Obituary: Leslee Denise (Wickham) Smith


Leslee Denise (Wickham) Smith

December 7, 1954 – March 26, 2024


Leslee Denise (Wickham) Smith brought her loving light into this world on December 7, 1954 and shone it on her parents, Helen Juliana (Cvetkovitch) and Burpee “Brad” Bradfield Wickham.

That bright, loving light dimmed and departed into the cosmos on March 26, 2024 after a gritty-but-graceful three-and-a half-year dance with hepatocellular carcinoma, a cancer of the liver. Her illness ended a career that she loved, stole her from the community that she cared for, and has left family and friends devastated. Leslee’s life and light were extinguished far too soon, but they were bright and beautiful throughout her 69 years here on Earth.

At the age of five, Leslee moved with her family to Coquitlam, BC, where she attended and graduated from Centennial Secondary School in 1972 and Douglas College in 1974. Having completed practicums with The Children’s Foundation during her studies, she was promptly hired after graduation and began a 16-year career with the organization. With her natural skill and abilities, she blossomed as a child-and-family counselor, eventually advancing to a supervisory role leading and supporting a team of other skilled professionals. Here, her special light captivated her coworker, the love of her life and soulmate, Steve. In 1979 they were married in New Westminster, BC, and they burned brightly together for 48 years.

Country life beckoned to Steve, who grew up on a farm on Lummi Island. Leslee had no hesitation in moving to a 100-year-old farm in Blaine. This farm and the surrounding community were where her light shone its brightest. The city girl took to the country life with great passion for the hard work of raising beef cattle, pigs, chickens, and goats, and resurrecting an old homestead. Employing knowledge that she had gleaned from spending time with her maternal grandparents in Princeton, BC as a youngster, she found joy and success in gardening, canning, preserving, cooking, and baking with ingredients grown and reared on the farm. After tasting a particularly good blackberry cream pie at the old Fisherman’s Cove Restaurant on Gooseberry Point while on a date with Steve (and learning that he used to pick and sell wild blackberries to the restaurant as a kid), Leslee set to work on recreating the recipe. Her efforts led to recognition in the Bellingham Herald. After winning a contest, the newspaper showcased her recipe in a half page article with photos in their features section.

The family homestead, “El Rancho De Lujo,” was Leslee’s sanctuary and her ultimate happy place. Her melodious laughter often rang through the ancient weeping willow and maple trees standing in the yard as she entertained and spoiled friends and family with gourmet meals. Her love for her friends, family, children, and especially her grandchildren, Nic and Max, burned brightest here. She also loved riding Bay, a handsome Appaloosa Quarter Horse; walks with Keera, a gentle Labrador; face rubs with Jack, an orange calico cat who was also an uncertified yoga instructor; and many other special moments with numerous animal friends throughout her life.

In 1989, she replaced her commute to Vancouver with a five-minute drive to work at the Blaine School District. Leslee employed her skills as a behavior specialist there for 10 years. Her excellence knew no bounds as reflected in her receiving the Washington State Excellence in Education Award, presented to her in Olympia by then Governor Gary Locke. She made her family so proud. During her tenure at Blaine School District, Leslee formed lifelong friendships and involved herself in the Blaine Fine Arts Association (BFAA). After leaving the school district for a career change, she continued to work with the BFAA and Bob Gray’s band program. She was instrumental in helping organize and lead six Blaine High School Wind Ensemble “Band to Japan” trips from 2003-2017 and coordinating the hosting of numerous reciprocal trips for “Bands from Japan.” These trips enriched our community and will always stand as treasured memories, with bonds and friendships forged, and the joy, love, and light experienced by all who participated and witnessed these trips on both sides of the ocean.

In addition to her duties for the school district, Leslee became interested in the fire service and began volunteering locally. Hired as a professional firefighter/EMT at age 45, she served with honor, integrity, and grace until she retired as a lieutenant in the fall of 2021. After 26 years in the fire service, serving the community that she loved, her second line of duty cancer diagnosis forced her to take a medical retirement. Throughout her distinguished career, she was instrumental in mentoring and training many new recruits and she set a fine example for women and men in the fire service.

Helping people and making this world a better place was displayed in the way this wonderful woman led her life. During her final days at Whatcom Hospice House, where she shone her final light on the wonderful staff there, she received a letter from Washington State Senator Liz Lovelett, who honored her for her service and inspiration and called her a “firebrand.” She was that and so much more to her family and friends. She was her family’s North Star and guiding light and always will be. She died as she lived: bright and beautiful and full of grace.

Leslee was preceded in death by her father Burpee “Brad” Bradfield Wickham in 1999. Surviving and grieving her passing are her mother, Helen Julianna Rosen (Fred); brother, Brad Wickham (Rose); loving husband, Steve; son, Josh, and daughter-in-law, Amanda; daughters, Angie and Jennifer (Doug); and beloved grandsons, Nic and Max. First cousins, Gayle, Glen, and Grant share, too, in this loss. The world now lacks the luster that Leslee brought to it and her family and close friends deeply miss her warm radiance and loving light.

A celebration of her beautiful life will take place on Saturday, June 29 at 1 p.m. in the Blaine Performing Arts Center (975 H St. Blaine). As Leslee was diagnosed with cancer during her career as a professional firefighter with North Whatcom Fire and Rescue, and was a proud member of Bellingham/Whatcom County Professional Fire Fighters IAFF Local 106, this will be a line-of-duty funeral with full honors, in recognition of her exemplary career and dedication to her community. Please join her family in honoring her alongside her many brothers and sisters in the fire service who share equally in this loss.

Donations in her name may be given to the following: Blaine Fine Arts Association, Bellingham/Whatcom County Fire Fighters Benevolent Foundation - Memorial Scholarship, and Support Officer Community Care of Whatcom County.

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