With only an 8th grade education, Toy Kay drew upon her inner-strength and keen intelligence to re-invent her life after 33 years as a waitress at Olympia’s Kay’s Café. Raised in Montana by her Chinese parents, the arc of Toy’s 99-year lifetime spans from a pre-arranged marriage at age 16 through a sometimes-difficult journey in post- World War II America. A degree from Evergreen State College instilled confidence that paved her way to become a civic leader in women’s rights, the arts, education, and more. Toy has been a major force in the Zonta Club and she mentored southeast Asian refugees. Always proud of her Chinese heritage, she founded the Olympia Chinese Community Association to sustain that history and culture.
Senior Services for South Sound
In 2023, this non-profit organization celebrated 50 years of providing low or no-cost services for South Sound senior citizens. Through the decades, SSSS has provided thousands of free meals, transportation, recreation, and camaraderie to their guests at senior centers in Lacey, Mason County, and downtown Olympia
Olympia’s Hidden Histories Walking Tours
In 2022 and 2023, Evergreen State College students and faculty conducted extensive research into Olympia history to produce six on-line walking tours that focus on downtown Olympia and its waterfront. Accessible from any laptop, smartphone, or iPad, these tours explore local histories and make them available to the public. Each tour is also visually engaging through maps, photos, and video clips.
Lincoln Elementary School
Over the past year, Lincoln Elementary School and Options program celebrated the school building’s centennial. Designed by prominent Olympia architect Joseph Wohleb, the building was threatened with demolition in the 1990s, but was saved from the wrecking ball as a result of advocacy by parents, students, and teachers. At the presentation, Lincoln School Principal Marcela Abadi gave Gerry Alexander a T- shirt created by students especially for the school’s centennial.
Avanti High School (formerly Washington Elementary School)
Avanti High School was designed in the 1920s by Joseph Wohleb in his signature Spanish Colonial Revival style. Recently, Avanti benefitted from a $13 million rehabilitation project that preserved the building’s historic character while transforming the inside to a 21st Century learning campus.
Special Achievement: Gerry Alexander
The Special Achievement award was made to Gerry Alexander for his long-time involvement with the Olympia Historical Society & Bigelow House Museum as well as local and statewide historic preservation efforts. As well as his passion for history and historic preservation, Alexander is noted for his term as Washington State Supreme Court Justice and following as Supreme Court Chief Justice, serving in that position from 2001 until retiring in 2010.
OHs & BHM Volunteer of the Year Award: Craig Swalling
Woman’s Club of Olympia
Susan Murphy Rohrer
Radio Station KGY
Olympia Kiwanis Club
Rotary Club of Olympia
Port of Olympia