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Sunday, April 8, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Edmonds activist who devoted self to animals dies at 82

Seattle Times staff reporter

Her passion and conviction for animals was undeniable. For advocates, the community and her family and friends, Virginia Knouse will be remembered as a pioneer for animal welfare.

Mrs. Knouse, one of the founders of an animal shelter and animal-rights organization in Lynnwood, died Thursday in her Edmonds home at age 82. There will be no funeral or memorial service at her request.

In 1967, she helped form the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), a nonprofit agency that rescues animals and operates an adoption service. Mrs. Knouse served as president of PAWS for 30 years.

"She was a fearless fighter for animals," said Lynne Marachario, a close friend and former PAWS volunteer. "There is no individual or institution that could slow her mission to help the voiceless."

Susan Sato said her mother was a straightforward woman who was selfless in her goal to protect and save animals.

"We always had this joke that if you don't bark or meow, you didn't get any attention," Sato said. "My mom said many times she wasn't cut out to be a mother. It wasn't her best trait.

"It was easier for her to mother animals."

Mrs. Knouse was born and raised in Denver. She met her husband, Fred, at the Oakland (Calif.) Air Force Base, where he was an instructor and she was a staff member. They were married for almost 45 years. He died about 15 years ago.

She enjoyed dancing as a young girl and the family went on several camping vacations, Sato said. She was a bookkeeper before founding PAWS.

Mrs. Knouse and a couple of other people started PAWS by opening a thrift store called "The Cave" to raise money for spaying and neutering pets.

Mrs. Knouse felt compelled to be on duty, ready to help animals at any time. Sato said her mother often got calls during the night from people in the community asking her to save an animal that had been dumped or injured on the street.

"I could bring home any pet and know it was going to stay," Sato said. The Knouse home had an assortment of dogs, cats, parakeets and rabbits.

Ruth Kildall, a former PAWS board member and longtime friend, said Mrs. Knouse "led it with a firm hand and a 'no-nonsense' style that earned her respect both inside and outside Washington's borders."

Last year, Mrs. Knouse adopted an older dog that had lost its home.

Heidi, a deaf, scruffy, white dog with a crooked tail, kept Mrs. Knouse company until the day she died.

"My mom had such comfort knowing they had each other," Sato said.

Mrs. Knouse is survived by three daughters, Sato of Kirkland, Marlene Angel of Edmonds and Lynae Cruz of Utah; and nine grandchildren.

Christine Willmsen: 206-464-3261 or cwillmsen@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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