in 1977.

Umlauf also loved traveling. One of her memorable trips was with a group of nurses who visited Russia to observe the Soviet health system under Stalin.

She often said that one of the best things in her life was that she and her husband raised four terrific sons—John Jr., Mark, Robert, and Roy—each with a unique temperament and special gifts. In addition to her sons and sister, she was blessed with five grandsons, three granddaughters, and many cousins, nephews, and nieces.

After a series of surgeries, Umlauf was unable to carry out daily activities without assistance, so she retired to a residential facility where she remained as active as permitted by her physical limitations. While living there, she served a term as president of the Resident Council.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that remembrances be directed to Legal Voice, the University of Washington School of Nursing, Seattle University School of Law, or the Seattle Chapter of the Red Cross.

Marilyn Annette Walli


The following text is taken from her obituary, published Jan. 11, 2024, in the Whitman County Gazette.

Marilyn Annette Walli, a public health nurse for 45 years, passed away on Dec. 31, 2023, following a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease. She was 81.

She was the only child of John and Agnes (Thompson) Walli. Her paternal grandparents, John and Anna Walli, immigrated from Selbu, Norway, to an area near La Crosse, Washington, in 1907, a few months before their son John was born. The Norwegian-American community centered around Selbu Lutheran Church, [which] was an important element of her family life. She remained a life-long member of that congregation, even after she joined the congregation of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Spokane.

Most of Walli’s youth was spent in La Crosse, where her father owned a grocery store for many years. He later became the town’s postmaster. She graduated from La Crosse High School in 1961 as class salutatorian.

She worked at Deaconess Hospital and attended night school at Whitworth College, completing her Bachelor of Nursing degree from Whitworth in 1966. She had a year of additional public health training at the University of Washington, where she received her public health certification.

She worked for the Spokane County Health Department, and later, the Spokane Regional Health District. She spent her entire 45-year career working in public health. She served as a team leader for the district’s programs and was manager of the Washington State “First Steps” program in Spokane County, which provided support and services for at-risk children. She received the Washington State Nurses Association’s highest public health award in 1996, and a lifetime achievement award from WSNA in 2009. She retired in 2010.

She was extremely interested in her Norwegian heritage and made four trips to Selbu, Norway: two with her parents, one individually, and the most recent as part of a family heritage tour in 2014.

She was preceded in death by her parents, John and Agnes Walli. Her extended family was extremely important to her, and she is survived by a loving network of cousins in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Iowa, and Indiana, as well as in Canada and Norway.