folks. I know it's been a while since my last entry, but a lot of things
have been going on. As
I described in my last entry, my father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in
early September of 2002 and as a result, I put off my plans to go back to my old job
in Portland. Instead I decided to stay at his house in Bellingham to help
take care of him -- and I'm very glad I did. I'd like to think
that I helped make my father's last few months as pleasant and comfortable as
I've dealt with family health crises before: my
nephew and, 12 years later, my Mom were both in hospitals for several weeks before
they passed away. However, I'd never dealt with a terminally-ill person before
-- let alone a terminally-ill parent. In many ways, it was an
introspective and thought-provoking experience.
Dad and I have always been close and he was definitely a unique, one-of-a-kind
person (more about him later), so it was difficult to lose him. Looking on the positive side, though, he
hardly had any pain during his illness. In fact, he wasn't really depressed about his
prognosis because, as he said numerous times throughout the fall, he had lived
such a rich life. Another reason he wasn't depressed was that he was aware
of his slowly failing health, and because
he was looking forward to joining my Mom, who passed away a few years ago.
After she died in 1999, he never quite had the same sparkle in his eye.
the fall with my Dad was something that I can't really put into words, other than to say
that it was hectic, stressful, and immeasurably fulfilling. In a way, all
of us in my family, including my Dad, looked at his diagnosis as a blessing because each of
us knew that he would only be here for a specific time, which
gave us all (including him) a chance to make the most of the remaining
time. The alternative of course is not knowing
exactly when someone will die. In that situation, things are often unsaid
and undone, replaced by regrets after the person is gone. Thankfully, I
can say that that didn't happen.
During the fall, my father got to see each of his five kids one last time and we each
spent quiet time alone with him, moments that we will treasure for the rest
of our lives. By spending time with him here, I was also able to do things
to make him more comfortable. My Dad, sister and I did something almost
every night during the fall, either making popcorn and watching a movie,
going to a college volleyball game, watching a slide show, or eating at a nice restaurant.
his prognosis, I videotaped several interviews with him throughout
the fall and asked him about his
childhood, the Great Depression, his experiences during World War II, and his
career afterwards -- something that I probably wouldn't have done if he hadn't
been diagnosed with cancer, because none of us likes to believe that our parents
will ever die. Altogether I taped about 14 hours of interviews, something that he really enjoyed doing as
well. I was also able to go through several old photo albums with him with
the videotape rolling as he described the stories behind the pictures.
Recording this family history was extremely important to both of us.
also spent many hours printing out my website for my Dad to read. My
Dad didn't have Internet access but he wanted to read my website and see some
of the pictures that I had taken during the past 18 months. As a result, I
printed out my entire DelsJourney website for him to read -- all 391 pages of
it. He read them all, too, and told me that he really enjoyed it...
although perhaps he was being more kind than honest.
father passed away on November 30, 2002. He had hardly any
pain during his illness and, except at the very end, he never showed any
symptoms of the cancer. He was a wonderful man and we all miss him.
left: Carving the pumpkin with my sister Doti the night before
center: Typical Sunday scene: Dad cooking up
right: Looks good, huh?
Dad and Doti sharing a laugh.
Right: There were a few less presents under the tree this year.
was supposed to go back to my job as a transportation planner in Portland last
September. That was, of course, before my Dad got diagnosed with
cancer. Now that he's passed away, I've decided to stay here at my Dad's
house in Bellingham for a while and work on several "family
you've been reading my website, you know that I'm very interested in genealogy
and family history. For several years, I've wanted to put together a
"Leu Family History" and document all the stories I have for future
generations of Leus. It seems that most of us, at one time or
think, "I should write down these family stories some day,"
but few of us ever get around to doing it. I've always wanted to sit down and put this
together and I decided that I'll never have a better opportunity than right
Over the next few months,
therefore, I'll be sifting through all our old photos, 8-mm film,
and videotape while putting together a family history in both a
written and video format, along with other family history projects that I'll be
working on. I started working on this in December and have been at it 7
days a week ever since. By
the way, I
won't be updating my website for at least another month, maybe two. But
I'm not done yet with DelsJourney, so please be sure to check back.
for this page, I'm
going to devote the remainder of it to my Dad. So if you'd like to
learn more about him, please read on.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
J. Leu (1923 - 2002)
Dad was the most amazing person I've ever known. After
growing up in hard times during the Great Depression, he fought in World War II
and then, through desire and hard work, became one of the
leading educational planners in the U.S., developing dozens of public schools in the
U.S. and in third-world countries around the world. He never bragged about
them, but his awards fill the walls of his den from which I'm
writing this entry.
