My father, Howard W. West, died a few days ago. There will be a memorial service Wednesday, October 25, 2006, from 6-8PM at Solie Funeral Home, 3301 Colby Avenue, Everett, Washington.
Howard W. West Jr., was also known as “Bud” or “Howie” to his friends and family. Born April 20, 1937, to Faye Vaughn West and Howard West Sr., he was raised along the Washington and Oregon coast and islands, living in various lighthouses where his father worked as a member of the Coast Guard and Lightships. He loved telling tales of his childhood, one rarely experienced today, of fishing in a small wooden leaking boat in the San Juan Islands as the sea erupted with flashes of the black and white of dozens of killer whales swimming by. Or of the harbor so filled with migrating gray whales, you could walk across their backs to the other side. He remembered playing along the Columbia River before it was dammed, and living in a wild, woolly, and natural world, a tumbled and rough kid barefoot and dirty.
Following his father’s footsteps, he joined the Coast Guard after graduating from Queen Anne High School and Edison Technical Vocational School in downtown Seattle in 1954. Back injuries led to a medical discharge, but he continued his affiliation and pride of being a member of the US Coast Guard his entire life.
Howard was a person who made friends easily and was a good life long friend to so many. He died with one of his best friends, John Ryan, and his family, while camping in Eastern Washington near Leavenworth. The “hunting” trip with Ryan was an annual event. The two no longer hunted but instead, the two long time friends and heart attack suffers would visit and retell stories. And Ryan would walk miles of laps around the campground while Howard would sit at the picnic table, smoking, waving as his friend passed by.
His death was expected, after over thirty years of heart problems and complications, even surviving a couple bouts with cancer. He had been in failing health for a very long time, but that didn’t stop him from doing as much as he could.
For Christmas of 2001, against doctor’s advice, he surprised his daughter, Lorelle, and husband, Brent VanFossen, with a month long visit to Israel where they lived for many years. He ignored US government and friend’s warnings not to visit during the violent Intifada and terrorist threats and got on the plane for the very long flight. His first time overseas, he quickly learned a few words in Hebrew and figured out the money, and had a great time visiting with our Israeli and international friends, shopkeepers, and anyone he met on the street. Even though he couldn’t walk far without resting, he carried a little portable stool and did his best to explore Israel, including the Holocaust Museum, the Old City of Jerusalem, swam in the Dead Sea and Galilee, and throughly enjoyed all of the country and it’s treasures.
Howard and his daughter, Lorelle, traveled a year ago across country in his small motor home so Howard could “winter” in the warmth of Mobile, Alabama, temporary residence of Brent and Lorelle. Along the way through the southern United States, they stopped in on family and friends for a visit, including a wonderful visit with his mother’s sister, Vivian, and her husband, Bill Hinsely in Desert Hot Springs, California.
While in Alabama, he explored the ruins of Mississippi and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, seeing destruction beyond what he imagined and saw on television. He explored local museums and gardens, including getting a wheel chair push through the famous Bellingrath Gardens and their popular Christmas light show and exhibition. During his fourth month stay, he thoroughly enjoyed the Mardi Gras events, going to over a dozen parades and collecting up pounds and pounds of beads and stuffed animals which he distributed to friends and family back in Seattle.
Driving north back across the United States, Lorelle and Howard fulfilled life long dreams of exploring their family history and genealogy and were united with the descendants of the Farlin family, which married into the West family in the 1700s in Michigan. Together they explored old cemeteries, records, and museums to find traces of their family’s lineage, which goes back to the 1600s in the United States. He was proud to find out he was a Son of the American Revolution and that his ancestors fought in every war the United States and pre-state experienced.
A friend to all, few were closer to him in his last years than his Flapjack Restaurant family. A small historical breakfast and lunch restaurant in Marysville, Washington, ever morning found Howie there for his meal of the day served by owner and friend, Christine. He was a shoulder to lean on and tell stories to, and his friends loved all his crazy stories and tall tales, especially his bad jokes. He was a master of the groaner joke. He his honored and remembered there with many photographs and a coffee mug bearing his photograph, dressed up like Arafat.
Howard worked for Todd’s Shipyard and other shipyards and dry docks since 1961, leaving Todd’s in 1989 to work for a few years at Boeing. He worked for a short time as a real estate agent in Snohomish County, and house builder, and built a large home in Lake Stevens for his family. While he held an Associates Degree from Everett Community College, he decided to go back to get another degree at age 57, graduating in 1995 with another Associated Arts and Sciences Degree and a Degree in Real Estate from North Seattle Community College.
Howard West is survived by his daughter, Lorelle (and husband Brent VanFossen); son Loren West and grandchildren, Aaron Raymond and Lindsey Rae West; step-children David Chamberlain and wife, Charlotte, Cheryl Lanum and husband, Robert, and Janet Gaswint and husband, John, along with numerous step-grandchildren. He also leaves his sister, Rita June DesRochers and her children, Darrell DesRochers, Bruce DesRochers, Lorinda Mills, Rochelle DesRochers, Duke DesRochers, and Mike DesRochers, along with many grand-nieces and nephews. All live within Washington and Oregon, close to their family roots.
He is also survived by his first wife, Ramona Fletcher of Everett, Washington, and her husband, Robert, who continued to care and support him long after their divorce as father of their children, Lorelle and Loren. He is also survived by the mother of his step-children, Charlene Kluge, and her husband.
Howard was well known for his passion for animals. He is also survived by his cat, Squirt, a tiny ball of fuzzy energy that was his unconditional loving friend for the last few years, traveling and sleeping together constantly. She rarely left him out of her sight.
Please, send no flowers or cards. Instead, remember him well with a donations to your local PAWS or animal shelter in his name so the care of rescued and wild animals will continue.
Howard will be interned at Evergreen Cemetery in Everett, Washington, side-by-side with his grandfather, Walter West, and his great grandfather, Perry Saville West.
For those attending his memorial service Wednesday, October 25, 2006, from 6-8PM at Solie Funeral Home, 3301 Colby Avenue, Everett, Washington, we ask that you bring a favorite story about Howard to share with his friends and family. Let’s keep alive his love of corny jokes and unique sense of humor.