A bittersweet goodbye in downtown Camas

Local Dairy Queen owner ‘Willi’ McOmie is retiring after nearly 40 years of serving up sweet treats

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Wilma "Willi" McOmie (right) serves a cherry-dipped ice cream cone to a customer on Sept. 1, at the Camas Dairy Queen. McOmie, 80, has owned the restaurant for 37 years, and plans to retire by the end of this year.

Family and friends, as well as employees and customers, recently gathered at the Camas Dairy Queen to show their appreciation and affection for the woman who has owned the restaurant for 37 years.

Wilma “Willi” McOmie, 80, received flowers, balloons, cards, cupcakes and hugs — lots of hugs — from children and adults, during an Aug. 25 retirement celebration.

Willi and her husband, David, 80, are in the process of selling the Camas Dairy Queen to Dave Patton and Scott Jackson. Patton is the current owner, and Jackson is a former owner of the Dairy Queen on MacArthur Boulevard in Vancouver. The Camas Dairy Queen is located at 435 N.E. Third Ave.

Willi expects the purchase to be finalized by November.

Her well-wishers on Aug. 25, included Mike and Jill Watts, of Washougal, were among Willi’s many well-wishers at the Aug. 25 event.

Mike used to do some plumbing work at the Dairy Queen, and said he developed a ship with Willi.

“She’s just an awesome lady,” he said.

“She never has a bad day,” Jill said.

Carol Thomas, 80, of Washougal, was also part of the lunchtime crowd. She eats at Dairy Queen with three of her grandchildren once a week after they visit the Camas Public Library.

Abby Lees, 18, stopped by the celebration with her 1-year-old sister. Their mother, Teresa Lees, 38, was pregnant with Abby when she worked at the Camas Dairy Queen. Now Abby works there.

One of the McOmies’ daughters, Deanne McOmie, had a similar experience. Deanne was pregnant with her daughter, Sarah-Denise, while she worked at Dairy Queen.

Deanne worked at the local DQ for more than 30 years until June 2016.

“It was a joy to work with my mom and get to know her as an adult,” Deanne said. “I got to know her from a different perspective.”

The McOmies’ employees have included some of their grandchildren, including Sarah-Denise, as well as nieces and nephews.

Donna Carrell, 57, has worked for Willi for 28 years.

Carrell described her as “pretty laid back.”

“She has taught me a lot about customer service and making sure the product looks good,” Carrell said. “Make sure people feel welcome when they walk in the door. A lot of our business is return customers.”

Willi knows the value of hard work.

As a toddler, she lived on a farm in Montana. The house had no running water. Willi recalls picking corn and green beans in the fields.

She and her three siblings and parents moved from Montana to Vancouver in 1942. Six years later, Willi and her then-four siblings and parents moved to Portland.

Willi and David have lived in Vancouver since 1974.

The McOmies have a big family, including nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, and their love of family shines through at the local DQ.

“It’s just about the kids,” Willi said. “They just love making their own ice cream cones.”

Willi and David will celebrate their 61st wedding anniversary in October.

“The Dairy Queen will be in good hands,” David said. “I just want to give accolades to my wife. She’s a people person. She is dedicated and a hard worker. I just love the heck out of her.”