David William Anderson passed away on Dec. 2, 2017, in Bellingham at the age of 70. Since 2011, due to complications from multiple sclerosis, he had been hospitalized and a resident of nursing homes many, many times, but had always bounced back. He struggled valiantly and bravely to recover and return to his family. He passed away with his family at his side.
David was born September 17, 1947, in Ontario, Oregon. His parents were Bill and Joan Anderson. Summers were often spent with his sister, Susan, at their grandparents’ home in Idaho. After graduating from Mt. Vernon High School in 1965, he attended Skagit Valley College for two years and went on to Central Washington State College, where he received his teaching degree. On the last day of school, he met his future wife, Karen Bliven.
He could have followed in his father’s footsteps and worked at Anderson Tire Service in Mt. Vernon, but his true calling was to work with children. He taught in the Highline School District and in July of 1971, he and Karen were married. The call of the wild took them across the state to Cusick, Washington – hauling a small travel trailer to 50 acres of land where they settled in with their “children” – four dogs and four cats. Supplies in winter had to be hauled in by sled, there was no electricity or water, and hunters and bears were close by – life was simple yet challenging.
David took a class on log cabin building but quit when the instructor admitted he had never built one. He and a friend built two log cabins. David and Karen’s first child, Kyle Russell, was born on August 30, 1975.
After two years in Cusick, the family moved to Gifford, Washington where David, as principal and superintendent, taught 44 children – grades K through 8 – in a one-room schoolhouse. Their daughter, Stefanie Maye, was almost delivered in the car on Feb. 22, 1977, because David (the frontiersman) did not see the need for chains even in the dead of winter.
Restless for a change once again, it was on to Lopez in 1977 as an elementary teacher and basketball coach. They bought 10 acres of land and an old tractor and built log cabin No. 2 with logs from the land. Always thinking of his kids, he brought home a pony and a ferret to add to the menagerie of cats, dogs, chickens, ducks, and goats. He wanted to make a difference in young peoples’ lives, so he earned his counseling degree at Eastern.
During his career on Lopez David coached Little League, basketball, and soccer, all while teaching and counseling. He was involved with Special Friends, Natural Helpers, Knowledge Bowl, Student Council (as advisor) and served as Athletic Director. He was a peer support volunteer for newly diagnosed MS patients.
He served the Lopez community he loved so much as firefighter, training officer, EMT, fire commissioner, Lopez Center board member, and member of the Citizens Accountability Board. His love of adventure also led him to apply for the Teacher in Space program.
In 2001, David was accepted for a Teacher Exchange to Australia, exchanging jobs, houses, cars and pets for one year. He used his hands-on talent and compassion for students to help with academics as well as personal problems. He loved the people, the country, the wildlife, the scenery, and the adventure of it all.
Returning to Lopez, he taught part-time and then retired. He was diagnosed with MS in the late 80’s and without the debilitating effects of the disease, he would have worked for many more years. He had great courage in the face of worsening symptoms and rarely complained. He fought hard and struggled on as the disease progressed. He continued with his love of woodworking in his very own brand-new shop.
David was involved in a book club and was a poker player for years. He pitched for the Lopez Sockeyes softball team and was a reef-net fisherman. He loved Jeopardy and crossword puzzles and had a late onset desire for various tattoos. Always willing to try something new, he wanted a 3-wheel motorcycle and a Saluki. Family adventures included Australia again, a cruise to Alaska and a family trip to Hawaii.
In 2010 his health took a turn for the worse and he and Karen had to become part-time Lopezians, returning to his beloved Lopez as often as possible. He thrived with therapy, made friends, and was generous with his gentle smiles, kindness, and jokes. He loved his Lopez home and friends and missed his students. He was looking forward to a family trip to Mexico and the marriage of his son. He delighted in watching his three grandsons grow – Joshua, Benjamin and Nicholas – and attended many of their games. He and Karen were blessed to have Stefanie, Adam, and the boys in Bellingham and were happy that Kyle and his fiancée, Jina, were able to visit.
David was preceded in death by his parents Joan and Bill, and his in-laws Curt and Betty Bliven. He is survived by his wife Karen, son Kyle (Jina), daughter Stefanie (Adam), grandchildren Joshua, Benjamin and Nicholas and his sister Susan (Steve).
We have lost a remarkable spirit and a devoted husband, father, and grandfather. His life was spent doing what he loved most – honoring his family and helping others. His legacy will live on in the hearts and souls of all those whose lives he touched. We must hold tightly to the love that has blessed our lives. “They lived and laughed and loved and left” (James Joyce). The world will never be the same. He lives forever in our hearts.
A celebration of David’s life will be held on Lopez later this spring at a date to be announced. To share your memories of David, and to watch his memorial video, please visit molesfarewelltributes.com.