Gregory Albert Ewert, beloved husband, father, friend, teacher extraordinaire, mentor, uncle, brother, photographer, juggler, outdoor adventurer, pilot, sailor, mountain climber, table tennis player and devoted community member died peacefully in his home on Lopez Island, Wash., minutes before midnight on Aug. 10. He was surrounded by the four people he loved most in the world: his wife, Nancy, and daughters, Emma, Lilly and Clara.
Greg’s life began February 11, 1949 in Lansing, Mich., where he grew up in a lively family of seven and learned early to explore the world that always so delighted him. In 1967 he left home to attend school at the University of Washington, beginning a never-ending love affair with the Pacific Northwest.
Greg majored in architecture at the UW and was able to work with photographers he admired. Eventually, he ended up with a teaching degree that navigated him to a passion that became his life’s work, always incorporating his skills in photography. Greg’s long teaching career began in 1977 in Seattle at The Little School, continued in Ambler, Alaska, and back to Seattle at Lakeside School. He was a founder of Coyote Central, a successful community-based learning program connecting middle school students with creative professionals, and he continued to be a passionate supporter of its work and values.
While in college, Greg took a kayak trip to the San Juan Islands and, ten years later, fulfilled his dream to purchase land on Lopez Island. He met Nancy in 1987 and, a year later, they married and moved full time to Lopez. Greg designed the home he and Nancy built together and raised their three children while Greg worked full time teaching, first on neighboring Shaw Island in a one-room schoolhouse. After two years there, he started teaching at the Lopez School. Over his years there, Greg taught fifth grade, developed and taught in the Alternative K-5 program in the Lopez Elementary School, and finally, Lopez Middle School. While he taught all subjects, he was especially appreciated for his ability to help all students succeed in math. In 2002, Greg and family went on a Fulbright teaching exchange to Exeter, England, where he taught at Stoke Canon school for a year, one full of delightful memories and lifelong friendships.
As a teacher, Greg believed the most important learning takes place outside of the four walls of the classroom and encouraged his students to discover and explore their interests. He saw the uniqueness in each student and led them to believe in themselves and to know that they could do whatever they wanted. A mentor and friend to many students without healthy adult role models, he was a passionate supporter of experiential education and exemplified its success.
A family man, Greg was fortunate to have been able to teach each of his daughters in the classroom. As a family, they had numerous adventures and Greg, with his “can do” attitude, was always ready for another. He led his daughters to delight in the outdoors through mountain hikes, boating and camping trips remaining undaunted in his love for yet another fun family adventure.
Greg was a dreamer and a visionary. He fulfilled many of his dreams but always had more. He had a passion for life that many would say was unequaled. His passion took him all over the U.S. and Canada in his youth and, in adulthood, from Alaska to Russia, Japan, England, and Europe as well as on multiple school outdoor trips and school service/learning trips to Nicaragua. He photographed and co-published an award winning book, “Kindred Spirits,” in 2001. He was most happy sleeping under the stars and only used a tent if he absolutely had to. He fulfilled his life-long dream of becoming a pilot in 2006 and loved every minute in the air.
Diagnosed in August 2010 with Glioblastoma brain tumor, Greg lived with his illness the same way he lived his life: with zest. He maintained his sense of humor, courage and optimism until the day he died. He deeply understood what real learning meant and continued to share this passion throughout his illness. He was noble and graceful as his body failed him. The world is a better place with Greg’s mark on it.
Greg is survived by his wife, Nancy; daughters Emma, Lilly and Clara; brother, David Ewert; sisters, Jane Ewert, Mary VanWylen and Cathy Benson; and nieces and nephews, Jessica, Sarah, Erika, Nick, Lauren, Jack and Christopher.
It was Greg’s wish that memorial contributions be made to the Lopez School Nicaragua Service Trip, 86 School Road, Lopez, WA, 98261.
Arrangements are in the care of Evans Funeral Chapel and Crematory, Inc., Anacortes, WA, and the San Juan Islands. To share memories of Greg, please sign the online guest register at www.evanschapel.com.