Walt Crowley's Memorial

  • Posted 10/08/2007
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 8314

This People's History contains the text of the memorial service for Walt Crowley (1947-2007), beloved leader and cofounder of www.historylink.org, the online encyclopedia of Washington state history (this website). Walt Crowley also was the author of many books, a journalist, a television news commentator, a policy planner for the City of Seattle and for the Municipal League of King County, and an activist in numerous civic, social justice, and historic preservationist causes. Walt died on September 21, 2007, of complications after surgery for laryngeal cancer. His memorial service took place in the McEachern Auditorium at the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) on Tuesday, October 2, 2007, at 4 in the afternoon, with about 700 people in attendance.

Walt's Memorial Program

3:45 p.m. Music by Julie Sakahara and Joe Vinikow

4:14 p.m. Welcome by Leonard Garfield, Executive Director, MOHAI

Hubert G. Locke, Master of Ceremonies

Marie McCaffery (Walt's wife)

Norm Rice

Glenn Hughes, Ph.D.

Alan J. Stein

Henry Aronson

Dorothy H. Mann, Ph.D.

Hubert G. Locke (Eulogy)

Reception to follow in the McCurdy Gallery

Paul Dorpat was available to videotape reminiscences.

Hubert Locke

The tributes to Walt Crowley this afternoon will be brief, because he wanted them to be so; their brevity is hardly a measure of the deep loss all of us feel at the death of a dear friend. Following a personal message from Walt’s wife and companion of 33 years, tributes will be given by: 

  • our beloved former mayor, Norm Rice, [for whom Walt worked] who is currently Distinguished Practitioner in Residence at the Evan School, University of Washington 
  •  Glenn "Chip" Hughes, a long-time friend of Walt’s whom he met through Marie and who has been a professor of philosophy in Boston and San Antonio for the past two decades 
  • Alan Stein, who has worked with Walt on HistoryLink.org almost since the beginning and who is past president of the Association of King County Historical Organizations 
  • Henry Aronson, one of Seattle’s long-time political and civic activists; a noted attorney and former commissioner of the Port of Seattle 
  • Dorothy Mann, who retired after a distinguished career as Director of Ninth Region of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Dr Mann is a member of the board of director’s of HistoryLink. 

First Marie [McCaffery] has a few words for each of us.

Marie McCaffrey

Walt would have hated to miss this party.

I'd like to introduce Vicky Kilvinger, Walt's mother and a city councilwoman in Florence, Arizona ... and thank her for giving me such a great husband.

They say you can know a man by the company he keeps, and if you look around this room, you'll see Walt.  We gave a lot of parties ... but as only children, our friends become our family and we liked to see our family as much as possible.  At the end of each party we would marvel at our great fortune to have such friends.

I'd like you to know that the last two years of Walt's life were two of the most productive and happy that we had together. He wrote several books, we traveled, and of course had parties.  Those of you who spent time with him since his first surgery know that his acerbic wit did not desert him along with his voice.  He was quick with his note pad and expressive with ... as he liked to call it, his talking dildo, which he used to signal approval -- beep beep -- or, disagreement -- beeeeeep.

People often ask me how did Walt become a historian. To quote him, "At pivotal moments, our forebears' decisions and actions set into motion developments that changed the vector and character of all that would follow."  History, to Walt, was not past, but prologue. He believed that the past could help us make better decisions about the future, and that was in fact the unifying field theory of Waltness.

The arrival of the Internet made the idea of an online regional encyclopedia possible.  A dynamic resource, capable of continuous modifications, with a searchable data base, and free to all.

Walt would have wanted me to tell you how much he appreciated the community's recognition of his work over the past year.  I wish that he could have read some of the wonderful things written about him in the last week, but he was here to enjoy being honored by his peers, the Historians' Guild, as Historian of the Year. He was touched by the Legislature's proclamation saluting Walt and HistoryLink. The Municipal League named him Citizen of the Year. City Club surprised him with an award at its 25th anniversary celebration. He was grateful for the recognition of Historylink's work by the Association of King County Historic Organizations. And I must recognize and express his and my gratitude to the staff and the board of HistoryLink. He loved you all.