He had an
insatiable curiosity and was adventurous, traveling to all seven
continents during his life, including Antarctica just a few years ago. When
he was 67, he sailed alone from Washington to Alaska, and as recently
as last summer at age 79, he went backpacking in the mountains with his kids and
grandkids. He was very kind, compassionate towards others, had a great
sense of humor, and was modest. In fact, I'm sure he'd be
embarrassed at me writing this entry about him.
his lofty accomplishments, though, my Dad hated pretension and anything smacking of
elitism or snobbishness. He wasn't real keen on fraternities, sororities,
stuffy golf clubhouses, or the D.A.R., but instead was very down-to-earth.
He strongly believed that
people should be judged based on their character and on their accomplishments,
not on how much money they had, what they looked like, what family they came
from, or what color their skin was. I would like to think that I share
these attitudes, and hope I always will.
Here's a video clip of my Dad. We were
sailing from Alaska to Washington in 1989 and stopped one afternoon in Port Hardy,
British Columbia. The marina here was really noisy and dirty, there was
garbage on the dock, and I had to shout into the camcorder. Click to hear
my Dad's humorous comments. His 40-foot sailboat, the Ilikai II, is in the background.
RealPlayer. If problems, see
(256k DSL or
Dad was born in 1923 and grew up in Ballard, Washington, near Seattle. His
grandfather, Georg Leu (pronounced "Gay-org Loy") had emigrated from
Switzerland to Ohio in 1880. My Dad's father, George Leu, was born in the
U.S. and had once played baseball with the Cleveland Indians, unbeknownst to his
stern parents who disapproved of that roguish sport. Unfortunately, young George
got beaned in the head one day with a fastball, was sent to the hospital, and
his gig was up. A few years later, around 1910, George hopped on a train
and headed out to Seattle in search of his brother Cliff, who had run away from
their home in Cleveland after a family dispute. George found
Cliff working at the Pike Place Market in Seattle and both decided to stay in
Seattle. A few years later, George married a woman named Minnie May Plane,
and they eventually had six kids, my Dad being the youngest.
Leu, my Dad's father, was a quiet, studious man who loved kids (and of course,
baseball), and he worked hard to support his growing family. At one
time, he was a traveling salesman, then a butcher, then finally a grocer in
Ballard. In fact, during the 1920s, George became the first president of
a group of independent grocers named P.S.Q. (Puget Sound Quality), which later
became the I.G.A. A kind man, George extended a lot of credit to his
customers, but after the stock market crashed in 1929, his customers weren't
able to pay him back and his grocery store went bankrupt.
Depression hit my Dad's family's hard. During the 1920s, the Leu
household was solidly middle-class, but by the mid-1930s, they were barely
scraping by. Desperate for work, George moved his family up to the small
logging town of Skykomish, Washington, deep in the Cascade Mountains sixty miles
east of Seattle, and there he set up a grocery store called "Leu's
Market," which would operate for the next 30 years. At that time, the
family, including my Dad, lived in a shack near town with barely enough money to
live on. As my Dad recounted years later, they lived in extreme poverty
during those early years in Skykomish. He enjoyed living there, however,
and went fishing and hiking through the mountains, worked with the C.C.C. during
later years, and starred on the Skykomish High School basketball team, leading
them to a 27-7 record during his junior year.
in those days, the job opportunities in tiny Skykomish were limited to either
logging or working on the nearby railroad, neither of which appealed to my Dad,
so after graduating from Skykomish High School in 1941, he scraped up enough
money to attend Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington. A
few months later, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the day after, my Dad
hustled down to the recruiting office in Bellingham to sign up for the U.S.
