Another Reminder Of the Lucky Life I’ve Lived

I’m sure everyone could do this to a degree. Look back at your life, in sections–the growing up days, my high school days, my college days and so on. The sections keep coming and as you grow older, you compartmentalize certain stretches of your life such that when you open them up again after a while, you get a rush of dusty memories.

That happened this morning when I saw the news about the passing of KOMO News Anchor Bill Brubaker. He was part of the cool kids down the hall in TV when I first arrived at KOMO Radio in the early 1980s to be Larry Nelson’s producer.

Look at those guys. Brubaker, Ray Ramsey the weather guy and sports guru Bruce King. They were the stars of 1980 TV news.

And to think, I found my way into the KOMO Broadcasting family thanks to being a goofball.

While working at KMWX radio in Yakima one day, KOMO news anchor Bob Gillespie heard me do a bit on the air with the Job Lady. Oh, yeah, someone from Washington State Employment Security would be allowed to call up the station and record a 1-minute dry-as-toast read of a few job openings. One of the most boring things ever broadcast–on a daily basis!

That day when Bob was listening, I apparently introduced the Job Lady using the Tonight Show theme as if I was introducing Johnny Carson. It cracked him up. So when he returned to Seattle and heard that Larry Nelson was on the lookout for a producer, he gave him my name. Larry called with that deep booming voice, I agreed to come over for an interview even though I was weeks away from getting married, I accepted the job, got married, went on a honeymoon, came home, moved to Seattle and started working at KOMO, AM-1000. All in a period of about four weeks.

In the KOMO building, radio and TV were at opposite ends of the building, so you didn’t really see each other very much, except with the occasional all-company meetings or the annual company picnics at Vasa Park in Redmond.

As an employee of the radio side, I felt obligated to watch KOMO TV Evening News, back when people did that at the end of their work days. Those were the days of Ruth Walsh, Bob Throndsen, Harry Sloan and other names unfamiliar to today’s TV audiences. Some did double duty, like KOMO Radio’s Brian Johnson, who did a slow transition from radio to TV news. And, of course, the crazy Ray Ramsey, who added so much to KOMO Radio mornings after doing the 11 o’clock news on TV the night before. They had a special hookup at his house so all Ray had to do was crawl out of bed and in front of a microphone and magic would happen.

I’ve got to share at least one of those breaks. Here’s a fun little time capsule to enjoy. Remember, this was on ultra-conservative-Ray-Conniff-has-too-much-of-an-edge KOMO radio.

I’ll be forever grateful that I got to know Ray. We had a mutual appreciation of each other’s comedy skills.

KOMO Radio was a long-time player in Seattle radio history, going back to the days when all the big entertainers were on radio. Here’s a picture of me along with Rip Taylor, standing in front of that famous mural of all the great radio stars of the past. My office was directly behind this wall.

I was only at KOMO radio four and half years before heading across the lake to KLSY. But during those years, I got to know a lot of people that I stayed in touch with over the years. Gina Tuttle, Mike Hamilton, Bill Swartz, Keith Shipman and others, we all still stay in touch, even if it’s just a quick Facebook howdy.

In my years after leaving KOMO, some of those TV friends remained a presence in my life. For quite a few years at KLSY, our Apple Cup tradition was to have Steve Pool and Kathi Goertzen on the air to play our “Battle of the Sexes”, with Steve representing Huskies and Kathi, of course, the die-hard Coug. Those were a lot of fun.

I even got to take part in a Radio-versus-TV local production of the game show, “Family Feud”, with some of brothers and sisters in radio and some of my old KOMO-TV friends. Here’s one of the episodes, if you’d like to walk down memory lane.

Swartz later provided some impersonations for various bits we did over the years at KLSY, as our gardening expert Frisco (in Seattle, there’s a gardening TV personality whose name was Cisco Morris). I can’t resist sneaking in one of those breaks, where Bill imitated both Frisco and Mariners broadcast Ron Fairly.

Hear it here.

I really do have so many other stories to tell about those days. Special tales about some very extraordinary people I had the good fortune to meet during my crazy career. I think what amazes me the most about the KOMO stories is how much were condensed into my 4.5 years in the building. Then again, the connection never really went away.

