Edward Harry Landon’s daughter, Marlys, was with him at her home when he passed away peacefully on Tuesday, January 15, 2013. He was 98. Ed was born in Chicago on November 25, 1914, to William Jay Landon and Mabel Henrietta (Kleeb) Landon. During Ed’s primary years the family moved to N. Montana where his dad worked on the RR, and another move to Aloha, Washington after his father accepted a position as an engineer with the RR.
The family eventually grew to include five children. They enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle until the Great Depression. As Ed recalled, “We went to Aberdeen one day to make a savings deposit, then went across the street for a hamburger. As we sat eating our lunch, we noticed a man beating on the doors of the bank, which had suddenly been locked.” They left their food, crossed the street and asked what was wrong. The man, standing dejectedly on the steps of the bank entrance, lamented, “My money. They took all my money.” Ed’s parents lost all their savings that day, and his father found himself unemployed shortly thereafter.
Ed’s parents promptly held a family meeting with their five children. His mother revealed that they had only seventy-five dollars in the cookie jar and that her plan was to use it to buy a cow and a litter of pigs. Ed reminisced recently that his mother was determined to share with their neighbors, so the extra milk produced by the family cow was given to local families with children. As Ed was fond of saying, “The Depression was a great equalizer. We were ALL poor, and we helped each other out.”
While attending Moclips High School, Ed loved sports and played football, basketball and baseball. One of the jobs he had while attending HS was digging clams (the students were let out of school during clam tides).
After graduating from Moclips High School in 1933, Ed started working in the mill (which had resumed operation after the economy stabilized). His first job was pulling sixteen-foot rough-cut boards off the green chain, which, he said, weighed more than he did. It was the hardest job he ever did, and his pay was 25 cents an hour. He also worked in the mill pond, walking along the tops of the logs with a peavey, breaking up jams. One day he fell into the water between two logs and they closed over his head. He said that if his boss had not seen this mishap, parted the logs and pulled him out, he would have drowned. “At this point”, he remembered, “I began to think to myself that there must be a better way to make a living.”
Sometime later, Ed was recruited for a job with Acme Door Company in Hoquiam. Rather than building doors, though, he was hired to play baseball, specifically as pitcher. This talent would serve him well in the minor leagues as well as a high school baseball coach. As one of his catchers remembers, “He threw a mean knuckle ball - I couldn’t catch it and nobody could hit it!”
Ed met the love of his life, Virginia June Morgan, in Hoquiam, at a café next to the theater where she worked as a waitress.
They married in Aberdeen on December 24, 1941.
Ed wanted to join the armed forces during WWII but because he was blind in one eye since childhood, he was classified 4F. However, after he read about the Death Marches in which hundreds of thousands of concentration camp prisoners died, Ed, who at the time was teaching fifth grade in a small coastal town, marched straight to the county seat in Montesano and requested a hearing with a judge who happened to be an acquaintance. His sense of indignation moved him to plead to be allowed to serve in the Army. Ed’s passionate argument bore fruit: he was accepted into the Army.
While stationed in Washington, DC and working as a cryptographer, Ed received a message that was labeled, “For Roosevelt’s Eyes Only”. After decoding it he set out to deliver it personally. At each “threshold” of authority he was told he could trust his precious cargo into the hands of others. He continued to refuse noting his training regarding who he was to hand over such a message included only the President himself or his Chief of Staff. He delivered it to President Roosevelt’s Chief of Staff in the White House. Many years later, while relating this experience to family members, he said, “I was scared…really scared. I was a buck private and these officers outranked me by miles, but I had orders to follow.” Ed was transferred to the Aleutian Islands later in the war and told a story about how he managed to find his way back to his barracks in a ground blizzard with zero visibility, he was fortunate to survive this.
While Ed was serving in the Army during WWII, Virginia moved to Seattle and supported the war effort in the shipyards as part of the composite “Rosie the Riveter.”
Ed was honorably discharged from the Army on November 1, 1945. Prior to the war Ed had earned teaching credentials at Western Washington College and taught 5th grade. After the war Ed attended the University of Washington, earning a B.A. degree in December of 1946. Furthering his education, he graduated from the University of Washington with a M.Ed. on June 11, 1949, and was ABD for a PhD.
