Dudley Lapham

Dudley Lapham

Dudley “Six” Lapham passed away on Dec. 12, 2014, three months shy of his 94th birthday.

He was born in Stockett, Mont., on March 13, 1921, to Pearl Beatrice Mann and Ray Lloyd Lapham, both of whom taught in the local schools.

Before his first birthday the family moved to the wilds of Eastern Oregon, where his dad Ray earned a Master’s degree from the University of Oregon and ran a school district in Crane.

One stormy January night, four- year-old Dudley was “hauled out of my warm bunk…and deposited on the front passenger seat of the Model T. – a crinkled black, high-haunched, isinglass curtain[ed], hand cranked, running boarded, huge headlighted, stuttering, shuddering, quintessentially beautiful darling.”

His mother was deposited into the back seat, well wrapped up. Dudley helped with the inside mechanisms, while Ray turned the outside crank to start the beast and off they went. At some point during the journey the headlights gave out and a flashlight was rigged to the front of the car. They made it over the thirty mile stretch to Burns where the nearest doctor lived, just in time for Dudley’s little sister, Rosemary, to be born.

The Depression years did not prevent kids from having a happy childhood, although Rosemary (Rosie) remembers her big brother taking odd jobs to help fill the family coffers. The family moved to Walla Walla in 1928, where their dad was an English professor at Whitman and Dudley attended Green Park Grade School, taking courses such as physiology, civics and geometry.

He was the go-to boy for the telegraph office in town, delivering telegrams to the penitentiary on his bicycle, delivering the Seattle PI, mowing lawns and picking berries. Huckleberries were his favorite.

He and Rosie spent the rest of their adolescent years in Oregon. Dudley attended high school in Eugene, then Portland, and then onto Reed College in 1939. At that time, Reed’s tuition was $250/year, which he was able to pay with his paper route and campus odd jobs.

At Reed he acquired his nickname by wearing a football jersey with a big yellow 6 on it which he earned as a high school quarterback. The name stuck for the rest of his life.

His college career at Reed was interrupted, along with countless other students’, by the attack on Pearl Harbor. He joined the U.S. Army, achieving the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. During the war he married fellow Reed College student, Constance (Connie) Sumner. After his honorable discharge, he and Connie moved to California where he earned a bachelor of arts in political science from Pomona College on the GI Bill and began his 42 year career in city administration.

At a time when California was undergoing rapid development and building new cities, Six worked for the cities of Alhambra, Long Beach, La Mesa, Garden Grove and Seaside, near Monterey.

He remembered attending the ribbon-cutting for the planned city of Irvine. Each city he worked for was the better for his management. Connie helped by volunteering on library boards and city planning commissions. Additionally, he taught political administration at local community colleges. In addition to their civic duties, Six and Connie managed to raise a couple of kids. According to Six he made sure they all became “card carrying greenies,” taking the family camping every summer to his beloved Northwest woods.

After his retirement from city government, he worked part time as a consultant, as a volunteer docent at the newly established Monterey Bay Aquarium and as the director of a federally funded program to clean up Monterey Bay.

He helped implement a wastewater program to irrigate the artichoke fields in Castroville, Calif., one of the first projects of this kind in the world.

Connie and Six moved back to the Northwest in the early 1990s. They lived in Friday Harbor, Marysville and Stanwood, and despite Connie’s need for nursing home care, they spent each day together continuing their lifelong loving banter. They both loved to write. Six helped Connie continue gardening articles for the Monterey Bay Herald after she could no longer complete them herself.

Six moved to Lopez Island to live with daughter Rosie in 2000 and lost his beloved Connie in 2001 after 58 years of marriage.

He returned to the mainland where he found loving companionship with his friend Joy Price. They lived together until health conditions caused them to part and Six moved back to Lopez to reside at the newly established adult family home, Hamlet House, in 2009. He regularly attended Creaky Yoga classes and started a memoir writers’ group that continues to honor his memory. Six made many friends on Lopez. According to Diana Bower, he had a way of welcoming you with a look in his eye that included you in the great humor of being alive.

His daily outing, using a walker, inspired the Lopez Trails Network to build a trail between Hamlet House and the clinic. Six and daughter Rosie made a habit of enjoying Sunday afternoons at Odlin Park, keeping an eye on the sandy kids on the beach and the boats going by.

Six leaves behind a legacy of goodwill, a deep love, respect and protective attitude for the great outdoors and a sense of cheerful determined resiliency. He admitted that the hardest job he ever tackled was that of growing old and becoming more dependent upon the help of others. He knew he was lucky to tackle this on Lopez Island, surrounded by people who loved and appreciated him so well.

He is survived, and very much missed, by his sister Rosemary, of Lake Oswego, Ore., his daughter Roseamber, granddaughter Madrona and grandson Kiba, all of Lopez Island, his son Roger, of Dalian, China, his grandson Babylon (Andy) and his great granddaughter Hattie, of Coshocton, Ohio.

Six was particularly fond of Walt Kelly’s Pogo, and we remember him with this quote, given to him on a birthday card from cherished friend Molly Fromm: “Don’t take Life So Serious, Son. It Ain’t Nohow Permanent.”