Navy. The recruiter, though, suggested that since my Dad was in college, he
stay in school for another year and then enlist in Navy Officer Training School
(remember "An Officer and a Gentleman"?).
My Dad took his advice
and, in 1943, was shipped to Dickinson, North Dakota, where the small college
there had been converted into a V-12 Naval Training School. At a welcoming
dance in Dickinson the night after the new recruits arrived, my Dad met my Mom
and they married a year later. They had to keep their marriage a secret,
though, since officer candidates couldn't be married.
left: My Dad (left) was the youngest of six kids. This
is in Seattle in 1929, before the Great Depression.
center: He got his first airplane ride in 1932. That's him in
the front, next to his older brother Bill, who later fought at Pearl Harbor
during the Japanese attack. Dad's father, George Leu, is on the far
left. This was when the Leu family was still prosperous.
right: Skating with my Mom near Dickinson, North Dakota in 1943, shortly after meeting
her and a few months before they secretly married.
War II in China
finishing his work at Dickinson in 1944, my Dad was sent to Midshipman's school
at Northwestern University near Chicago. Cadets here mockingly called
themselves "90-day Wonders," because they attended school here for
only three months instead of the four years required at the U.S. Naval Academy
in Annapolis. After graduating in 1944, Ensign Leu was sent to Fort
Pierce, Florida, where the Navy had set up a special training school called
"Scouts and Raiders," an outfit which later became the Navy
SEALS. During his six months of training in Fort Pierce, Dad learned
underwater demolition, espionage, hand-to-hand combat, and, for reasons that
would become apparent later, Chinese.
also nearly drowned one night. When paddling with a group in a rubber
raft, he got smacked in the nose with a paddle and tumbled unconscious into the black
ocean. Fortunately, one of his buddies dove down into the water, flailed
around while searching for him, and found him 10 feet down and
sinking fast, before pulling him up.
March of 1945, my Dad, now a Lt. Commander, was shipped overseas and spent the
last few months of World War II engaged in one of the least known theatres of
the war: China. A few years earlier, the U.S. Navy had established a
unique agreement with the Chinese government called SACO (Sino-American
Cooperative Organization), which eventually involved about 3,000 U.S. sailors
and Marines working side-by-side with the Chinese armed forces while training
them in guerrilla warfare. I've
learned a lot about SACO recently and plan to devote a few web pages to this
fascinating story at some time in the future. Like most people who've
fought in combat (and unlike those who haven't but have pretended to), my Dad
never talked much about his combat experiences. However, during the last
few months of his life, he told me a few stories.
afternoon last November, a few weeks before he died, my Dad and I were driving
back to Bellingham and he wanted to stop at a coffee shop for a bite to
eat. While we were waiting for our sandwiches in the coffee shop, he told
me about his first combat experience, a story that I'd never heard before.
Since the Japanese had closed all the seaports in China, Dad had to go into China
the "back way," on an Army truck over the newly-constructed Burma
Road, an important supply line linking China with Burma and India.
convoy stopped one night in the jungles of Burma near a bridge which, according
to the American soldiers there, was besieged every night by an elusive Japanese sniper.
My Dad offered to stay up that night to wait for the sniper, and early the next
morning, when the sniper started firing, my Dad raised his rifle and shot
him. He ran over to the sniper, who was lying dead on the ground, and
searched the sniper's body. He found a locket with a picture of a young
Japanese woman inside, evidently the sniper's bride. "That," my
Dad told me somberly, "was when I learned that war isn't fun."
arriving in China, my Dad was placed in charge of training 1,200 Chinese
guerrillas just outside of the capital of Chungking, at a place called Happy
Valley. He had become fluent in Mandarin by this time, which he used with
great effect years later in the U.S., especially when phoning ahead for
reservations for "Leu" at very popular Chinese restaurants.
the look on the face of the maitre d' when he saw seven Caucasians named Leu
walking into the restaurant, including one who spoke Chinese. Thanks to
Dad, we always got great tables.
of his duties was to infiltrate Japanese lines and report back on what he
saw. Actually, there really weren't any formal "lines"; China
was simply too large of a country for the Japanese Army to occupy.