Just a few of the stories that come to mind when I reflect on the KOMO section of my life.

Good times. Thank you.

Tim Hunter

 

The Tradition Continues

This past Saturday was Washington State’s “Opening Day” of fishing season.

Since meeting my wife back in 2007, this became a high holy weekend. Heading up to their family cabin on Opening Day Eve, getting up early on Saturday and then zipping down to Lake McMurray with my father-in-law, Ernie Templin, to catch our limit. We lost Ernie a couple of months ago and so this marked the first time I went down to that lake by myself. However, I’m pretty sure he was with me.

Some years, we borrowed a neighbor’s boat and would troll up and down that serene lake, hoping to catch a couple of rainbow trout, which we usually did. In later years, we lost access to the boat and with Ernie, it just seemed smarter to not go out on the water and fish from the dock.

Part of the annual tradition included a couple of hours of fishing and then coming back in where a “Fishermen’s Breakfast” awaited us in a giant gazebo. The menu included an egg casserole, some pancakes, hot coffee and a roaring fire and, to be honest, I think Ernie looked more forward to the breakfast than the fishing.

Ernie, back in his fishing days.

I came from a fishing family. (yes, the irony of being named Hunter has not been lost) Note, I said fishing family, not catching family.

While I didn’t spend my entire childhood getting skunked, “Hunter luck” seemed to haunt us quite a bit. But all it takes is to have that first positive experience of catching a fish when you’re a kid and it tends to stick with you.

My fishing addiction began back when I was around five-years-old and we went back to South Dakota to visit relatives. My Uncle James, my dad and yours truly made the drive over to the Missouri River and we went out on James’ boat. How fun! But this is where I fell in love with fishing. They gave me some kind of kiddie rod & reel and we were fishing for Northern Pike or Walleye, which ever one would bite. I remember I got a strike and was really struggling, but my Uncle James told my dad, “Let him bring it in!” Eventually, I did and it ended up being the biggest fish caught that day.

Then I had a chance to go up to Big Bear Lake to my Uncle Chuck and Aunt Colleen’s cabin with my cousin Charlie, where I would get to fish again!  I remember being out on the boat, where I got really hungry, so I ate some salmon eggs to see what they tasted like. My uncle thought it was hilarious. We didn’t catch anything that I remember, but that could have been because of having three Hunters in one boat.

Other times on those family vacations to South Dakota, we’d wake up on a Sunday, go to church, come home and pack a picnic and then head to one of their nearby lakes to fish for the afternoon. We have some great home movies of one of those outings, with my Grandma standing there, drinking a beer. Aw, the simple life.

Grandpa Brandner showing us how!

Every family vacation usually included some fishing. When I became a dad, I tried to introduce fishing to my two kids. When my son hit high school, I even went on a couple of salmon fishing trips with him. What a blast!

So, between my family fishing history and the tradition my father-in-law enjoyed, I just had to be out there this past Saturday morning. Did it rain the whole time? Yes. Did I catch anything? No. Did I even get any nibbles? Two.

But as I sat there on the dock all by myself, I saw fish being caught by all the folks out on the lake. Phrases like “Oh, wow!”, “Look at the size of that one!” and “That’s a keeper!” filled the air. While there wasn’t much activity at my end, it was still great to see so many families out on the water, trying to keep their own fishing tradition going.

After around two hours of being cold and wet, I started to wonder, “Maybe this is good enough. I at least came out. If it’s time for me to give up and head back to the cabin for a hot shower and coffee, give me a sign!”

Just then an osprey flew by literally right in front of me, carrying a fish.

Even the birds out fished me. Must have been a flare up of that Hunter luck.

But no matter. The tradition continued. Another Opening Day in the books.

Trying to get the grandkids hooked

Can’t wait for next year.

Tim Hunter

Prime Time Scam

I hate scamsters.

On a quick side bar, I’m hoping that one day, they’ll invent a device that allows you to send a shock to a caller at the other end when one comes in from a telemarketer.

OK, back to my main rant.

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Amazon. Just look at my ordering history and you can see that I should be getting a Christmas card every year from Jeff Bezos.

