Rolande Chesebro was born on Sept. 26, 1954, in Los Angeles, Calif. On Monday, Sept. 15, 2014, as the sun rose over Willapa Bay, she passed peacefully away. She had diligently fought cancer over the last three years.
A few days after being diagnosed with the cancer in 2011, Rolande suffered major paralysis. To the astonishment of most, including her Seattle doctors, she fought through crippling setbacks and continued to find joy and bring love to all who knew her. To know Rolande was to love Rolande. The word “angel” forever comes to mind.
Rolande was a woman of many talents. She was a master gardener. She was a fine dancer. She love poetry and read it at dinner parties, which meant eating her garden vegetables with great relish between her eloquent words. She was an excellent cook, and a better conversationalist.
In documenting her life, moments flood back like a gathering storm on her beloved bay: Rolande dancing with Glenn Leichman, her beloved husband, on their first anniversary, cheek to cheek, on the wooden stage Glenn built on their property at bay front on the south end of Willapa Bay. Friends remember the full moon, the homegrown music of Brian O’Conner and Tom Trudell and friends. Remember the magical breeze that played out like the bass guitar as a soft wind skimmed the tall Sitka spruce that circle the property. Most of all, they remember the courage of the woman who, until the very end, failed to succumb to the outrage of cancer. She was a woman of hope and faith, a determined woman.
Doctors were not optimistic about her chances for a recovery after the paralysis in 2011, but the woman was a warrior and challenged the odds. As a younger woman, Rolande studied dance in Paris. Back in the states she received her master’s in dance, but found the reality of earning a living in the arts to be difficult. Not to be discouraged, she turned to gardening. That expanded into a full-throttle vocation and her own Seattle-based corporation.
Her gardens were a combination of beauty and splendid composition, bright colored canvases of flowers and organic vegetables. Earthiness and refinement: those terms fit her personality like a gloved hand. Even in death, she retained a gardener’s hands with shades of earth soiling her agile fingers. Rolande dressed casually, but always wrapped herself in bright scarves and covered her beautiful hair under brighter wool hats. Even as she was afflicted further and further by the tumor, Rolande carried herself with elegance and decorum.
Rolande loved Willapa Bay. She loved the new property. Glenn insists that Rolande directed all the traffic. She chose the positioning of the garden, each plant, each flower. She designed the duck pond and their pleasant quarters, all the veggies and shrubs. The property evolved into her private canvas, and even, close to the end, she attended it with love and patience. Rolande shared all. She attended to family and friends with that same commitment. She taught us how lucky we are. She remains our angel and reminds us of the work at hand.
Rolande is survived by her two adult children, Reilley and Geoffrey Shannon. Her husband, Glenn, teaches Aikido and has a studio on Rolande’s beloved bay. The family will carry on her dream.
— By David Campiche