Instead, the Japanese controlled the major cities and rail centers, while
leaving the rest of China to the Chinese. In his role, my Dad dressed up
as a Chinese laborer (we used to say "coolie," but that's not PC)
complete with conical hat and sandals, and wandered through Japanese-controlled
towns spying on the enemy. How he was able to successfully disguise himself as a Chinese, I'll
never know. He also helped Chinese troops engage in guerrilla warfare,
such as blowing up railroad tracks. My jaw dropped last fall when I heard
some of these stories for the first time.
Dad stayed in China for several months after the end of WWII, working with the
Chinese Nationalist troops. In fact, the leading military commander in China,
General Tai Li, offered him a lucrative position, preparing the Nationalist troops
to combat the Chinese Communists who were threatening the Nationalists from northern China. My Mom, however, was in the U.S. and had no
desire to move to China, so my Dad returned home, which is fortunate since General Tai Li
died in a plane crash shortly afterwards and within a few years, the Communist
forces had taken over.
left a lasting impression on my Dad, and throughout the rest of his life, he
thought very fondly about China and about the Chinese. Not having seen the
country since World War II, he returned to China in 1997 with my Mom on a guided
tour with about 20 other people, and one afternoon they stopped in
Chungking. He walked into a museum there, explained to the curator that he
had been stationed in Happy Valley with SACO during the war, and the curator
told my Dad to wait there, then the curator quickly left, which puzzled my
About 20 minutes later, the curator returned with an elderly Chinese
gentleman who, as it turned out, was one of my Dad's 1,200 guerrilla students
back in 1945. Although my Dad didn't remember his former pupil, the Chinese
gentleman remembered my Dad quite well and he started to cry because he was so happy to see
my Dad again. My Dad told me that it was wonderful to see China again and
that seeing his former student was the highlight of his memorable trip.
left: Ensign Leu in Fort Pierce, Florida training for the Navy "Scouts
and Raiders" (later the SEALs). This was in 1944, just before he was
sent to China. That's my Mom (right) and her mother (left).
center: At Michigan State University, where my
Dad was a professor of education after the war.
right: An appearance on the "Today" show in
the Navy to Michigan State... and Beyond
my Dad returned to the U.S., he and my Mom moved to Bellingham, where he
finished his degree, got a job teaching at an elementary school in southern
Washington for a few years, then went to Columbia University, where he got his
doctorate in education in 1953. Shortly afterwards, he landed a job as
Professor of Education at Michigan State University, where he taught until 1968,
when he became the Dean of Education at San Jose State University in
California. Although I didn't want to leave Michigan at the time, I'm now
glad we did because my life wouldn't have been nearly as interesting, I'm
afraid, if we had stayed in the Midwest.
with Michigan State, he enjoyed his years at San Jose State. After 12 years
there, however, he took the position of Dean of Education at Portland State
University, and in 1990, he retired back to Bellingham, though he continued to
work on educational projects and even served on the Bellingham School Board in
his late 70s. Public education was his life. Indeed, during his last four years,
he worked (for free) on a plan to set aside a site in his community for a future
elementary school, a study that he worked on until, literally, the day before he died.
his career, he helped establish dozens of public schools in the U.S. and around the
world. He worked extensively in Belgium, Germany, Thailand, Burma,
Guatemala, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, and probably a dozen other
countries that I can't recall. Rather than imposing American attitudes on
others and on the schools he established overseas, he learned about the local cultures and integrated their needs and values into the schools, reflecting his
general approach to life.
addition to his career, of course, he also helped to raise a family. He
was an adventurous person who led us on many family expeditions which we
(mostly) look back on with great fondness. Each summer, he and my Mom
would load our station wagon with the five kids and an occasional pet, and we'd
go charging across North America in search of new adventures, camping almost
everywhere we went. Indeed, it was his constant desire for adventure that inspired me to
take a break from my job in March of 2001
and hit the road on DelsJourney.