So, while recently reviewing my credit card charges, I noticed this particular charge:

 

Prime video, huh? Well, that must be an Amazon charge I don’t remember. But there’s something you need to know about me: I rarely buy videos from Amazon. As a subscriber to Starz, HBO Max, Disney Plus, Hulu and Prime, plus all the assorted channels from my Comcast subscription, why in the heck would I want to buy one more thing? I mean, if I ain’t got it on all my sources, I just don’t need to watch it.

So, I investigated.

This charge indicated I bought something from Amazon Prime and watched it on the previous Monday. I never watched anything on Monday. So I searched the phone number given online, and look what I found:

So a bunch of scum bags in India have quite a system. I alerted my credit card company and they immediately put a stop to any payments to this company (there were two) but then, of course, had to shut down my #1 credit card to which almost all of my bills are attached. As I continued to look online, it could have been worse.

So warn your family and friends. Encourage them to review their credit card bills very carefully, because a fake Amazon just might be shaving a little off the top every month.

I should have instantly known that they weren’t really Amazon. I mean, come on–they’re already getting most of my money.

Let’s be careful out there!

Tim Hunter

 

Preserving Some Seattle Radio History

This past week, radio folks who spent part of their careers with Seattle’s “The Mountain” had a reunion on Zoom and shared it with the world. It was pretty cool and makes me think we should be doing one of those with the KLSY staff while most of us are still around.

The program director that hired me at KLSY, Chris Mays, posted a nice history of The Mountain on Facebook and all that she accomplished there. That reminded me that its her story that  connected two amazing Seattle radio stations. So, I thought I would share her post and then chase it with a few more nuggets about my radio experience.

103.7 The Mountain celebrated our 30th birthday Saturday. It was a very special station, which I created. One of the questions listeners asked was about the history. This is a bit long, but it tells the tale!  A lot of people have asked me how I came to create The Mountain. The true story reads like a fairytale! I’ll try to save the details for my book; even so, it’s bit of a long journey. Once upon a time, there was a teenager growing up in the 60’s in Columbus, Ohio. It was the Vietnam and Richard Nixon era. Her parents were liberal and her brothers were draft age. She was very into music. From Carol King’s Tapestry to Grand Funk. FM radio was developing into a freeform rock. She read Rolling Stone and dreamed of moving to the West Coast to work in radio, preferably the legendary KSAN, San Francisco. She graduated from high school in 1970, the spring of Kent State, 2 hours away. Off I went to college to pursue a degree in communications. My stated career goal on graduation was to be a Program Director of a Progressive Rock Station in a major market, (preferably on the West Coast). After graduation I looked at a map of the West Coast and picked Eugene, Oregon. It was between Seattle and San Francisco, and had a college. I moved there, with everything I owned in the back of a pickup truck. I went to graduate school at the University of Oregon until I got a radio job. First was a cool little station, KFMY, then the bigger rock station KZEL. It was a freeform progressive rock station with 50,000 albums. Everyone played what they wanted. I was on the air at night as Chris Kovarik. It was rock and roll heaven! There was this guy who was a Yale graduate, spending his summer fighting forest fires in Bend. He would sit in the forests up in those lookouts, and listen to KZEL. One day he applied for a job. His name was Peyton Mays! He got hired. Ultimately, I became the Program Director and he was the Music Director. We fell in love. We both wanted to move to a larger market. I finally got my interview at KSAN, San Francisco and interviewed at KZAM in Seattle for a position as Promotion Director. I got the job and moved to Seattle. KZAM was in a struggle to retain the format and by the time I joined the staff, they had a consultant and the format was pretty tight. Within a month of my arrival, the guy who hired me (Paul Sullivan) was fired, then the General Manager. I applied for the Program Director job and got it! I worked with Marion Seymour, Kerry Lowen, Matt Reidy, and a ton of other talented people. Meanwhile, Peyton had moved to Seattle and was programming KEZX, a ‘beautiful music’ station. We had worked with his boss in Eugene. David Littrell went from KEZX to ultimately be the guy who booked the zoo, Marymoor Park and Chateau Ste. Michelle shows. This was 1981, a decade before the Mountain. So, in 1983, the owners of KZAM decided to change the format to KLSY, ‘classy’, a soft pop station targeted to women. They invited me to stay. On July 10, 1983, KZAM signed off with The Beatles ‘Golden Slumbers’. KLSY signed on with Eddie Rabbit’s Driving My Life Away. The audience was furious. I went home and cried. Next up, Peyton Mays changes the format at KEZX to a cool softer rock format with David Littrell. I hired Bruce Murdock, Tim Hunter and Delilah Rene, among others, and the station was very successful. It was the first time I had ever had a budget that included marketing, personalities and BIG promotions. I learned a lot about real radio basics from George Johns and Dana Horner. Prior to that, it had all been about the music for me. The final chapter. I left KLSY in February 1990 and was working for Broadcast Programming when KEZX changed their format back to ‘easy listening/beautiful music’. Now there were TWO of these formats. Entercom brought a man in from Chicago to do something with KBRD. G Michael Donovan interviewed me and asked what I would do with 103.7. They were thinking hip hop. I told him if that was their choice, I wasn’t their girl. Then I wrote a proposal and made a cassette tape of what MY station would sound like. Ultimately, they agreed! We had a dinner where we decided on the name “The Mountain” (The Needle didn’t have positive images). It started out more mellow than I wanted, but eventually I won the trust of Entercom and they let me morph it to what it became. There was an indisputable hole in the market for a high profile, liberal leaning rock station with incredible personalities. Or so I thought! And there you have it. From hippie teenager with a dream to ‘successful Program Director of a Major Market Progressive Rock Station’. And what a long, strange, wonderful trip it’s been!