I would like to thank Group Health for all that they did for Walt.

You may think Walt's life was too short, but I feel lucky to have had the time with him. We were together for 33 years. There was never a dull moment. He had a beautiful mind and a kind heart.  Thank you.

Norm Rice

I have been procrastinating in preparing these remarks ... because once I begin to write,  the finality of my living friendship with Walt begins to become real and I don’t want to deal with that reality. 

As I stumble over these words I realize I don’t have my friend to help me out of a linguistic quagmire.  So now comes my test. 

I got to know Walt Crowley well when he ran for the City Council.  We talked about running and positioning oneself to be responsive, passionate and intellectually fit.  Walt lost that race and then a few years later I also lost two big ones.   

We laughed and talked about why we lost and what we did wrong and what could have been.  Most of all we laughed and that laughter was the balm that bound us.  From those early days we honed our passions around what we believed was right and forgot about all that intellectual policy stuff.  We focused on what needed to be said. 

My day came again. It was July 28, 1989, and I had finally come to the conclusion that maybe I should enter the Mayor’s race. I had doubts because racially charged atmosphere of busing was looming large and it never lends itself to civil discourse.  I thought by entering the race, the issue of race itself rather than reason would overwhelm a civil discourse on education, and our city’s future.  

I drafted my remarks and then moved on  to Gogerty and Stark where Walt was working at the time. We all debated the pros and cons of what should be said. Finally Walt took the draft disappeared and came back with the essence of my hopes, dreams and my beliefs  in that brief hour we developed the core of message and we never looked back.  

As I read the speech today it speaks to our dreams and what should be apparent even in our world  today...

I quote:

"I listened for the words our that would soothe the divisions among us, that would lift our civic spirits, and would bind our urban family closer.  

"You have not heard those words.  The needs of our community have not been addressed.  The aspirations of our community have not been given the full, clear voice they deserve ... . Rather than words of vision, we have all heard, new shrill voices of division ... setting neighborhood against neighborhood, institution against institution and most alarming race against race ... . I must join this battle with all my soul and resources and I believe the election of Seattle’s next Mayor offers the best arena for pressing the battle against division and for unity.”

Those words, that charge, those beliefs to make a difference was our dream and we successfully put them to life.  

Walt’s prose and beliefs rarely ever missed the mark.  Now we must  always put Walt’s beliefs to life.  We must capture the relentless tenacity, the provocative, the irony and most of all the love of humanity.  Do just that  and then Walt  lives forever.

Farewell my friend.

 

Glen Hughes, Ph.D.

I’m here to speak about Walt as a close personal friend.

 I got to know Walt through his marrying my high school friend, Marie McCaffrey. Over three decades, we moved through shared interests to a great friendship of mutual delight. He invited me to be fully myself while bringing into play everything in his own character. And what a gift that was—because there was almost nothing in human culture that Walt didn’t want to think about or explore. He enjoyed everything, from slapstick and carousing to the most serious and abstruse intellectual discussion. To be friends with the complete Walt was to have, in a sense, the complete friend.

Publicly, Walt was known for charm, wit, intelligence, courage, honesty, a passion for justice, humor, and fair-mindedness. As a friend, you got the same man, but with added qualities in the foreground—humility, loyalty, and love. The Walt I talked and joked with, breakfasted with at the Continental Café, drank with at the Blue Moon, and guided with Marie on splendid weeklong visits to New York and Paris, was always open, welcoming, and as eager to learn, as to laugh and tell stories. When arguing contrary points of view, he did so with warmth, gusto, and openness. He picked up the tab before it got to the table. When he hugged you hello or goodbye, he meant it. His concern for my happiness was a constant. He embodied Aristotle’s comment: it is through love that true friendship endures.     

