Monday, December 31, 2007

"Mind and Spirit" -> Friends That Are Gone

"Wild Bill" is the nickname that I gave him.

Wild Bill was a strong influence, and a good friend, if not a father figure to me.

And now he is no more, but my thoughts of him remain.

I remember he couldn't whistle with two fingers in his mouth, but he could make a bird call by cupping his hands. He used this to summon his daughters, when hiking, as they would say, "I got to to go, that sound is my Dad calling me."

I remember his family in a tizzy because he was considering not going into school due to being sick. I said, "sure, people get sick." His daughter said, "Not Dad, he hasn't missed a day of anything in 20 years." Everybody in the family was relieved when he figured out a way to make it into school.

I remember our 100 mile hikes, and him holding up his foot in by the night time campfire, and saying "not one blister," as my own feet were a blistered mess. He wore thick vibram sole boots that came up high. I wore Adidas flats.

I remember missing his turn off on a trail because of a sign that said that the water was out at a camp site. Assuming that Bill went ahead, I kept going with my friend from high school. When I didn't arrive, he and his daughter were forced to repack their gear to catch up with us on the trail. He was almost mad when he found us. He stated that the only reason he knew where we went was because "of your tennis shoes that leave the most distinctive tracks that I know of." Everybody else was in Vibram boots, and my track stood out like a road sign.

I remember walking into one camp site on one of our long hikes that was situated on a lake, and while Wild Bill was many years older than I was, he was always of good cheer and somehow could figure out how to enjoy the dried and packed food that we had.  I, on the other hand, could hardly stand the freeze dried food and top ramen noodles we were forced to eat.  This particular camp ground had a road into it, and there were several camper-trailers in the local area.  After being on the trail for multiple days, we must have looked beat down.  A woman came out of her trailer and said, "I was wondering if you would like to have theses."  She held out four slices of chocolate cake and two red tomatoes.  I was speechless as Wild Bill talked to the woman for a while and thanked her for the food. I still remember the taste of those tomatoes that were lightly salted and tasted like foods for the gods."

"The way you are eating that, I'm glad that I decided to take her up on her offer," he said with a grin.

I remember thinking that his youngest daughter was tough, and him saying, "that's nothing, you should see Ann, nothing bothers her." He loved hiking with his daughters. It meant everything to him. He would pull up short when he spotted the first flowering of the season, and almost cry with delight, "Look Gretchen, an Indian Paintbrush." If he had his camera, he would take a photo of it.

I remember his wife telling me, "Ann thinks she needs to get a job during the summer, but really, we'll pay for college. Her Dad would prefer it if she would just go hiking with him." She worked instead. I wish I had told her to hike. One of the few things that I that I change with a time machine. I would go back and tell his daughter to hike.

I remember the classical music station being on all the time at the Longwell's house. I mean all the time, even when they left the house. I guess he just thought classical music would scare away the burglars.

I remember his family showing me how holding up 3 fingers meant "I Love You," which I taught my own wife and children.

I remember dating his daughter, and breaking up with her.

While it was all by the Lord's design, the method of my breaking up was young and stupid. When you break up with a man's daughter, he can't have the same relationship with you. I know this as I see my own children grow. And he did love his daughters more than life itself.

The last words he ever said to me was, "It is better to loved and lost, then to never loved at all."

It was Tennyson, as you might expect from "Wild Bill."

And now he is gone. 3 weeks ago. And I only found out tonight.

And as I write this, Delirious's "Summer of Love," which also celebrates a death like this one, comes on the radio.

And much as I might imagine my own passing, there is a bit of heaven's yearning mixed with my profound sadness.

Goodnight, Wild Bill.

William K. Longwell, 71, was a true trailblazer

By Peyton Whitely

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

William K. Longwell

Thousands of hikers routinely use trails on Squak and Tiger mountains now, and one of the main reasons that's possible is because of William K. Longwell.

During the 1970s, Mr. Longwell surveyed, laid out and led the effort to build the 16-mile Tiger Mountain trail system, as well as numerous other trails in the Squak Mountain and Issaquah Alps areas.

