Isabelle Lamb, first female Port commissioner, dies at 94

Former president of Lamb-Grays Harbor

Isabelle Lamb, the former president of Lamb-Grays Harbor Co., and the first woman elected as a Port of Grays Harbor commissioner, died Nov. 4, at the age of 94.

She passed away surrounded by family at her home in Arizona. Until the last year or so she split time between her home in Hoquiam and one in Arizona, said Linda Lamb, her former daughter-in-law.

Lamb’s late husband, George Lamb, was the son of the company’s founder, Frank Lamb. The company made highly regarded heavy machinery and equipment used by logging companies and wood products mills when those industries were at their peak, operating until the early 1990s. She was president of the company following her husband’s death.

Isabelle Lamb was the Polson Museum Pioneer of the year for 2014 and 2015, sharing the award with her longtime friend Rudy Spanich, who was an executive at Lamb-Grays Harbor.

She was elected to the Port Commission in 1998 and served one, six-year term. “She was all in,” Port Executive Director Gary Nelson said. “She was a savvy businesswoman who had marketing savvy as well.”

Nelson remembered that when the Port recruited business to Grays Harbor, Lamb would often open her home for dinners or cocktail parties. He thinks it gave the Port’s pitch a personal touch that distinguished it from other competitors and it “paid off in spades.”

He said she was instrumental in creating the infrastructure, particularly the rail line, that attracted AGP, a Midwest grain growers cooperative that uses Grays Harbor as a main shipping point. He said AGP executives still ask about her when he sees them. “She had an impact that lasted more than the one term she served,” he said.

He said she also had a supportive effect on female business leaders in the community. “She didn’t make a big deal of it, but she made a big impact, she was the consummate mentor.”

Mrs. Lamb grew up in Canada and met George Lamb when he came to an International Paper facility where she was working outside Ottawa. International Paper had purchased equipment from Lamb. Eventually, she came to Hoquiam and served as his secretary and helped him run the company. They married in 1948. He died in 1986.

Isabelle Lamb was known as an accomplished business person. In 1990, she was was one of four Washington executives invited to San Francisco to meet with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who was on the West Coast in an attempt to strengthen business ties between the United States and the Soviet Union. The atmosphere “was just charged with enthusiasm for this gentleman, for his charisma and for the courage he has shown,” Lamb said at the time. “The importance of the day just wrapped around you.”

Lamb was the longtime chairman of the board for Enterprises International Inc., the holding company that owned Lamb-Grays Harbor and Ovalstrapping in Hoquiam and other subsidiaries around the world. She became president of Enterprises International in 1984.

Mrs. Lamb served on the boards of U.S. Bank of Washington, The Evergreen State College Foundation and Grays Harbor College. She was also well known for philanthropy and served on the boards of Grays Harbor Community Foundation and the Bishop Foundation.

Survivors include her son David Lamb, former daughter-in-law Linda Lamb and two grandchildren, Emerson Lamb and Alexandra Lamb. Surviving also are her older sister, Elma Balharrie, numerous nieces, nephews and extended family in Canada; George’s daughter, Marilyn Hart of Hoquiam and countless friends that have become family.

A memorial service is planned in Hoquiam for next summer — July 31 od 2018.