Leona (Lee) Herberholz was a loving wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, and friend. She passed away May 15th, 2021 peacefully in her sleep in the early morning hours after years of battling various health conditions.
Lee was born May 28, 1948 in Dickenson, North Dakota to Jeannette and Leo Reindel. She has a younger brother, Bill, whom she was very close to growing up. At a young age, they moved to Tacoma, Washington, and lived there many years. Her father passed away when she was only 12 due to poor health, so her mother held multiple jobs to support the family. Because of this, Lee was accountable for taking care of things at home and learned responsibility at a young age.
After she graduated from high school, Lee went to Central Washington University and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Sociology. She had various careers including working in a photo lab and being a flight attendant. She moved to Chicago for a few years while flying and met many great friends there and had lots of adventures traveling. Eventually, she moved back to Washington and started working as a sales consultant in the moving industry.
Lee married her husband, Ross, the love of her life, in 1988 and they welcomed their daughter, Marisa, to the world a year later. They moved to Gig Harbor before Marisa was born and made it home for good.
Unfortunately, in 1998, Lee was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and spent many months undergoing rigorous chemotherapy treatments. She beat it! Years later, in 2006, she found a lump in her neck and was diagnosed with Squamous Cell Carcinoma. She, again, spent months undergoing chemotherapy and radiation to beat cancer once again. Due to the aggressive treatment on her throat, she had many complications through the years following. She lost all of her saliva glands and taste buds, and her throat muscles began to atrophy. She fought her way through it and lived a fairly normal life (except only eating soft foods) for many years.
Lee retired in 2012 and spent her days filled with doing things she loved: gardening, garage sales, baking, hosting gatherings, spending time with family, traveling, and crafting. She filled every minute of every day and lived life to the fullest.
She watched her daughter get married in 2015 and met her grandson in 2018, which changed her world for the better. She spent many days with him and formed a special bond. One of her biggest life wishes fulfilled. She was the most amazing “Gigi” anyone could ever hope for.
In January of 2019, she was hospitalized with “the worst case of aspirational Pneumonia” the doctors had ever seen and spent a month in the ICU fighting for her life and a month in a rehab facility to recover despite the odds being stacked against her. The doctors didn’t think she would survive, let alone walk again or breathe without an oxygen tank. Although she did have a feeding tube placed in her stomach, she proved them all wrong and fought with all her might to regain her strength and stamina and was able to return to normal life with a combination of soft foods, liquids, and feeding tube formula. She not only “survived” but had more energy than most people her age without any health conditions.
The next two years were spent in and out of the hospital with recurrences of Pneumonia due to her reflux and aspiration of food. All were less severe than the first in 2019, but also knocked her down a couple pegs in terms of energy each time. In late 2020, she was told she was no longer able to safely eat or drink anything by mouth ever again, and also had a pacemaker placed to help control her heart, which had started to decline.
Through all of this, she kept her head held high, stayed positive, and kept fighting to be there for her husband, daughter, and grandson; her greatest joys in life above all else. Unfortunately, the week after Mother’s Day 2021, she had a bad cough (not Pneumonia), that wouldn’t go away and caused a lot of strain on her body and heart. She went to sleep on May 14, and never woke up. Although no exact cause of death has been determined, her family believes her body finally couldn’t keep up with her inner strength and gave out on her. She passed very peacefully next to her sweetheart and with love surrounding her.
Lee lived a life full of love, joy, and excitement. She was one of the most positive, selfless, festive, giving, and loving people you will ever find. Her family and friends will miss her more than anything, but her legacy, traditions, and plants (which she gave to so many people) will remain. The Earth has lost one of the very best and will not be the same without her.
Per Lee’s wishes, the family will privately be spreading her ashes under the Narrows Bridge with a floral wreath on June 13 with immediate family and friends only.
Her family will be hosting a Celebration of Life at the Herberholz residence on July 10 from 2 - 6 to show off her magazine-worthy garden. All of her favorite foods and drinks will be served as we share memories of her life. The family requests that attendees do not wear black, but color to celebrate her life. To request additional information, please contact Haven of Rest at the office number (253) 851-9991.
The family will be collecting memories of Lee and putting together a book. If you have a memory to share, you can post it here, mail or email it to the family, bring it to the Celebration of Life, or write one when you get there.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Leona Herberholz, please visit our floral store.