I love juxtapositions and reciprocity and capillaries of connections. I like to look for patterns and order and the weave, web and wiring between people and events. Relationships, correlations and networking connect the people, places and things in our lives.
If you’re a Seattleite, you may know Walt Crowley, founder of HistoryLink.org, a journalist, a social services director, a policy planner for the City of Seattle and the Municipal League of King County, a television news commentator, a freelance writer, communications consultant and networker extraordinaire.
In a sad twist of fate, this former radio and television commentator, lobbyist and public speaker was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer on July 15, 2005. He began treatment at Group Health Cooperative in August, but chemo and radiation therapy ultimately failed to kill the disease, necessitating removal of his larynx on February 9, 2007. Luckily, word is he did well and is now in recovery. He’s not seeing guests quite yet (not even recent visitor Mayor Greg Nickels), but he’s making good progress. Slowly, he will learn to use one of those hand-held voiceboxes and will communicate with his multi-layered network of friends, political cronies, writers, artists and other assorted ne’er’-do-well’s in that way.
In the weeks before he went in for the surgery, he recorded his words so his wife, friends, family and, more importantly, he himself, would not forget how his own voice sounded.
In a degree of bravery I have rarely witnessed, the evening before his surgery he invited some of the friends, cohorts, sidekicks, well-wishers, patrons, advocates, supporters, politicians, ex-hippies and rabble-rousers he’s known, to come by one last time to hear him speak and for a going-away party for his voicebox.
There were several past mayors in attendance, including former Seattle Mayors Wes Uhlman and Norm Rice. Here is a photo of Walt, ex-Mayor Norm Rice and current City Councilmember Jean Godden.
There were also many City Council members there, including President Nick Licata, Peter Steinbrueck and ex-Port of Seattle Commissioner Henry Aronson.
The place was packed. Writers such as Paul Dorpat. Artists such as David Kane (having his own battle with Hugo). Other writers like Milo Johnstone (The Magic Decade) and singer/songwriter Danny O’Keefe.
Walt is also the author of several historical tomes about Seattle University, my alma mater. He wrote “William J. Sullivan, S.J” , a celebration of Seattle University’s renaissance during 20 years under its 20th president and “Seattle University, A Century of Jesuit Education”.
Also in attendance was Ken Bunting, associate publisher of the PI, Tracy Rowland, Maura Donahue, Kurt Geissell, owner of our favorite brunch spot, Cafe Racer, and Quintard Taylor, Dr. Hubert Locke, Professor of Public Affairs, Dean Emeritus, and Marguerite Corbally Professor of Public Service and author of Learning from History: A Black Christian’s Perspective on the Holocaust and Searching for God in Godforsaken Times and Places: Reflections on the Holocaust, Racism, and Death
Walt used to have a show on KIRO-TV called “Point/CounterPoint” with John Carlson, who is still a talk show host on conservative talk-radio, KVI. The show consisted of exchanges between the conservative organizer John and left-wing writer Walt. The mini-debates aired two or three times a week and covered a wide range of political and social topics.
John stopped by for one last verbal spar with Walt, the night before the surgery.
One of Walt’s great successes was the founding of History Link, a fabulous State of Washington history website, with over 100,000 visitors a day.
So what does any of this have to do with real estate?
The seed money for HistoryLink.org came from a $100,000.00 grant from Paul Allen, owner of Vulcan Real Estate, the builder of 1000’s of condo’s in the Seattle area and also owner of Vulcan Capital, the main funder of Redfin.
Also, the Seattle-King County Association of Realtors created the First Citizen’s Award in 1939 to honor outstanding community and civic leaders who’ve made a contribution to improve the region where we live. (The Gates Family were recipients in 1995, Jeff Brotman, founder of Costco in 2005, the McCaw’s in 2004. Dale Chihuly was a recipient in 2006. (Read “Glass Artist = Realtor?”).
The Association of Realtors created a relationship with Walt’s organization, HistoryLink.org, to memorialize the 1st Citizen Award event and most importantly, the contributions of the past recipients. Walt helped write the biographies to provide a new, authoritative, and easily accessible historical reference. HistoryLink.org created 1,500 word biographies for each past recipient.
This past week, Crowley took his voice on a farewell tour, appearing on public radio and local TV news stations:
Cancer claims radio host’s voice on NPR
Historian’s voice still fighting to be heard
NPR (KUOW) radio interview with Walt Crowley
Seattle historian loses voice (KOMO-TV)
A voice of Seattle faces a challenge (Seattle Times)
To send get-well wishes and to check up on Walt’s progress, you can visit Driving Mr. Walt.