Now, Walt knew that while I make my daily bread as a philosopher, in real life I’m a poet. After he first fell ill, I wanted to tell him in as direct a way as possible what he meant to me. So of course I wrote him a Shakespearean sonnet. He was deeply touched. So I’ll conclude by reading it. It’s titled “Ad Astra Per Aspera,” which means, more or less, “To the stars, through struggle.” It’s a phrase from Seneca the Elder. Walt, of course, knew that it is also the motto of the State of Kansas.

AD ASTRA PER ASPERA 

Hope, history, and stars will coincide.

That is his trust. Real stars; real history—

Not heavens or myths. Facts bright-verified,

By proof, by research, cleansed of dreamery.

Of train’d wit, he discerns the slightest shifts

In constellations moved by politics—

Measuring, with ironic eye, the drifts

Of cads toward truth, and Honest Abes toward tricks.

Citizen, author, comrade of the graced,

And merely nuts; the wronged, the rightly praised;

Defending publicly the good displaced,

And laughing into shame the fools upraised.

From justice to the Moon his passion runs--

Whose suave heart guards a brightness like the sun’s.

 

Alan J. Stein

Many of you are probably wondering why I’m dressed like this. I’ll get to that in a second. But for those of you who know me well, understand that Walt would have appreciated the irony that the one guy who always wears black is the most outlandishly dressed speaker at his memorial service. 

I first met Walt in this building 10 years ago this Thanksgiving. So there’s a certain bittersweet quality in the fact that I return here full circle, to give thanks, but this time to bid him farewell. 

Paul Dorpat introduced us. Walt was looking for people to help out on a project that he, Paul, and Marie had devised, to create an on online encyclopedia of what was then Seattle and King County history. Since I was a local historian with a background in computers, Walt was eager to discuss the details with me. He gave me his prospectus and asked me to join in with others who would soon be helping out. I did, and have been grateful ever since. 

At our first staff meeting, one of my first tasks was to scour the web to see if there was anything remotely like what we were attempting to do. There wasn’t. You have to realize that this was during the fledgling days of the internet. Most folks still had 28k modems. I think our computers were still being stoked with coal. When we began HistoryLink, we were trail blazers. We were the Corps of Discovery. The path we took was our own, and it was exciting

One of Walt’s challenges in this brave new world wide web was raising funds at a time when most people were throwing bags of money at industry leaders like Kozmo.com, HomeGrocer, and MyLackey. Our finances were stretched thin in our early years, but Walt’s unique method of what he called “venture socialism” proved to be successful. Our humble dot.org grew, and outlived many of the high-profile commercial sites. 

Promoting our site was another challenge. We worked hard on raising the awareness of HistoryLink.org everywhere we could: newspapers, links from other sites, word of mouth. We even talked about one day turning a modified RV into a “Linkebago” to travel around to various communities. 

But the first big event that brought us the most visibility was WTO. A month before the trade conference, we sent out a press release informing reporters around the world about HistoryLink. “You might want to include some background history of Seattle in your coverage. Oh, and by the way, we’ll have a webcam set up from our office window overlooking Westlake Center.”  

Of course, we didn’t realize what would eventually happen. When all hell broke loose we had an exclusive bird’s eye view of the riots. News outlets around the country posted our images, and Walt gave countless interviews about the history of civil violence in Seattle. He loved the fact that here was a history website reporting history as it happened. 

A similar event occurred when the Nisqually quake rattled our bones in 2001. Walt and Chris Goodman, our site administrator, were in the office when it hit, dodging bookcases as they fell over. Of course the first thing you’re supposed to do in a situation like that is get under a desk, but what was Walt’s reaction? He dives on top of our server, to protect it from any harm. The next day, our weekly update featured a picture of our trashed office, and a history of local quakes dating back to 1700. 