He was dubbed "chief ranger" by Harvey Manning, one of the region's most renowned authors on hiking.

Along with Manning, Mr. Longwell was a founding member of the Issaquah Alps Trails Club. He also was a self-taught botanist and ornithologist.

"Going out on a hike with him was a real pleasure," said Joe Toynbee, who met Mr. Longwell in 1969 on a hike with the Mountaineers Club. "He knew all the birds."

Mr. Longwell wrote and published "Guide to Trails on Tiger Mountain," donating sales proceeds to the Issaquah Alps Trails Club.

Mr. Longwell died Nov. 28 at 71 of complications from a lung disease contracted about two years ago, said Toynbee. Mr. Longwell's wife, Mimi, was not available to comment.

"He could hike 25 miles one day and get up and do it again the next day," said Doug Simpson of the Issaquah Alps Trails Club, where Mr. Longwell was a board member for all but two years of the club's 28-year existence.

"He was certainly a major figure in hiking and trail development," said Simpson. "He was a wonderful guy. He did so much for so many people. He probably had more influence on Tiger Mountain than any single individual."

A statement prepared by Mr. Longwell's family quoted a passage from a book he wrote for his daughters:

"Each spring I follow the melting snows up favorite trails, constantly checking the warming process. It's the part of the year I long for, especially after the long winter. ... I try to hike in the high mountains at least 50 times a year. It's the high mountains I prize."

Mr. Longwell was born in Rock Island, Ill., on April 3, 1936, and moved to Renton with his family as a child. He graduated from Western Washington University with a bachelor's degree in history and continued his studies at the University of Washington.

He taught English and history for 30 years, first at McKnight Middle School and later at Hazen High School in Renton. He also served as the official scorer and statistician for the WIAA State High School Basketball Tournament for 25 years and was the editor for many years of the official printed program.

One of Mr. Longwell's many accomplishments was hiking more than 50,000 miles throughout Washington, Oregon and California, and he kept meticulous records, accounting for every mile, his family said.

His family noted that he was a Renaissance man, with a vast range of interests, including classical music, woodworking, model N-gauge trains, history and literature.

Mr. Longwell also held a strong faith and was a lifelong student of theology, having received early training at the Multnomah School of the Bible, where he graduated after three years and where he met his wife.

Besides his wife, Mr. Longwell is survived by daughters Ann Lockwood and her husband, Robert, and Gretchen Longwell and her husband, David Worth; two sisters, Ardythe Longwell and Tanya Salvino; a brother, Paul Longwell; and two grandchildren.

According to Simpson, no services were held at the family's request. The family suggests remembrances be sent to the Beacon in the City Fund for the First Presbyterian Church School, 20 Tacoma Ave. S., Tacoma, WA 98402, or the Harvey Manning Statue Fund for the Issaquah Alps Trails Club, c/o Douglas G. Simpson, Box 351, Issaquah, WA 98027.


Tanya said...

I just read your story about my brother Bill. I was so touched - it has been such a loss for all that knew him. You made my day - Bill and Mimi would have been celebrating their anniversary this week so he has been in my mind so strong and when I found your comments they brought tears and joy - thank you for sharing - I've passed them on to my brother Paul and my sister Ardy - and my kids. Yes the raised three fingers are a precious memory and how I see him as he went home to be with his Lord and Savior. Thank you so much for sharing. I'm think I know who you are and all I can say is thanks again

Diana's Family said...

I'm not sure why I went looking for Mr. Longwells name today. Mr. Longwell as I last knew him from high school. We didn't gel at the beginning of my freshman year, but by the end of the year he had become a great source of wisdom during some difficult times. I certainly wished I could have expressed his importance and impact on my life. Seeing that it is now almost one year since he passed all I will leave is my one comment that I'm sure he remembers me blurting out in class - "I hate slimy bottoms." to which Mr. Longwell responded, trying not to laugh. "Yes, don't we all." The context of this exchange escapes me at this time, but maybe - that's OK. Cheers Mr. L.

Theologic said...


I'm glad that you came, you looked, and you left something behind on this blog.

All the best of luck, and thanks for taking the time to post a memory.