Ed began teaching at Cleveland High School in Seattle in 1948. His tenure at Cleveland spanned parts of four decades, each with its own unique social issues. Besides teaching social studies and history, Ed coached football, basketball and baseball at Cleveland and, in his own words, “We won our share of games, which is remarkable considering we were the smallest high school in Seattle.” Ed also functioned as a sort of “unofficial guidance counselor,” as some of his students fondly remember. He simply gave good advice. They now refer to him as “Mr. Cleveland” for his love for and dedication to his students as individuals, his teaching and coaching.
Many of his students remained in contact with him until his death, 5 of them visited him recently. Ed spoke often and with great passion about his teaching and coaching career. He remembered individual students’ names, faces and details about them, until the day he passed. During the years Ed taught at Cleveland, when he wasn’t taking classes himself during the summer, he sold real estate, worked for an insurance agency, and taught summer school.
A few years before his retirement Ed took on a project that he spoke of later with a sense of humility and gratitude. Ed, who at the time was Cleveland’s History Department Head, was enlisted to write the first Seattle Public School’s curriculum on African American History. His children remember often seeing him sitting at the dining table late at night with reference books and papers spread out before him, working on the next day’s lesson plan. Ed remembers welcoming members of Seattle’s Black Panthers sitting in on his daily lectures, after which he welcomed feedback from them.
In 2006, Ed was humbly honored when students held a birthday party for his 92nd, in which there were over 200 former students in attendance. Also, spearheaded by former student Mary Ann (Bosnich) McCord, a scholarship fund was created in his name, which is managed by the Cleveland HS Alumni Association. Shortly before Ed passed away, he was notified that a plaque commemorating his contribution to the lives of his students at Cleveland is to be placed outside the library at CHS and that it is in process that the library will be named after him. This great honor, which was spearheaded by former students Mary Ann (Bosnich) McCord and Jim Yurina, brought him to tears. The most common phrase used recently by students to describe Ed in the hundreds of letters and cards he received from them is, “You made a difference for me throughout my life.”
After his retirement in 1973, Ed and Virginia moved to Moclips, and they bought and operated the Surf House Tavern in Pacific Beach until their “actual retirement” in 1976. Embarking on a new adventure, they spent the next several winters traveling around the United States, Canada, and Mexico in their RV. Later they enjoyed several winters at a “snowbird” park in El Centro, Calif., where they made many friends and enjoyed the warm winter sunshine. In retirement Ed’s new favorite sport was golf, and he golfed 18 holes every day!
In 2000, Virginia having been seriously injured in a fall in 1999, they decided it was important for her to have the stability of living full time in Moclips. As Virginia’s head injury led to dementia and then to Alzheimer’s disease, Ed cared for her at home with the help of his daughter, Marlys and her family until November 2006, when they moved into Marlys and her husband, Russ’ home in Madras, Oregon. Virginia passed away in March of 2007, a few months after their 65th wedding anniversary, and Ed remained with them until the very last day of his life, January 15, 2013.
Ed was preceded in death by his wife; parents; three of his four siblings (Robert, Ruth, and Helen); his son, Ric; and his granddaughter, Tami.
Ed is survived by his sister, Dorothy of Richmond, Va; daughters; Judie (Mike) Hensel of Surprise, Ariz., Marlys (Russ) Alger of Madras, Ore., and Barbara (Ray) Doern of Redmond, Ore.; 12 grandchildren; 22 great -grandchildren; 1 great-great-grandchild; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Ed’s family will host a Celebration of his life at 2 p.m. on March 30th, 2013, at the Pacific Beach Resort and Recreation Facility, Pacific Beach, WA. His wishes were that his ashes be scattered by his family in the surf in front of his beloved Moclips home, as were those of his wife and his son. Remembrance gifts can be sent to the Ed Landon Scholarship Fund, Cleveland High School Alumni Association, PO Box 94004, Seattle, WA 98124-9404.