Remembering the people who left a mark on Washington | KUOW News and Information

Remembering the people who left a mark on Washington

Dec 27, 2017

Before moving forward to 2018, let's remember those we lost this year. Here are nine people who left a mark on the Puget Sound region. 

Alex Tizon

The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist was skilled in telling other people’s stories as a reporter for the Seattle Times and the Los Angeles Times. In the end, it was his own story that drew praise and criticism.

In “My Family’s Slave” Tizon wrote how a woman named Lola raised him and his siblings without pay. Tizon was about 11 years old when he realized that Lola was their slave.

Melissa Tizon, Alex’s widow, told KUOW he wrestled with that fact. He expected criticism from the story and was looking forward to having a conversation about it.

But Tizon died March 23, two months before the article was published in The Atlantic. He died of natural causes at his home in Eugene, Oregon.     

Jon Rowley

If you’re a fan of Copper River salmon, Olympia oysters or Walla Walla onions — all foods that are quintessentially Northwest — you can thank Jon Rowley.

Rowley was a food consultant, but he was also much more than that. He was an evangelist for Northwest food, and he's often credited with turning Seattle into a destination for foodies.

“He was a bon vivant,” recalls KUOW’s Marcie Sillman. She met Rowley about 20 years ago when she co-hosted Weekday.

Rowley came to the studio with a box of sweet peaches, she said. And he also brought a gadget that measured the fruit’s sugar level.

Rowley loved food, and he loved to hype it up, said Sillman. He taught locals to appreciate the bounty in our own backyard. And in the process, he changed Seattle’s food scene.

Rowley died on October 4 from kidney failure.

In this July 29, 2015 file photo, Chris Cornell poses for a portrait to promote his latest album, ‘Higher Truth,’ during a music video shoot in Agoura Hills, Calif.
Credit Photo by Casey Curry/Invision/AP, File

Chris Cornell

He had a big voice, a big personality and a big presence. Chris Cornell, lead singer of Soundgarden, was a giant in grunge music. The genre, born in the late 1980’s, was also referred to as “the Seattle sound.”

Soundgarden was the first grunge group to sign with a major record label in the early 1990’s, and the band's local roots run deep. The name "Soundgarden" came from a musical sculpture park overlooking Lake Washington.

Rolling Stone wrote that Cornell will be remembered for his “soaring, feral wail.”  The magazine also praised his songwriting style as “effortless transitions between menacing metal and reflective folk, with detours into sleek electro-pop and epic soundtrack fare.”

Cornell suffered from depression and had battled substance abuse. At the time of his death on May 17, Cornell was mid-tour with Soundgarden in Detroit. The county coroner ruled the death a suicide.

Mourners release doves at the burial of Charleena Lyles on Monday, July 10, 2017, at Hillcrest Cemetery in Kent, Washington.
Credit KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Charleena Lyles

She was unknown to the public until Seattle police fatally shot her on June 18. Now, the death of Charleena Lyles is highlighting questions about police use of force and racial bias.

Lyles called the police to report a burglary in her apartment. Responding officers said she was threatening to stab them with a knife.

Lyles, who was African American, struggled with mental illness —  and the officers were aware of that. The autopsy showed that Lyles was shot seven times. One of the bullets struck her uterus, killing her four month-old fetus.

A November report from a police review board  found that officers acted appropriately by firing their weapons. But family members filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the officers who shot Lyles.  An inquest into the shooting is scheduled for April 16, 2018.

Oregon Shakespeare Festival actor G. Valmont Thomas poses June 4, 1999, in Ashland, as he prepares to rehearse his role as Mistress Quickly in the play ‘Henry IV Part Two.’
Credit AP Photo/Jeff Barnard

G. Valmont Thomas

G. Valmont Thomas was the kind of actor who seemed to touch everyone who watched him perform. And over the years, Northwest audiences had plenty of opportunities to watch.

