During a distinguished real estate career that spanned nearly six decades, Evangeline (Van) Anderson didn’t tally the number of transactions she wrote or commissions she earned. For her, the greatest rewards were the REALTOR® and client friends she made. (More than 1,200 were Facebook friends.)
Several of Van’s colleagues gathered on June 9 at the Seattle King County Realtors’ (SKCR) office to share memories of their beloved professional, who died May 5 at age 95. Her family has invited friends to an online Celebration of Life on Thursday, July 7 at 3:00 p.m. (Visit VanAnderson.life to access the Zoom link.)
“She was someone you always enjoyed being around,” said SKCR CEO Russell Hokanson in his tribute. Describing her as a giant in the industry and the association whose influence within SKCR knew no bounds, Hokanson said her greatest gift and her greatest achievement were the ways she influenced people, and the ways she made us feel and think. “Van acted as a mentor, in many ways, to everyone in this room.”
Within weeks of becoming licensed in 1964, Van became involved with the Association, initially serving on a committee, and eventually in leadership positions at the local, state and national levels. “Name a committee and Van was on it,” Hokanson remarked, adding, “Name an issue and Van was working it. Name an event and Van was planning it. She was the poster girl for member engagement.”
To call Van a trailblazer would be an understatement. She recalls being one of the few women in sales when she started her real estate career, although her selling experience predates that. In a 2016 interview she told a reporter she sold the Seattle Post-Intelligencer at a storefront in Tacoma at age 7, and later worked in sales and on the switchboard at the P-I.
The Tacoma native and lifelong Washingtonian is well known for tireless efforts to change housing legislation in Washington state and as a champion for fair housing. She was also instrumental in helping the paper-intensive industry transition to computers and is credited with helping start RPAC (Realtors Political Action Committee) in the state.
Van, a mother of three daughters and a son, once said being a mother and wife were what equipped her best to be an agent. “Mom is the one who arbitrates things and negotiates outcomes,” she told a journalist.
In an interview with a business reporter, Van recalled driving by her dentist’s home and saw a FSBO (For Sale By Owner) sign. She proceeded to call his office to inform them she was cancelling her next appointment and was going to the drug store to get a do-it-yourself kit to fix her tooth. Shortly thereafter, the call came from her dentist and she acquired the listing.
Four years after becoming licensed, Van was honored by SKCR as “Sales Associate of the Year,” becoming only the second woman to earn that accolade. It was among numerous awards she accumulated during her remarkable career. Among other honors, she was SKCR’s Realtor of the Year in 1990, and earned the same award from the state association in 1995. Matrix Group, Seattle named her Woman Realtor® of the Year in 1993.
King County Executive Dow Constantine proclaimed September 28, 2016 (her 90th birthday) to be Van Anderson Day in King County, citing her myriad achievements.
Senator Patty Murray and Van shared a special relationship. “Van was always genuine in her motivation on behalf of the association,” said Hokanson, adding, “She understood we needed friends in every caucus and in all parties. . .That’s why she served so effectively for 14 years as the REALTOR® Federal Political Coordinator (FPC) for Sen. Murray.”
In fact, when Van was nominated for NAR’s Distinguished FPC Service Award, Sen. Murray’s chief of staff wrote an endorsement, stating, “Van’s passion for all things REALTOR® and her unwavering positive approach to her FPC responsibilities was and continues to be inspiring.”
During her final year as FPC, Van received a special Crystal Tennis Shoe from Sen. Murray in recognition of her efforts on behalf of REALTORS® and in acknowledgement of Van as her “favorite lobbyist.”
The lifelong learner was also an educator, serving as an instructor at Renton Technical College for 25 years, and at other community colleges. Her family said she especially enjoyed mentoring, whether new real estate licensees, up-and-coming candidates for political office and boards, and for those seeking public education roles. She earned several professional designations and certifications and was a strong proponent of continuing education for licensees.
This service-minded professional was appointed to the Washington Real Estate Commission by Gov. Mike Lowry and later served on the Boundary Review Board as an appointee of Gov. Gary Locke.
