Eloise B. Waite

Red Cross Executive

Eloise B. Waite, 86, a retired social worker and a vice president of the American Red Cross who focused on helping military families and veterans, died of congestive heart failure Aug. 16 at the Georgetown Retirement Residence, where she lived.

Mrs. Waite conceived of, created and ran the worldwide refugee locator service of the Red Cross in 1975, when the agency was deluged with requests for aid in locating missing Vietnam veterans and reuniting Vietnamese families. She also personally sponsored and assisted numerous Vietnamese refugees and immigrants who came to the Washington area.

A native of Eureka, Mont., she graduated from the University of Montana with a bachelor's degree in sociology and from Columbia University with a master's degree in social work in 1942. She worked first as a high school English teacher in Corvallis, Mont., and then as a social worker for the Montana and Washington state departments of public welfare.

When World War II ended, she joined the American Red Cross as a $105-a-month caseworker in Portland, Ore. In 1949, she went to Tokyo to do casework in a military hospital for five years. She then moved to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she became a hospital field director.

She went to St. Louis as the Midwestern disaster services casework supervisor in 1960. She moved to Washington to work for the local chapter of the Red Cross in 1963.

Five years later, Mrs. Waite switched to the national headquarters of the Red Cross, where she worked until her retirement in 1983. She had risen to become the second woman to hold one of the four national vice presidents' positions, as national vice president of the Service to Military Families and Veterans, and supervised a $58 million-a-year budget.

She was quoted in The Washington Post in 1968 discussing the housing difficulties military wives faced while their husbands were in Vietnam.

"This is an unpopular war and the wives are not getting the support of the community that wives have gotten in other wars," she said. "So they must lean on the Red Cross instead of on the populace at large." She also noted that missing servicemen often turned out to be on a secret mission or listed as prisoners of war.

Her 16th Street apartment served as housing for many visitors, and she was considered a lively hostess who decorated with yellow daisies and entertained with spirit and ease. She regularly walked three miles round trip to swim at the YWCA, long after she was 80 years old.

In retirement, she was on the board of directors of the Travelers Aid Society and in 1991 was its acting executive director. She was a member of the Metropolitan Women's Democratic Club and the International Club.

Her husband, Alexander T. Waite, died during the 1950s.

She leaves no immediate survivors.

Lydia Coleman Williams

Washington Educator

Lydia Coleman Williams, 86, a Washington resident and longtime educator who retired in 1978 as principal of Ross and Stevens elementary schools, died Aug. 14 at Providence Hospital. She had respiratory failure and complications from a stroke in 1997.

Ms. Williams joined the school system in 1944 as an elementary summer school teacher. She taught predominantly at Giddings Elementary School before joining the staff of Goding Elementary in 1960. She soon was promoted to supervisory positions.

In the late 1970s, she was in the news when President Jimmy Carter decided to enroll his daughter, Amy, at Stevens Elementary. As a result, Mrs. Williams was invited to functions held by the Carters.

A native Washingtonian, she was a 1935 graduate of Dunbar High School and a 1939 graduate of the old Miner Teachers College. She received a master's degree in education from New York University. Early in her career, she was an assistant messenger at the old War Department.

She spent many years as a volunteer voting assistant during elections in her Southwest Washington neighborhood.

In retirement, she enjoyed gambling in Atlantic City and making pound cakes for family birthdays.

Her husband, Clifford Williams, died in 1973.

She leaves no immediate survivors.

Eloise B. Waite