left: This was one of
our many family trips, a four-day hike over Park Creek Pass in the North
Cascades of Washington in 1967. That's me in the front carrying a bottle of
ketchup (don't ask me why). My Mom is fourth in line.
center: Our family moved from snowy Michigan to sunny
California in 1968. Here's our Christmas Card photo that year (I'm on the
right, Dad's on the left).
right: My Dad had a great sense of humor. Here he
is enjoying himself on a toilet in Sausalito, California.
left: The last photo of my Dad (left) and all of his siblings,
center: Dad (right) floating down the Salmon River in Idaho with
his grandson Myles (left).
right: Being attacked by a parrot in Portland.
left: In 1989, my Dad sailed alone from Washington to
Alaska. I flew up and joined him for a 6-week sail back to Washington and
we had a great time.
center: Sailing in Glacier Bay on the 40-foot "Ilikai."
right: Accepting a "Distinguished Alumnus"
award from his alma mater, Western Washington University, in 1994.
left: "Before and After." That's my brother
holding up my Dad's 1947 graduation photo from Western Washington University.
center: My Dad on a backpacking trip at age 73 in the Cascade
with his 40-lb pack. The trip went well -- until I slipped on a rock and
broke my arm.
right: My Mom and Dad on their patio in Bellingham.
The Night Before Thanksgiving
could cite dozens of examples of my father's compassion and humanity, but I'll describe here only one, a story that I haven't thought about in years. The
night before Thanksgiving in 1975, my Dad came home from work and during dinner told us what had happened to him earlier in the day.
that time, my father was the Dean of Education at San Jose State
University. That afternoon, the university president had stormed into my
Dad's office and told my Dad that someone in the auditorium was causing a
disturbance. The president ordered my Dad to evict the person, using the
campus police, if necessary.
Dad walked into the empty auditorium and saw, there on the stage, a disheveled
man in dirty clothes who was playing the piano -- if you could call it
that. My Dad walked up to him and in a friendly tone asked what him what
he was doing. "My name's Fred, and I'm a piano player," the man
said. It was obvious to my Dad that Fred had mental problems but it was also apparent that he was
having a good time. "Why don't you go home, Fred?," my Dad
gently asked. "I don't have a home," Fred said sadly, "I
live on the street." My Dad looked at Fred and said, "Well then,
Fred, you can stay here and play the piano for as long as you like."
Fred smiled and resumed playing the piano, and my Dad left.
the kind of person my Dad was.
(from The Bellingham Herald)
J. Leu, age 79, passed away peacefully at his home in Bellingham on Saturday,
November 30, 2002.
Don was born October 10, 1923 in
Ballard, Washington to George and Minnie May (Plane) Leu and grew up in Ballard
and in Skykomish, Washington. During
WWII, he became one of the first Navy SEALS (then called Scouts and Raiders).
While attending Officer Training School in North Dakota, Don met Anne Reinhard
and they married in Florida in 1944.
Shortly afterwards, Don was sent to China
his unit, the Sino-American Coop-erative Organization (SACO), was integrated into the Chinese
army and engaged in guerrilla warfare. Following
WWII, he completed training as a submarine officer.
1947, Don graduated from Western Washington University and began a lifelong
career in education. He taught
middle school in Stevenson, Washington and in 1953 earned a doctorate from
Columbia University. Later that
year, he became a Professor of Education at Michigan State University.
In 1957, Don served as the Deputy Superintendent of Education for the
State of Michigan, and he was a visiting scholar at U.C. Berkeley in 1964.
In 1968, Don became the Dean of Education at San Jose State University,
and in 1980, he became the Dean of Education at Portland State University.
During his career, he established many schools and universities in the
U.S. and in developing countries around the world, and he wrote several books on
a life of travel and adventure, Don and Anne moved back to Bellingham in 1990.
In 1994, Western Washington University presented Don with a Distinguished
Alumnus Award for his work in education, and from 1999 until 2001, he served on
the Bellingham School Board. During
his final years, he traveled throughout China, Africa, the Himalayas and
Antarctica. He especially enjoyed
sailing, golfing, and backpacking with his grandchildren.
