Clara Guignard Faris Championed State's League Of Women Voters

In her years as a League of Women Voters leader, Clara Guignard Faris worked tirelessly to protect both the state's political system and its threatened waters, like the Columbia River.

But many remember Mrs. Faris, who died Nov. 5 at the age of 84, most vividly for the way she practiced the art of friendship.

Acquaintances struck during travels around the globe with her husband often turned into enduring friendships nurtured by Mrs. Faris' frequent letters.

When she later moved to California, Seattle friends would receive notes in the mail from Mrs. Faris with newspapers and magazines clippings of articles on subjects dear to their heart.

"She was a lady of great graciousness and grace," said Edith Lobe, a fellow board member on both the Seattle and state League of Women Voters.

Mrs. Faris, born into a prominent South Carolina family, grew up in various towns throughout the Carolinas where her father worked as a minister.

After graduating from the North Carolina College of Women, she received a scholarship to pursue a master's degree in sociology at the University of Chicago.

Roger Faris, her son, says women in those days were still relatively rare in graduate schools.

She met her husband, Robert E. Lee Faris, at Chicago. The couple moved to Seattle in 1948, where he taught at the University of Washington. He retired as professor emeritus of sociology.

She had wide interests in music, art, books, the outdoors and sailing. Roger Farris says when his parents retired to an area near San Diego in the early 1970s, they competed in a sailing race that was jokingly named after her: The Claire Faris Southern Belle Trophy.

While her husband was reserved, Mrs. Faris was extraordinarily outgoing, friends say.

"They were a team and she was the ambassador," says Otto Larson, also a UW professor emeritus of sociology. "She had this bubbling personality. She could have been a great politician."

Mrs. Faris was active in the local PTA, the Laurelhurst Community Council, historic-preservation efforts and other activities.

But her biggest mark came with the League of Women Voters, where she served as vice president of the state chapter. She worked on league-backed initiatives creating a nonpartisan redistricting commission.

She also lobbied the Legislature during the 1960s for creating a state ecology department and tougher water-quality laws, most passionately for protecting the Columbia River.

She frequently traveled to Eastern Washington, drumming up support for better management of the the Columbia and helped overseeing the League's publication of a book on the river.

"You might call her one of the pioneers in those areas," said former legislator and King County Council member Lois North, who served on the league's state board with Mrs. Faris.

Survivors, besides her husband, include sons William Guignard Faris, John Homan Faris and Roger Stuart Faris; six grandchildren; a brother, Sanders Guignard and a sister, Jane Curry.

A memorial service will be held at a later date. The family asks that remembrances be sent to the organization of the donor's choice.