There was his 1986 turn as Dr. Frank N. Furter in the Empty Space Theatre production of “Rocky Horror Show" and dozens of roles at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF). And there was a truly scary Jacob Marley in ACT’s production of “A Christmas Carol,” among many other roles.

Thomas continued to perform after a prostate cancer diagnosis almost a decade ago. This year at OSF, Thomas played the character Falstaff in Shakespeare’s "Henry IV," parts 1 and 2, as well as in “The Merry Wives of Windsor —  an acting trifecta.

In early July, Thomas was no longer able to perform. He passed away in Ashland, Oregon, on December 18. OSF has dedicated its 2018 season to Thomas.

In this April 24, 2003, file photo, Jeff Brotman, Chairman of Costco Wholesale Corporation, speaks during a news conference at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Credit AP Photo/Ralph Radford, File

Jeff Brotman

Co-founder of Costco Jeff Brotman changed big-box retailing and grew his company into a global giant, with hundreds of warehouses worldwide. Brotman helped Costco carve out a reputation as a no-frills, anti-Walmart retailer that compensates employees well.

Brotman was also known for his philanthropy. He and his wife Susan were major donors to arts organizations, universities and medicine. After his death, the Brotman family —  along with friends Pam and Dan Baty — gave $50 million to the University of Washington to create the Brotman Baty Institute for Precision Medicine.   

He died on August 1 at his home in Medina.

Former congressman and Washington State governor Mike Lowry attending Bob Ferguson's 4th Annual Shrimp Feed (a tradition Ferguson took over from Lowry), Northgate Community Center, Seattle, Washington in 2009.
Credit Wikipedia Photo/Joe Mabel (CC BY SA 3.0)/

Mike Lowry

Before there was Obamacare, Washington state had a health insurance system that offered affordable premiums for low to mid-income residents. That was one of Mike Lowry’s accomplishments as Governor in the 1990s.

The Democrat from Renton was spent nearly two decades holding public office.

As a U.S. congressman, Lowry proposed legislation to provide restitution to more than 110,000 Japanese Americans who were interned during WWII. The bill failed, but the idea didn’t die. Nearly a decade after Lowry's proposal, Congress passed the Japanese American Redress Bill of 1988.

Lowry was a one-term governor who decided not to seek re-election after his press secretary accused him of sexual harassment. Lowry denied any wrongdoing but agreed to an $97,500 out-of-court settlement. 

Lowry died on May 1 from complications of a stroke.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee listens to questions during a news conference at City Hall Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017, in San Francisco.
Credit AP Photo/Eric Risberg

Ed Lee

San Francisco’s first Asian American mayor was born in Seattle. Lee was a second-generation Chinese American who grew up in public housing on Beacon Hill. He went to Franklin High School and was a year behind former Washington Governor Gary Locke, who later became his mentor.  Lee was the first in his family to attend college. 

In San Francisco, Lee made his mark as a civil rights lawyer. As mayor, he continued to advocate for minority communities and disenfranchised people. He maintained ties to his hometown and was the first mayor to congratulate Jenny Durkan following her election victory.

Lee died on December 12 after suffering a heart attack. He was 65 years old. 

Oscar Eason, Jr.

Oscar Eason Jr. was a mechanical engineer who became a local civil rights leader. His career was just starting around the time when the civil rights movement was heating up.

Eason moved to Seattle from San Antonio, Texas, in 1958 to work for Boeing. In 1962, he applied to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle District, even though he was told he wouldn’t get the job.

His hiring wasn’t entirely welcomed. He encountered racial slurs and insults.

That experience, along with living in a segregated community during his youth, led Eason to become involved in organizations for social change. Among them was Blacks In Government (BIG), which provided support for African American professionals working in the public sector.

For decades, Easton was active in the NAACP, serving as president of the Seattle-King County chapter from 1999 to 2002. He also served as chair of the Washington State Commission on African American Affairs. 

Eason passed away on December 18.