Remembering Mary Anderson, 107, who co-founded REI in West Seattle

Almost 80 years after Mary Anderson and her husband Lloyd Anderson co-founded what became outdoor giant REI in their Gatewood home, she has died at the age of 107. We obtained the photo above from REI, whose past presidents Dennis Madsen, Sally Jewell (also a West Seattleite), and Wally Smith are shown with Ms. Anderson at her centennial-birthday celebration. The company’s statement on her passing:

Mary’s legacy is deeply engrained in REI and her contributions to the outdoor community extend far beyond the co-op. REI and our employees are grateful to the Andersons for their dedication to REI and the incredible foundation they established. It is our honor to carry on their commitment more than 75 years later and beyond.

Mary Anderson and her husband also were Mountaineers; she was just 20 when they joined the club in 1929. The Mountaineers website tells her story, including how their quest to make it easier to get good-quality climbing gear led them to create the buyers’ cooperative that became REI, from which she retired in 1968. For years, their home in west Gatewood was headquarters to what is now a multibillion-dollar company. That house was renovated as part of site redevelopment at the turn of the millennium.

Anderson’s husband was the company’s president until 1971; he died in 2000 at age 98; the Seattle Times obituary for Ms. Anderson says she died March 27th and is survived by one of her two daughters and by two grandsons. No details on whether there will be a public memorial, REI told us.

4 Replies to "Remembering Mary Anderson, 107, who co-founded REI in West Seattle"

  • S April 6, 2017 (8:14 am)

    RIP Mary and thank you for all that you have done. 

  • HelperMonkey April 6, 2017 (9:28 am)

    My goodness what a legacy! I had no idea that REI started here in West Seattle. RIP Mary. 

  • Erin Tierney April 6, 2017 (9:51 am)

    My father (now aged 89) tells the story of purchasing climbing equipment from the “closet” (early REI) in a building shared with the Mountaineers organization.  These purchases were based on the “honor system” where you payed for items that you needed.  Brilliant!  Thank you Mary Anderson!

  • Norma April 6, 2017 (2:57 pm)

    My sister was in a Girl Scout Troop she led probably around 1946.    I just remember her as a very nice lady.  And of course my husband and I purchased many items for our family camping excursions from REI over the years.

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