I’d also like to point out that since the quake hit the day after Fat Tuesday, it was Walt who coined the moniker, “Crash Wednesday.” I think one of the things I’m going to miss most about Walt was how much he enjoyed word play, a pastime I shared with him. Our collaborations involved plenty of puns, sometimes some rhymes, lots of alliteration, and a love of the language, as it were. I alluded to this in our recent front page update. If you look at the headlines that pertain to this week’s anniversaries, the initial letters reading down, spell out “Walt Crowley.” 

Finally, there’s one other avocation that Walt and I both shared, and it pertains to why I’m dressed the way I am. Back in 2003, while checking up on sites that linked to us, I came across a webpage for the Doc Maynard Outpost of E Clampus Vitus. Neither of us had heard of them, but from what we could tell they were an historical society made up of very strange people. 

Oddly enough, a few weeks later they contacted HistoryLink, and asked Walt to speak at the dedication of a new gravestone for Doc Maynard, whose old stone had become illegible. We attended the ceremony, which included a gathering afterwards at a local pub where we learned more about the “Clampers” as well as the many historical restoration projects and such that they were involved in locally. 

As it turns out, E Clampus Vitus is a not-so-secret fraternal organization that got its start during the California Gold Rush, when the miners discovered that groups like the Masons and Odd Fellows wouldn’t let them join. In response, the miners formed their own benevolent organization -- to care for the “widders and orphans.” Along with wearing their red union suits, they attached tin can lids to their vests in lieu of medals. 

When the mining days ended, E Clampus Vitus almost did too, had it not been “revivified” in the 1930s by academic historians in California, looking for a less serious way to celebrate their craft. The Clampers motto is Credo Quia Absurdum, which loosely translates as “It is absurd, therefore I believe it.” And while some say that it’s a drinking historical society, others prefer to think of it as a historical drinking society. 

You can’t join E Clampus Vitus, you must be invited in. And you only get asked once. So imagine how honored Walt and I felt when we were approached by the brotherhood to become part of this esteemed organization. As Walt pointed out to me, “One: They love history. Two: They love beer. And Three: They’re crazy bastards. How can we say no?” We didn’t, and we were brought in. 

Sadly, it wasn’t long after that that Walt got sick. But even as he went through chemo, radiation treatment, and later, his laryngectomy, he helped out from behind the scenes on various ECV projects, and was one of our most loyal brothers.

At this point I’d like to ask all Clampers in attendance today to stand. (They do) Gentlemen, hats off. Brother Walt has departed for the Golden Hills, and he will be missed. But we will raise our glasses, look back at the time he spent with us, and salute his kind words, his good deeds, and most of all his camaraderie and friendship. As we remember him in our thoughts, I ask of you; WHAT SAYETH THE BRETHREN?

(They respond: SATISFACTORY!)

And so recorded.

Henry Aronson

 I have long believed that there is no greater gift than the opportunity to enlist such talents as we have in the service of the things in which we passionately believe.  

For most of us such opportunities are rare. 

For Walt they were a way of life. 

In rereading Walt’s 1995 memoir -- Rites of Passage -- I was struck by his description of four overarching traits instilled in him by his parents -- traits I believe shaped Walt’s lifetime of civic activism. 

  • A fierce individualism
  • A passion for justice
  • Faith in rationalism, and
  • A historical optimism which refuses to surrender to objective reality.

Walt’s connection with Seattle began as a 14 year old boy in 1961 -- a connection which grew to a passionate love affair, marked by an unrelenting, unvarying, lifetime of service to the civic life of Seattle.

He got an early start.  The newly arrived 9th grader, as recalled by Walt in Rites of Passage

“... walked into the lunch room to discover a full scale food fight in progress. * * * shocked, I marched directly into the administration office to alert officials to this obvious collapse in social discipline.  The vice-principal listened to my appeal for action and then replied, ‘you’re going to be a little troublemaker, aren’t you?’” 