Shortly after moving to the Gardens at Town Square seven years ago, Van was elected president of the Residents’ Group and helped start the Gazette newsletter. One of her proudest accomplishments was working relentlessly to persuade the City of Bellevue to install a crosswalk so residents of the Gardens could safely cross the street to nearby businesses and restaurants.
Van’s love of parties was legendary. She enjoyed serving on the Seattle-King County First Citizens Committee and hosting an annual Chowder Feed on Christmas Eve. Gardening, flowers and flower-arranging, genealogy and traveling were among her favorite activities.
Lovingly called “Mother Van” by her countless admirers, she is survived by daughters Cathy Jean Anderson, Susan Anderson Gregory, Nancy Loorem (Ron) Adams, and son Stuart Anderson; four grandchildren, two great-grandsons and like-a-daughter Alene Reaugh and like-a-grandson, David Wood. She was preceded in death by her husband Gene, her parents, her brother Tom Peterson, and her grandson Dylan Loorem.
Remembrances may be made to the Seattle First Citizen Scholarship Foundation. (Scholarships are presented annually in honor of the many contributions made by REALTORS® and their families to the growth, health, and betterment of our communities, as exemplified by the recipients of the Seattle First Citizen Award.)
Comments about Van by colleagues and friends (told at June 9 gathering at SKCR)
“She gave young women in the organization advice on how to speak their minds and did so with poise and grace.” – Rachel Mehmedagic, 2022 president, SKCR
“We had a blast [at Realtor conferences]. We never missed a thing. Part of Van’s DNA was if you volunteer, you showed up.” – Terry Miller, Coldwell Banker Bain
“Van could totally disarm opponents. She always took the high road. She was razor sharp on the business and issues and also deft at transitioning from the issues to inquiring about personal interests and families.” – Randy Bannecker, SKCR’s Seattle/King County Housing Specialist
“I am grateful for all the times I spent with Van, including our many one-on-one lunch dates. She was very supportive of YPNs.” Jenn Mueller, Compass
“She was the consummate professional and a genuinely nice person. Mother Van could always make compelling arguments for a candidate.” – Bruce McKinnon
“Hers was a memorable presidency. I remember her firing a new hire who was dismissive and disrespectful of women in the workplace.” – Claudia Crowell, SKCR staff (retired)
“She recruited me for many activities and was instrumental in my becoming involved in politics. I have so many memories and will remember her for her personality, calmness, persuasiveness, and for being a proud mom.” – Kyoko Matsumoto-Wright, mayor, Mountlake Terrace and past president, Snohomish County-Camano Association of Realtors
“I knew Van for more than 50 years, and I spent many of those years trying to turn her into a conservative. It didn’t work! She was an honorary grandma. She loved to fish.” Ed Boyle, Affiliated Appraisers
“Van was an incredible person with an amazing mind. She ran meetings like no one I’ve ever seen. She stood up for what she believed. I loved her like a mother.” Patti Hill, John L. Scott Real Estate
“We would have lively political discussions, usually taking difference sides, but we always left with one voice for the Realtor Party.” Beverly Read, Windermere Seattle-Northlake
“A woman who wears red glass frames knows who she is – and she had happy eyes through those frames. She was a good listener who, like Will Rogers, could pull out a metaphor to make her point.” – Rich Bergdahl, Bergdahl Real Property, RE/MAX
“Van wanted to be respected more than liked. She wanted to leave folks without a bruise. She was never afraid to share her convictions. I’ve known her since 1989 and I can’t recall a single incident when I saw her sacrifice what she believed in her heart just to mollify people. She left amazingly large shoes to fill.” – Sam Pace, SKCR’s South King County Housing Specialist
“She always treated me with deep respect, but she gave up on trying to convert me to becoming a liberal! She would know if you might not be making the best decision so she would ask questions to bring you around. One piece of her advice I’ll remember: Go get ice cream. You can’t have bad thoughts when eating ice cream” – Shane Davies, Windermere Maple Valley