P.S. I should note that between us, Peyton Mays and I programmed progressive rock in Seattle for 25 years. David Littrell still programs some of the best shows in the market.

Chris Mays

Thanks, Chris. This is where I thank you for hiring me and giving me that break I needed to go where I went, where ever that was. 

How did I end up knocking on KLSY’s door back in the days when they were “Classy-FM”?

Due to downsizing at KOMO radio where I had been Larry Nelson’s producer for 4-1/2 years, they let me know on the same day my wife and I found out we were pregnant with our second child that I was losing my job. In fact, I remember not telling her until after the weekend that I was now unemployed, so as not to harsh the buzz about the pregnancy.

After a few months of collecting unemployment and wondering what the heck was going to happen next, I managed to get an interview with Chris Mays and eventually the G.M., “Mr. Classy”, Dana Horner. I impressed them enough take me for a test hire, helping out production guy Jeff Bach with copywriting and production during the work week, and pulling a weekend airshift.  At this point, I had been off the air since I had left Yakima in late 1979. 
Over time, Chris like what I brought to the party on weekends, enough that she wanted to stick me into afternoon drive. I remember going to a station holiday event, where I met the woman I was going to be paired up with to report on traffic and banter with, Alice Porter. She was being brought over from KEZX–yes, the radio station being run by Chris’ husband at the time, Peyton Mays. I had a lot of fun doing afternoons with Alice and it sounded like it. The station wanted that fun to move to the mornings with Bruce Murdock, aka “Murdock in the Morning” but initially I just didn’t want to partner up with him on the air. I liked where I was. So, they hired a co-host from Chicago named John Thomas and it was a morning show nightmare. The two didn’t get along, had completely different styles and it was such a caustic environment, I remember Bruce, Alice, Dave Sloan and me doing a mock exorcism of his presence after they fired him. By this time, station management really wanted to move me to mornings. So much that I was told everything from, “Well, you know, we won’t really be able to raise your salary much if you stay in afternoons” to “Eventually, you’ll lose Alice and we’ll move her to mornings.” What else could I do but agree to start waking up early again and the team of Murdock & Hunter was born. In time, that became Murdock, Hunter & Alice. That continued until December 17th, 2003, when G.M. Marc Kaye came backstage at the Village Theater in Issaquah to tell us our services were no longer needed. We had just finished doing a live Christmas show. Ho friggin’ ho. That left me just shy of a 20-year run in one place. In radio, that’s like 147 regular job years.