Four decades later, Walt observed in a 2001 Seattle times column:   

"As a Seattle resident for the past four decades and a serious student of its history for over the past dozen years, what impresses me most about this town is not its vaunted civility (we never were all that nice, actually), but its gritty and resourceful resilience. We don't give up easily, and we know how to think our way out of trouble."

 A quick overview of some of the ways Walt participated in thinking our way out of trouble: 

 

  • Participant in civil rights and anti-war campaigns -- Vietnam and Iraq 
  • Cartoonist, writer and editor of the Helix 
  • Founding director of the U district center which provided emergency housing for over 3,000 transient youth and spearheaded efforts to legalize hitchhiking 
  • Architect of Seattle’s 1975, 1976, and 1977 successful applications for more than $25 million in federal community development block grants 
  • Deputy Director of city Office of Policy Planning & chief citizen participation expert 
  • Weekly commentator on KPLU; staff writer and columnist for the Seattle Weekly; and, for seven years, John Carlson’s partner on KIRO’s biweekly “Point-Counter-point” 
  • Municipal League policy director 
  • Leader of the successful campaign to save Blue Moon from demolition 
  • Chair of Mayor Rice’s task force on historic downtown theaters, resulting in preservation of Paramount, Moore and Eagles theatres 
  • President of Allied Arts 
  • Lead speech writer for Governor Mike Lowry in 1993-94 
  • Member of Washington State Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board, and, the first Vice President of -- alas -- the Seattle Monorail Project 
  • And the jewel in the crown -- the creator of historylink.org -- which Dorothy Mann will describe shortly.

  And the books – 12 in all ranging from the history of the Blue Moon tavern to the history of the Rainier Club – talk about bandwidth! 

Walt paraphrased, with approval, urbanist Jane Jacobs's observation about the sources of urban energy:  “in the early 1960’s, she dismissed the utopian landscape of the ‘garden city’ as a sterile monoculture.  The energy of great cities, she argued, flows instead from spontaneous, opportunistic and multicultural human interactions and collective improvisations.”  

My best guess is that virtually every person in this room met Walt through one of his lifetime of spontaneous, opportunistic and multicultural human interactions and collective improvisations -- taken together, a lifetime of acts which have set the benchmark for civic activism.

Thank you Walt.

Dorothy H. Mann, Ph.D.

I don’t remember when I first met Walt and Marie.   I’ve tried to reconstruct that time line in the days since September 21.  Obviously, I wasn’t living in  Seattle back in the days of the local student  protest movement. I believe it was in his Allied Arts days.  But no matter.   I do  know clearly how honored I was when Walt invited me to join the HistoryLink Board;  and I do know that it was immediately clear that he was passionate about the potential of HistoryLink to be the democratic gateway  to accurate and comprehensive  information about  Washington history.  Most of all, I think that I and the other Board members learned how strongly Walt felt about the role of history in the way we faced contemporary public policy challenges and issues --  whether collaborating with public or nonprofit agencies, providing analyses of current day protests or public policy proposals,  commentary on local and state elections, or other  civic pursuits, Walt had a  unique way of  placing contemporary issues in a historical context.  It was not just history for the sake of history -- as noble as that may be. It was learning from the past; it was history as prologue.

We knew by Walt’s hands on approach to preparing materials for HistoryLink Board meetings or the details he provided during the meetings that this organization represented everything he had worked for  up to this point in his life.  He held himself, the staff, and the Board to a high standard.  He loved telling us the number of hits on the website each month especially when the number of hits grew to  four million per month.  He was equally happy when he shared with us a new essay or other new product or a letter from a teacher or from students telling him how access to HistoryLink made the difference in their teaching or learning experience.  Or when there was a contract  for a history writing project from one of the State’s venerable institutions.  Or when we made contact with a part of the State that was new to HistoryLink.  And, of course, when a new book rolled off the press.

