Quincy Valley remembers Sunshine Didra
With songs, laughter and words of comfort, the community of Quincy remembered Sunshine Didra at a celebration of her life. The advertising manager of The Quincy Valley Post-Register died on Dec. 12 after a battle with leukemia.
Randy Johnson, a relative of Didra’s, led the memorial service on Dec. 20 at the Quincy Valley Business & Conference Center and consoled the family and in particular Didra’s husband, Rick, asking him to think of all the good times he and Sunshine had during their long time together.
“Forty-five years,” Johnson said. “How wonderful.”
Johnson encouraged the community to reach out to the Didra family and not worry about not knowing what to say. About 200 people attended the service, among them, Rick and Sunshine’s three sons, Victor, of Costa Rica, Ricky, of Manson, and Thomas, of Post Falls, Idaho.
Chuck Allen, a former editor of the Post-Register and currently in public affairs at Grant PUD, was one of the speakers at the service. Allen praised Sunshine as someone who always tried to do the right thing. Allen said he worked with Sunshine for a total of 12 years, seven as a co-worker and then five as an advertising customer.
“My life will be forever better for knowing Sunshine,” Allen said. “I know her influence and example will live on in the hearts of many.”
Allen went on to recount some of the comments people had posted on Facebook after hearing of Sunshine’s passing, recollections of how Sunshine had touched their lives.
Her son Victor spoke at the service, sharing stories of how his mother overcame her fears and grew as a person in order to become a leader in the Quincy community.
“Thank you for being such a big part of my mom’s life,” he said. “She loved everybody.”
Joe Pitt, the publisher of the Post-Register, where Sunshine worked for 18 years, said Sunshine was “the heart, soul and face of the publication” as a speaker at the service.
“She touched your life in a very unique way,” he said.
She saw the newspaper as a force for good, he said, adding that it was safe to say Sunshine was a people person – a generous soul.
“You couldn’t have a name like Sunshine and have a personality like Eeyore,” he said.
Pitt shared stories of working with Sunshine well into the period of her treatment this year.
“She went into the hospital and immediately requested a laptop computer so she could continue to work, and she did,” Pitt said.
One of Sunshine’s older brothers, Gary Johnson, spoke and recalled growing up with Sunshine and the imaginative games the siblings played, making people laugh.
“Sunshine was indeed special,” he said.
He referred to Bible verses and said he thought Sunshine had kept the faith and that she was “100 percent at peace” as her treatment for leukemia proceeded.
One of her sons, Ricky, then spoke briefly, saying, “Thank you, this has been a real comfort for me and my family.”
As a gift to the family, everyone at the service was able to write a personal message or recollection of Sunshine on large colorful cards. Afterward, Lisa Karstetter, who was a longtime friend and neighbor of Sunshine’s, gathered the dozens of Share a Memory cards and placed them in bound, clear plastic sleeve protectors for the family.
Staying and sharing
After the hour-long service, people stayed for at least two more hours, sharing stories about Sunshine that spoke of her uncanny ability to connect with people, her booming laugh and her sense of humor. Friends and family mingled and enjoyed the food provided, most of which were local products.
Joey Hodges, of Quincy, who worked with Sunshine as a graphic artist at the Post-Register about eight years ago, was at the service and said she would not forget Sunshine’s laugh and her kind, giving heart.
“Her name describes her well. She was a ray of sunshine to work with. I also felt she had my back,” Hodges said.
Debby Kooy, of George, knew Sunshine many years and said the service in a way was very much like Sunshine – some of it kind of random.
Phillip “Wink” Johnson, a brother five years older than Sunshine, recalled growing up with Sunshine and then how when her and Rick’s sons were married, she and Rick visited him in the Philippines.
Randy Johnson, of Marysville, who led the service, recalled growing up seeing Sunshine and her siblings at family reunions and get-togethers and how one thing they loved to do was sing. On the program for the service, it was planned that a collection of family members would sing, Johnson explained, but some could not make it from the west side of the state. Johnson is not a pastor, though many at the service might have guessed he was. He actually works in construction, but his father was a pastor, and that probably helped him know how to lead such a service.
Tom Hinde, a former circulation director of the Moses Lake-based Columbia Basin Herald newspaper, said he always had “a world of respect” for Sunshine. Sunshine was a member of the Quincy Valley Lions Club, and she helped convince Hinde to become a presence in the Moses Lake chapter of Lions.
“She said, ‘You need to take a leadership position in your club. It’s helped me be a better person and helped me with my work,’” Hinde said.
Immediately, Hinde recalled, Sunshine made her pitch to Hinde, knowing that Hinde’s paper was part of a company that owned the Coeur d’Alene Resort and offered tours of the Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, area.
“She said, ‘I understand you have Saint Joe River cruises that you donate for good causes,’” Hinde recalled. “ ‘Well, the Quincy Valley chamber is getting ready to do a fundraiser … .’ Every year since, even after I left the Herald and I moved to Texas, she still called me.”
“She was just a gem,” he added, hugging Sunshine’s sister Joyce. “We are better people because we had Sunshine.”
Involved in her community
Sunshine Hope Johnson was born Jan. 19, 1954, in Raymond. In her youth, the family lived in Oroville and Omak, and she grew up working on the family farm with seven siblings. The family moved to Moses Lake in 1971, and Sunshine graduated high school there in 1972.
She married Rick Didra on Oct. 21, 1972, in Moses Lake, and they were married for 45 years. The new family lived in Tonasket, then Mattawa, Brewster and Quincy, and Sunshine got involved in helping in her community. In Quincy, she was a part of many volunteer efforts and served in the Quincy Valley Lions Club, the Quincy Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Farmer-Consumer Awareness Day committee. Earlier this year, the chamber gave her its Lifetime Achievement Award.
In the obituary for Sunshine, she was described as enjoying many things, “first of all being her family, the ocean and flying kites, playing the guitar, drawing and painting, dancing, gardening and bird watching. She was always up for something fun, especially a road trip.”
Gratitude for Quincy
A couple of days after the memorial service for his wife, Rick Didra said the service was “pretty darn good” and appreciated all the work that friends put into it.
“It was just amazing to me. It was such a nice job,” he said. “The whole entire family just so appreciated … how much the town came together for her. It was pretty obvious how much she was loved by this town and its people.”
Joyce Edie, of Mattawa, one of Sunshine’s sisters, had this to say: “The shock of Sunshine leaving us is heart-breaking. She fought so hard, and we were not ready have her go. The void it leaves is hard to even explain. She was my sidekick through many, many adventures over the past 60 years, and we all miss her terribly.
“But the people of the Quincy area have made it easier to bear. The family could not have been more pleased with the support and the celebration of life that was held for Sunshine. Her Quincy friends really came together and made it very special. And for that we thank you so very much.”
By Dave Burgess and Sebastian Moraga of the Post-Register