We can all look back on our lives and say, “If only THIS hadn’t happened” or “If THAT hadn’t happened” but the bottom line is that everything occurs as a part of your story. Sure, I wish some of those more unpleasant events didn’t happen, but that’s not our call. The radio bug still is very much alive in me, but rather than depending on it for a livelihood, its now more of a hobby. It’s a part of what I do and my little KRKO morning show is the perfect outlet to satisfy my radio Jones. Chris mentioned of writing a book some day about her radio experiences. Having written 1,031 of these blogs since 2008, my story has seeped out a little at a time, much like a leak at a nuclear power plant. Ms. Mays’ retelling of The Mountain Story was just the inspiration I needed for me to put a bit of my story down while I still remember it.

You know, I’ve seen a lot of radio hearts broken over the years.  I have to say that its thanks to people like Chris and Dana that I got to spend 35 years (and counting) of my life doing something I really love to do. 

And that’s pretty lucky.

Tim Hunter

OK, HERE’S AN IDEA

I would say it’s almost every day of my life these days that I hope to wake up and not hear of another black person being shot by a police officer.

I feel it’s a fairly reasonable request. It’s a century-old problem that you would think would no longer be present in our modern world, but sadly it continues. And each time we hear the latest version of the old story, my mouth hangs open and I am in complete disbelief.

Over the weekend, we heard of two more cases coming to the surface. One in Virginia, where a member of the military was pepper-sprayed because he didn’t want to get out of his car as two police officers pointed guns at him. Completely understandable. He was pepper-sprayed, slammed to the ground, handcuffed and eventually released without charges.

Why? Simple question. Why?

He’s suing because of that incident and that pepper-spray-happy officer has been fired.

But in Minnesota, already a hotbed because of the George Floyd incident, another black man was killed by trigger-happy police officers. This one, like so many others, was completely unavoidable. For starters, the man was pulled over by police because he had air fresheners hanging from his rear-view mirror. Apparently, that crime is rampant in Minnesota, achieving epidemic levels. It was after pulling him over for something reminiscent of the old broken tail-light trick (funny–it wasn’t broken when he was pulled over) that they discovered the guy had a warrant out for him. Once again–bang, shoot, dead.

And as soon as I hit ‘post’, we hear that the police officer who fired the fatal shot that killed this man said it was an accident and that he intended to fire his taser at him. Yes, seriously.

I just don’t get it and I continue to not get it time after time after time.

The trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin makes me angry every night when I turn on the news for the summary. I just can’t spend the entire day being pissed off, so I confine my involvement to the ABC evening news with David Muir.

The experts have paraded through, most with damning testimony about what happened that night. Meanwhile, the defense is arguing that Floyd’s death wasn’t due to having someone put their entire weight on a knee for almost 10 minutes, but rather his drug abuse. I’ve heard that too many times, which is why I offer this solution.

If Derek Chauvin’s defense team truly believes it was the drugs that killed him and not the neck-crushing incident, then let’s test that theory. Derek Chauvin just has to agree to be handcuffed and then have someone of the same weight put their knee on his neck for 9-minutes and 29-seconds. He will also be required to say “I can’t breathe” a minimum of 28 times during those almost 10 minutes, just like George Floyd. If, in fact, that doesn’t kill Chauvin, then we can consider that drug use may have played a part in his death. If Chauvin dies, well, end of trial.

Of course, that shouldn’t happen. But neither should what Chauvin did to George Floyd, a living, breathing human being.

Some stats to absorb:

  • Since 2015, police officers have fatally shot at least 135 unarmed Black people nationwide.
  • Over their lifetime, about 1 in every 1,000 black men can expect to be killed by police.

I’m no expert, but I’d say there is a serious problem.

Next Up…

After a brief bask in the glow of my annual April Fool’s video for National Gullible Day, it’s time to move on to my next big project.

I really should look into smaller tasks.

What with the pandemic making events like luncheons and parades uncertain possibilities, next up on my ever-growing to-do list is taking on a virtual 17th of May celebration for Seattle’s own 17th of May Committee.