He’d come into the meetings with copies for each of us. It was his intention, it seemed to me, to leave no one and nothing out of  legitimate stories about people, events and institutions  in this State that he so dearly loved.  An example: in an email to the Board on September 14, Walt wrote  “the press of getting ready for my surgery next Wednesday and finishing Children’s Hospital (the book), will prevent us from meeting on September 17, which he noted “happens to be Constitution Day.” Adding, “enjoy it while you can.” 

What about HistoryLink in a post-Walt Crowley world? I can say that the Board absolutely pledges its commitment to continuing Walt’s work.  Working with dedicated HistoryLink staff, we intend to use our energies to faithfully tell the HistoryLink story and to have the organization not just survive but thrive. So, yes, the strategic planning process will continue; board development will still be a priority.   We have Walt’s “just in case” advice that Marie has shared with us -- isn’t that just like him to answer our unasked questions? To leave nothing to chance?  Most importantly, we have to guide us the unfailing love, commitment, institutional memory, and leadership skills  of Marie, HistoryLink's  co-founder and  Walt’s life partner.  I suspect that she will give new meaning to the concept of  channeling spirits. 

Oh, and, Walt, you need to know that the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition  funds are in the Mayor’s 2008 budget.  I promise to keep an eye on the process. 

In addition to serving on the Board of HistoryLink, I had the special privilege of supporting Walt and Marie in the role of patient advocate during these last two years. Seeing Walt adjust to the reality of his cancer diagnosis was an incredible gift to me. I am the better for the experience.  Whenever we  talked about  his medical prognosis and after he shared his decision about next steps,  somewhere before the  conversation ended,  there was always the request to “take care of Marie.”   Walt quickly resumed his HistoryLink leadership role  following the first surgery. He helped facilitate several  strategic planning sessions at his home.  He chaired a Board meeting using his sketch board and a bit later with what he labeled his “Stephen Hawkins dildo” speaking appliance.  Some of us could understand him better than others; he was not deterred and he was patient with us.  We all thought that he looked quite dashing in his new ascot neckwear.  

Finally, who among us who attended the party at Walt and Marie’s home the night before the first surgery, will ever forget it? Who could not feel the love that filled the house? Friends from across Walt’s life were packed in -- HistoryLink colleagues, former fellow protesters, former Mayors, other current and former elected officials, the media, friends and supporters he had collected along the way. 

 We listened to recordings of his “famous last words” speeches -- in his “natural” voice with Walt reminding us  of the times and places when they took place.  He clearly enjoyed reflecting on those earlier times. 

Late in the evening he thanked us all for being there -- some by name; others by group association.  He worried out loud about leaving someone out.  And there was not a dry eye in the house when in response to a question about what would  be his last words in his “natural” voice. Walt quickly answered   “oh yes, I know what my last words will be in my natural voice and my first words in my new voice: “I love you, Marie.” 

Walt, the HistoryLink Board doesn’t  believe for a moment that we can replace your energy, your vision or aspirations for HistoryLink We do  pledge to honor your legacy by working to assure  HistoryLink's future for the people of your beloved State of Washington.  With my board colleagues, I thank you for letting us share your dream and your journey.   In our natural voices we say: We love you, Walt.

 

Eulogy by Hubert Locke

 

We are tempted to term this occasion a celebration of the life of Walt Crowley and yet the idea of “celebration” does not quite seem appropriate, for Walt’s passing came at far too early an age and his last few years were not physically kind to him. But celebrating life is exactly what Walt knew how to do! Walt celebrated every moment he had during the last two years; one of the remarkable – no, one of the almost incredible - things is that at the most critical moment in Walt’s illness, Walt and Marie threw a party!

