David Eugene Gordon
Sept. 26, 1939 – April 7, 2022
Dave was born September 26, 1939, on a ranch in Glendo, Wyoming. He died April 7, 2022, in his West Seattle home with hospice care after a hard-fought, six-year battle with cancer.
Dave's family moved to the Yakima Valley in Washington state when Dave was two years old and there he developed his life-long love for the outdoors, especially the rivers, birds and fish. He attended grade school at St. Paul's, and high school at St. Joseph Marquette for boys in Yakima, and graduated from Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA, with a degree in English.
While at Gonzaga he discovered his love of mountaineering, which remained with him for the rest of his life. The pursuit of the mountains was detained by the draft, which placed him in the military for two years as a reporter. After his discharge, he scaled Mt. Rainier 17 times and then moved on to McKinley in 1975, followed by major peaks in Ecuador and Peru. He climbed Lenin Peak in the Pamir Mountains in Tajikistan, and others around the world, including K2, and then set his sights on Mt. Everest, even though he was 55 years old and would be one of the oldest climbers to scale the mountain. Among the Sherpa there he was known in their language as “The Bear” for his hugs and his relentless strength while carrying a heavy pack up the mountain. Weather prevented him from making the summit, but he fulfilled his dream.
Over the years he worked a wide range of jobs, such as at a sawmill, for a stone carver, counselor for career and job training services, instructor for a diesel mechanic training program, and more. While he would throw himself into each job, it was also a means to an end – to earn money to go climb the next mountain. Why? As famously said by Mt. Everest climber George Mallory in 1924, whom Dave admired and whose grandson he climbed Mt. Everest with, “Because it’s there.”
The job that became his passion and that made a considerable and lasting impact on so many was teaching at Panorama High School, an alternative school in Colville, WA. As shared by one former student: “[Dave] once said to me, change is inevitable, growth is optional. I can hear [him] saying it with a chuckle…ending with an ‘Oh boy, kid,’ and a gentle tap and tug on my arm.” Anyone who knew Dave knows that squeeze on your arm. And how he made time and made all the difference for his students. And his giant laugh that crinkled up his whole face and made you smile right along with him.
Dave was a volunteer and board member for numerous organizations in northeastern Washington, including the Family Support Center, later called Victim Services, where he answered the phone at all hours, dedicated to being there in a meaningful way for people calling in distress. He even continued this work through the Colville office after he moved to Seattle.
Dave read prolifically and wrote his own book, Hangin’ With Jack. Throughout his life he explored his relationship with spirituality through the lenses of Catholicism and Zen Buddhism and would have thought-provoking conversations where he clearly knew a lot and was also always listening closely and learning. He was ordained as a lay Zen monk and spent time in retreats for up to two months at a monastery.
Dave was proceeded in death by his mother, Catherine Kohlman, and father, Donald Gordon, and brother, Leonard Gordon. He is survived by his wife of seven years, Jeanne O’Dea, of west Seattle, whom he first met in second grade.
A memorial service will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 26th in the gymnasium of Holy Rosary School, 4142 42nd Ave. SW, Seattle. Anyone wishing to attend remotely may do so on Zoom with Meeting ID: 869 5486 2990, Passcode: Dave.
Mass will be at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, April 27th in Holy Rosary Catholic Church, 4210 SW Genesee St., Seattle. Donations in Dave’s memory can be made to the Friends of the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge. Emmick Family Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements and memories of Dave can be shared on the tribute wall, located above.
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