Life Story

WINNIFRED MIRIAM (COLLIER) RINGHOFFER

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Winnifred (Winn) Ringhoffer was born July 21, 1928 to Dr. and Mrs. Boy N. Collier at Swedish Hospital in Seattle. At the time, her father was supervising the small hospital in Darrington. Thereafter, they returned to Oklahoma, her father’s home state, to prospect for oil; her brother, Dr. Boy N. Collier Jr. was born there. When Winn was three years old, her father accepted an offer to assist a doctor in Shelton, Washington. Winn attended Southside School, a one-room schoolhouse with six grades and about 25 students. She graduated from Irene S. Reed High School in 1946 and then from Whitman College in 1950. Winn earned her Master’s Degree in Musicology from Boston University in 1952. After teaching a year of public school music in Baker (Oregon), she married Stephen M. Ringhoffer and relocated to Walla Walla, Washington.

Winnifred then taught vocal music in the Walla Walla school district and, that year, joined the adjunct faculty in the Whitman College Music Department. In 1958, she resigned from Whitman after her first daughter (Myra) was born. Two more daughters (Mary and Margaret) were born in 1965 and 1972. Thus began the years of mothering, entertaining, and volunteer work. Winn served on the boards of the Community Concert Association and the Walla Walla Symphony. She wrote the program notes for the symphony concerts for 30 years! In addition, she donated time to Junior Club, P.E.O., Rainbow, and her book club. Winn was active in the First Congregational Church, singing in the choir and, for a time, acting as choir director. In 1974, Winn returned to Whitman as a full-time adjunct vocal instructor. An active member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, she served as their Intermountain Regional Governor. She performed in numerous concerts, musicals, operas, and faculty recitals. Of particular note, Winn sang the soprano role for the Messiah with the Walla Walla Symphony Orchestra and played the part of Anna in “The King and I” at Harper Joy Theater. Winn was very proud of her students and watched with great joy as they went on to perform, teach, and otherwise contribute to the field of music. Winn retired in 1994 to oversee her mother’s care and, eventually, relocated to Lake Stevens to be near her youngest grandchildren. She continued to teach privately through most of her retirement, including coaching the vocal leads of several Lake Stevens High School musicals. In her spare time, Winn loved to sew. She handcrafted innumerable items, including her daughters’ wedding gowns. She also loved the mountains, embracing the sport of skiing at age 35 and continuing until the age of 80. During the majority of that time, she taught at Spout Springs and, thereby, passed along her love of the out-of-doors to others.  Family and friends remained paramount. She managed to keep in touch with so many, with special attention in recent years to the three great-grandchildren!

In 2015, Whitman College Alumni Association honored Winn with the Sally Rogers Award for Lifetime Achievement. The plaque read as follows: “Winn Collier Ringhoffer ’50, singer, teacher, inspiration, for bestowing the gift of music to generations of students, for leading young skiers from snowplow to slalom, for making your life’s work sing—from intro to encore—for your undying devotion to service through song.” This recognition meant a great deal. One of Winn’s favorite hymns was “In the Garden.” Her favorite biblical passage was Matthew 7:12, also known as the Golden Rule:  “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” When asked what she would like to pass on to other people, she replied, “Never underestimate the importance of education. Find something you really love to do, and live by the Golden Rule. I would like to be remembered as a loving, kind person.” We gather today to affirm that, indeed, you were that loving, kind person here on earth and, as the hymn lyrics state, you now walk and talk with God as one of His own.