John David (Dave) Brittell, 61, died February 3, 2014, at his home in Montesano. Dave was a resident of Montesano for 30 years. Born in Amarillo, Texas, Dave was raised in Bremerton along the shores of Illahee on Puget Sound. He graduated from East Bremerton High School in 1970 and completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Wildlife Biology at Washington State University in 1974.
At WSU Dave reconnected with the love of his life and best friend, Diane Knott. Both Dave and Diane attended the same high school, but had traveled in different circles. It was at WSU that they fell in love. They were married in Bremerton in September, 1974. Together they raised two daughters, Bess Brittell Hjartarson (Steven), now of Cut Bank, Mont., and Megen Brittell, currently of Eugene, Ore. Dave is survived by his wife and daughters; and by his brother, Tom Brittell of Bremerton; and two grandsons, Jacob and Bradley Hjartarson. He was preceded in death by his parents, Robert and Betty Brittell of Bremerton.
Shortly after his graduation from WSU, Dave got the call to start his career as a wildlife biologist for the Washington Game Department, which he often described as the only job he ever wanted. Dave spent more than 38 years working for the Game Department (which became the Department of Fish and Wildlife) until he retired in 2013. Along the way he did groundbreaking field research on wild cats (bobcat, lynx, and cougar), work that has served as the basis for forest management practices in northern Washington. He served as the Regional Wildlife Biologist in Aberdeen from 1983-1990, and spent more than 20 years as the head of wildlife management statewide. Dave is remembered for his knowledge of wildlife and his skills as a leader, mentor, and friend.
Dave’s legacy in wildlife management is extensive. Much of the direction of current wildlife management policies in Washington was developed under his leadership, and he spearheaded the acquisition and protection of nearly 300,000 acres of wildlife habitat. He also served on the International Grizzly Bear Committee, which supported recovery of grizzly bear populations, and the Pacific Coast Flyway Council, which developed strategies for the management and conservation of waterfowl throughout western North America. In 2010, Dave was honored with the Wildlife Society’s Leadership in Conservation Award, a testament to his overall career and his leadership in the conservation and protection of habitat.
Dave loved spending time outdoors. He joined friends and family for camping, annual backpacking trips, and numerous day trips close to home in the Olympics, Cascades and Pasayten Wilderness, and farther afield in British Columbia, Oregon, and California. He shared his love of the outdoors and wildlife with his daughters and friends, both young and young at heart. He was also an avid fisherman and hunter. His first hunting trip with his grandfather in eastern Washington led to numerous hunts in Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Alberta. He enjoyed the hunt, but he also loved the opportunity to spend time with many special friends that he made along the way.
The center of Dave’s life was his family. He often described Diane as his girlfriend, and they maintained a warm, loving, and ever young relationship throughout their marriage. He always made time for his girls no matter what he was doing. Whether it was following their sports activities, hiking, fishing, backpacking, working on school projects, or tracking them down as they started their adult lives, he was there for them and took huge pride in who they were and what they had accomplished. He had a special place in his heart for his two grandsons and looked forward to visiting them and spending time with them. His friends often joked that no matter where his official travel led him, a visit with the girls and his grandsons was on the road to his destination.
Dave will be remembered by some for his accomplishments, which were many. He will be remembered by all for his positive spirit, his enthusiasm, his curiosity, and his genuine concern for others. Dave had a wonderful ability to listen. When you talked to him, you felt like you were the center of his universe, if only for a moment. These abilities are what shaped a generation of young wildlife biologists, girl scouts, and many others that were touched by him.
A memorial will be held later this spring when the weather is warmer and Dave’s life can be celebrated outdoors in the setting that was such a large part of his life. In lieu of flowers or other gifts, the family has established the Dave Brittell Memorial Scholarship fund to provide scholarships to students studying wildlife biology in the northwest. Contributions can be made at any branch of Sterling Savings Bank.