All of us remember especially the Last Words gathering when Walt had been told he would have to undergo a laryngectomy. Only Marie knows what private tears the two of them may have shed but we who are privileged to be numbered among their many friends found ourselves invited to troop, as we have done so many times, to the Crowley’s home where – as was always the case at a Crowley party - the crowd was so thick that the prospect of circulating around was an idea you abandoned immediately after you got through the front door.

And you who were there will remember that Walt absolutely refused to let anyone become somber or morose that evening. He faced his surgery the following day in the same, stoic manner that he faced his entire illness – as one of those unexpected, unwanted, troublesome events that can happen in a person’s life and that has to be confronted and, if possible, overcome.

Walt was not able to overcome so immense and severe a sickness as that which befell him. But he left us a wonderful legacy about which you have heard in the tributes made to him this afternoon. To those tributes, I have only a brief word to add --  not so much a word but a query and one that has baffled and bemused me whenever I’ve thought about Walt Crowley.  For although he became an historian -- a skillful documenter of this city’s and region’s past and a chronicler of some of its most notable institutions, he certainly didn’t start out that way!  When one learns of Walt’s past, in fact, historian is the last thing one might have expected Walt to become.

Yesterday’s New York Times carries a review of the late Arthur Schlesinger, Jr’s recently published Journals. In his journals, Schlesinger penned a note about a meeting of student radicals in which he was present -- the kind of meeting that Walt Crowley would have been quite at home in and might have even convened. Schlesinger recorded his “suspicion that 20 years from now most of the people in the room will be quiet insurance brokers or real estate men.” Walt didn’t end up in either of those august careers but who would have guessed that this antiwar, civil rights activist,  this denizen of the University District, this irascible radical of the 60s and 70s -- who would have guessed that he would become the probing, persistent  passionate archivist of our city’s past?

I even put the question to Marie who has already shared with us one of Walt’s memorable comments about his work. But I must also let you in on a secret; when I asked Marie if she had any clue as to how or why Walt became an historian, she immediately and forcefully answered “Yes” but then, after a brief pause, she said “kinda.” But as she thought about it, she remembered Walt’s penchant for documenting everything he did or saw around him; apparently, he kept a record of everything, even when he was a kid. And Marie recalled his extraordinary ability to remember names and dates and how important he felt it was to know what had happened before the present, so as to build on the better moments of our past, so that we can try to avoid repeating past mistakes.

Marie is convinced that had Walt passed a decade earlier, a much different memorial would have been held than that in which we participate today. Marie believes Walt found, not only his vocation, but also himself over the past 10 years when he turned with such energy and zeal to the work we know as HistoryLink. Walt learned and displayed that unique skill that the historian E.H. Carr calls “the dialogue between present and past. To enable [us] to understand the society of the past and to increase [our] mastery over the society of the present, [this] is the dual function of history,” says Carr and I think that was what Walt was about.  

I think also Walt grasped what Bertrand Russell, the renowned philosopher/mathematician discovered and wrote about in a little essay he penned on How to Read and Understand History. Russell says:   

We live in the present and in the present we must act, but life is not all action, and action is best when it proceeds from a wide survey in which the present loses the sharpness of its emotional insistence. [People] are born and die; some leave hardly a trace, others transmit something of good or evil to future ages. The [person] whose thoughts and feelings are enlarged by history will wish to be a transmitter, and to transmit, so far as may be, what his successors will judge to have been good.

Walt leaves for us such a legacy, although he penned for himself something far simpler. Walt wrote his last instructions in a note to Marie on September 18, three days before his death. In it, he specified “ a plaque to be installed at Lakeview Cemetery near the Maynards, if possible” and inscribed with the following:  

Walt Crowley   1947-2007

Husband of Marie McCaffery

Co-founder of HistoryLink

Citizen of Seattle

No  more need be said!

You are invited to a reception. You will also find, in the lobby, a video camera arranged through the courtesy of Paul Dorpat, one of Walt’s HistoryLink colleagues, where if you wish you may record your own personal tribute to Walt. Thank you for coming this afternoon.


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