For those new to the party, the 17th of May is the day that the Norwegian community here in Ballard celebrates “Constitution Day.” A big deal in Norway, with lots of parades. In Seattle, we have been celebrating the occasion for over 100 years. In fact, that annual stroll down 24th and then a left turn on Market Street is the first Seafair-sanctioned parade of the Parade Season. You’ll also see it referred to as “Syttende Mai”, which due to my absorption into that community, I’ve become really good at spelling.

In a “normal” year (remember those?), there would be a luncheon at either the Leif Erikson Lodge, the Nordic museum or both, then after some live performances in Bergen Place Park all day long, the official parade would step off around 4pm. Or 6pm. It depends on whether the holiday falls on a weekend or not.

This year marks our second non-normal 17th of May in a row. So, the committee asked me to produce a virtual 17th of May luncheon at noon on the big day. The event is free if you’d like to tune in to the 17th of May Committee’s YouTube Channel. It’ll make its broadcast debut at noon that day. Afterwards, you’ll then be able to watch it whenever you want on that channel.

Tuesday of this week, I headed down to the Nordic Museum in Ballard to film some of the traditional festivities. I’ve got a couple of other folks grabbing footage and in no time at all, I’ll have a bunch of video to edit and assemble before May 17th. Right now, I’m feeling really good about it. Actually, having done the Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce‘s virtual Julebord last year, I pretty much know what needs to be done.

Some special guests you may

recognize without their masks

The jury is still out on whether they’re going to try and organize a car parade down Market Street, although a group of us organized one last year to keep the streak alive.

So yeah, here comes the next big project. I’m producing a virtual 17th of May celebration, in-between my many other duties. That’s my self-chosen life. I just like things being busy. I wonder where that came from?

For funsies, here’s my brother-in-law, Kris Templin, warming up for his performance of “God Bless America” with me playing my mouth trumpet.

OK, break’s over. Back to work.

Sure. It’s work.

Tim Hunter

WHO AM I KIDDING?

This week has so much going on!

We start a new month. It’s Holy Week, which means Maunday Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. Passover is also underway. Baseball season begins on Thursday, which is also April Fool’s Day. March Madness drifts into the Final Four Championships

Or, as I prefer to call it, “National Gullible Day.”

After spending the last year collecting footage and the past month or so hounding friends to record a silly bit for me, I spent the bulk of Sunday afternoon shooting my scenes and then starting to put together this crazy annual tradition.

For those who just joined us, “National Gullible Day” is a parody newscast where we (I) act like a newscaster covering all the events of this festive day.

And, once again, I set up the green screen in my studio, steamed it as wrinkle free as I could get it, put on a shirt, tie and jacket and went into newscaster mode.

I don’t want to tell you too much about the broadcast, but since you’ve taken the time to read this, here’s a special sneak peak at the Memorialienum where we honor the National Gullible Day fans we’ve lost over the past year.

This will give you an idea of what the full video is going to be like.

Remember, it’ll be on nationalgullibleday.org, my Facebook page, and on my YouTube channel as of midnight, April 1st, Thursday morning.

I can’t wait.

Thanks for checking in.

Tim Hunter

Just One Week Away

The tradition will continue.

I was thinking about what could be the topic of my blog this week. Gun control? Oh, I’ve done that, multiple times. Besides, the last couple of posts to this corner of the Internet have been a bit on the sad side, so I need to lighten things up. I thought of a couple of really good ideas, but then they left my brain because of my current obsession.

So I thought, “Hey, why not write about that?”

While others spend this month focused on spring, college basketball and other timely topics, as soon as March 1st arrives, I know the clock is ticking and I only have a month to assemble another one of my “National Gullible Day” broadcasts.

This will mark the sixth year I’ve asked friends to give it up and be silly with me on April Fools’ Day, doing a mock newscast as if National Gullible Day was a real holiday. (or is it?) And, as it seems every year, this year’s effort is looking like it will out-do all the earlier versions. You can watch them on the website.

This year will feature some of the regular cast members, along with a few new ones.

         

             

And a sneak peek at one of the funniest parts of the video that makes me laugh out loud every time I watch it, it’s a Memorialioleum (yes, I meant to spell it that way) of the National Gullible Fans we’ve lost since our last broadcast.