Don was a mentor, colleague, and friend
to hundreds of educators around the world and he took pride in furthering the
careers of others, especially women, minorities, and the disadvantaged.
He will be remembered as a dedicated teacher, visionary, and
humanitarian, as well as a devoted father.
Don’s gentle, unassuming nature, his compassion, his sense of humor and
his unbounded spirit of adventure touched many.
His simple words of advice: “Enjoy life – I did.”
December 7, 2003 (Bellingham, Washington)
30, 2002 (Bellingham, Washington)
24, 2002 (Princess Louisa Inlet, British Columbia)
12, 2002 (Lake City, Colorado)
4, 2002 ( Life as a Ranger, Part 2)
4, 2002 ( Life as a Ranger, Part 1)
1, 2002 (Looking Glass Rock, Utah)
18, 2002 -- Part 2 (Port Orford, Oregon)
18, 2002 -- Part 1 (Port Orford, Oregon)
22, 2002 (Bellingham, Washington)
7, 2002 (Sydney, Australia)
4, 2002 (Coffs Harbour, Australia)
1, 2002 (Hervey Bay, Australia)
28, 2002 (Airlie Beach, Australia)
25, 2002 (Port Douglas, Australia)
16, 2002 (Winton, Australia)
13, 2002 (Alice Springs, Australia)
11, 2002 (Ayers Rock, Australia)
8, 2002 (Coober Pedy, Australia)
5, 2002 (Port Augusta, Australia)
1, 2002 -- Part 2 (Robe, Australia)
1, 2002 -- Part 1 (Robe, Australia)
18, 2002 (Bega, Australia)
7, 2002 (Auckland, New Zealand)
2, 2002 -- Part 2 (Taupo, New Zealand)
2, 2002 -- Part 1 (Taupo, New Zealand)
25, 2002 (Hokitika, New Zealand)
20, 2002 (Geraldine, New Zealand)
16, 2002 (Te Anau, New Zealand)
12, 2002 -- Part 2 (Dunedin, New Zealand)
12, 2002 -- Part 1 (Dunedin, New Zealand)
1, 2002 -- Part 2 (Christchurch, New Zealand)
1, 2002 -- Part 1 (Christchurch, New Zealand)
24, 2001 (Wellington, New Zealand)
21, 2001 (Auckland, New Zealand)
14, 2001 (Aitutaki, Cook Islands)
10, 2001 (Rarotonga, Cook Islands)
3, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bellingham, Washington)
3, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bellingham, Washington)
18, 2001 -- Part 3 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
18, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
18, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
6, 2001 (Fort Lincoln State Park, North Dakota)
30, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
30, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
September 15, 2001 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
30, 2001 (Webster, South Dakota)
18, 2001 (Watertown South Dakota)
17, 2001 (Walnut Grove, Minnesota)
14, 2001 (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
10, 2001 (Battle Creek, Michigan)
8, 2001 (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 2)
8, 2001 (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 1)
6, 2001 (Manlius, New York)
23, 2001 (Middleton, Massachusetts)
22, 2001 (Boston, Massachusetts)
20, 2001 (Pomfret, Connecticut)
18, 2001 (Denton, Maryland)
16, 2001 (Cumberland, Virginia)
14, 2001 (Roanoke, Virginia)
9, 2001 (Sevierville, Tennessee)
8, 2001 (Fontana Lake, North Carolina)
5, 2001 (Manchester, Tennessee)
30, 2001 (Hohenwald, Tennessee)
29, 2001 (Corinth, Mississippi)
27, 2001 (Natchez, Mississippi)
24, 2001 (Austin, Texas)
20, 2001 (Canyon de Chelly, Arizona)
18, 2001 (Clay Canyon, Utah)
15, 2001 -- Part 2 (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)
15, 2001 -- Part 1 (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)
14, 2001 (San Diego, California)
11, 2001 (San Jose, California)
2, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
19, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
30, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
19, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
5, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)