You know, of all the things I do throughout the year, this is the one tradition I need to continue doing. It’s such an incredible outlet. 
I did have one idea that I self-censored. It’s a pretty hilarious concept, but in today’s uber-sensitive world, I just know it could hurt someone. While I’m usually fine with that, I just didn’t want a controversy to distract from the rest of the content.
If you want to know what it is, just ask the next time we chat.
So there’s your sneak preview. If you subscribe to my Wacky Week jokes, the link will be included there on April 1st. (If you’d like to be added to the list, just email me)
If you “like” the KRKO Facebook page, it’ll be posted there. Same is true of my Tim Hunter Creative Services page.
Anyway, you’ve been warned. I love this tradition. We can never laugh enough.
Thanks for the read.
 
Tim Hunter

And Now We Begin The “First Time” Phase

The last close family member we lost was my dad, now almost six years ago.
That was a stunner. He had been in failing health, but you just never think that one day, he’ll actually be gone.
Having a front-row seat to that level of grief, both for you and surrounding family members, leaves an impact. I know that a lot of the things we do are a part of the grieving process. It’s how we move on. Not that we forget about them, but as time goes on, the pain lessons. For me, I’ve focused on all of the things dad gave me, that we experienced together and that he demonstrated during his days here.

With the recent passing of my father-in-law, Ernie Templin, I’m being reminded of that phase you have to pass through once things have started calming down again: The “First Time” phase.

You’ve mechanically handled as much as you can–the arrangements, letting people know, writing and publishing an obituary and such. For now, you put off things like clearing out the closet because there’s plenty of time for that later. In fact, for the time being, those clothes are a comfort and a reminder of what was. They may even inspire memories of a moment or two.

The moment I was reminded of the “First Time” phase was when my wife and I were driving through Ballard. It was the neighborhood where she grew up and where her parents had lived for more decades than she’ll admit. As we came close to her folks’ home, she remembered how common it was for people to see him walking their Samoyed. As recently as a decade ago, Ernie would walk Misha, sometimes twice a day, miles at a time. He loved those walks and the dog was a friend magnet. Both got to meet a lot of their Ballard neighbors that way.
It was the first time we were driving through this area since her dad had passed and she began to get misty-eyed. I knew exactly what she was thinking and it is just the beginning of moments like this. Yesterday was the first time we had my mother-in-law over since her husband’s passing. The chair where Ernie always sat (and usually fell asleep) was empty for the first time during one of her visits.

Some of the First Times just happen. Others happen because you plan them and welcome the reminder. For example, on April 24th for the Opening Day of fishing season, I’ll be at Lake McMurry, where Ernie and I fished almost every year for the last 13 years.

As the First Times become less frequent, then you start asking yourself questions: Do I start saying “Mom’s House” after a lifetime of saying “Mom and Dad’s?” The caller I.D. says, “Mom and Dad”–should I change that?

Yes, their physical presence among us has ended. But there is no more suffering, no more pain, and I take comfort in that. And really, these special people that played such a big part in our lives aren’t going anywhere. They’re in our hearts, our thoughts, our souls and each gave us the most important gift of all–being able to know them. I could sit down with you and tell you a million stories about my dad. Just thinking of doing that made me misty-eyed, so I’d probably tell them to you with the voice of a blubbering idiot. And then, after a brief break, I could blubber a few stories your way about Ernie.

For that, I know I’m lucky. I’m blessed to have had two positive figures like them in my life.

David Eagleman gets the credit for pointing out that we all experience three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.

Gentlemen, you’re going to have to settle for just the first two for now, because for as long as I can breathe, I’m going to be talking about you.

After all, there’s a lot to tell.

Tim Hunter

Weekend Without Ernie

Last Thursday night, Ernie Templin left the planet.

Who’s Ernie Templin?

Those who were fortunate to know Ernie knew him as one of the kindest, nicest people ever to roam the earth. For those who grew up in Seattle, he might have been the school teacher you remember so fondly. Or, maybe he was the guy that sold you men’s suits at J.C. Penney back in the 1970s, as he worked multiple jobs to support his family. In later years, he was seen around town at almost every Norwegian event or taking his white, fluffy dog, Misha, for a walk around the Ballard area.

  

I think it’s safe to say that one way or the other, people around here knew Ernie Templin. When I began doing the marketing for my wealth management client, Opus 111 Group in Seattle, I met Donna and Bill Driver–a brother and sister team that were thrilled to find out who my father-in-law was. Why? Because back in the day, they were both his students.

Donna was kind enough to write down some of her memories of Ernie:

Mr. Templin was my sixth grade teacher. All the kids hoped to get into his class. I was slated to be in another class, but my next door neighbor was the PTA president and got me switched to his.

It was a great year. I remember making a weather station that had a ping pong ball anemometer. He had us keep detailed charts and analyze our data.  I still love a good spreadsheet.

We divided into groups for math. He took the high group and told us he was preparing us for advance math in junior high school.  We were challenged – both boys and girls.

He taught us to follow directions.  Once he gave us test that he announced would be timed.  It included “poke three holes in the paper”  and “yell hurrah when you get to question 7.”  What many of us missed was question 1. “read all the questions before you begin.”  Because when we got to question 20 it read: “Now that you have read all the questions, just write your name at the top of the sheet and stop.”  There were a lot of red-faced hot shot sixth graders.

You learn a lot of interesting words.  He taught us the shape of a story:  Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Denouement, and Resolution.  I have been trying to work denouement into conversations ever since.  It is such a great word.

We had handwriting practice daily.  His penmanship was beautiful and he let us know that we were to take our time and do it well. 

Friday was art afternoon.  We loved coming in from recess to find out what he had set up while we were outside.  Once in awhile he would have some of us stay in and set up – a plum job!  I was most fond of water colors.  My favorite project was making a color wheel by mixing primary colors.  He must have been tired of us one day, because he had us cut thousands of teeny tiny pieces of paper and do mosaics.  It took a looooong time.

But the thing I’ve used most in my life is fractions.  Every time I double or half a recipe I thank Mr. Templin for teaching me those skills.

Those are just the academic lessons.  By example, he taught us to be good people. He didn’t put up with unkind words and encouraged us to see the good in all our classmates. He loved a good joke and enjoyed laughing with us.

When Jon and I joined the Sons of Norway, I was delighted to reconnect with him. I walked in the Syttende Mai parade with him until he was unable to make the trek, and was then honored to serve as his chauffeur in subsequent years.

On my list of important people, he ranks near the top!

Another one of his students, David Horsey, went on to be quite the political cartoonist.

And I’m sure there were others.

To me, Ernie was what happens when you win the Father-in-Law lotto. When I married his daughter, I found myself with a fishing buddy once again. Some of my fondest memories as a kid included going fishing with my dad, but it had been years since I got to go hit a lake on Opening Day. That became our tradition, every last Saturday in April. Most of the past 13 years, we would head up to the family cabin up near Lake McMurray on a Friday night and then wake up in the pre-dawn hours to be among the first hauling in the trout. To be honest, I don’t know if Ernie was as excited about the fishing as he was about the Fishermen’s Breakfast, which volunteers served next to a roaring fire in the lakefront pavilion. 

The routine was to charge the trolling motor the night before, wake up early, launch the boat we borrowed from a neighbor and fish from 6-8am, then come in for the breakfast, and then enjoy more fishing afterwards. We never set any records, but we had a great time. 

Over the past couple of years, we lost access to the boat and so we were forced to celebrate the tradition from the fishing dock. Not as fun or successful, but we just had to be there on Opening Day, especially for the Fisherman’s Breakfast.

I was trying to figure out a way to get a boat in the off-season, just so I could take him out for one more round of trolling the lake. But after falls on New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and once while in recovery, I put the brakes on that idea. 

Like I said, Ernie meant a lot of things to a lot of people and it was all good. If you’d like to get to know this amazing man a little better, I’m including a video I produced for his 90th birthday, almost two years ago.

The world can’t afford to lose any nice guys, so we took a serious hit last week. 

But he left behind a legacy. He left everyone that knew him with lots of positive memories and and an endless assortment of things to remember about him.

Thanks, Ernie, for everything you gave me. I was never one of your students, but you sure taught me a lot.

Tim Hunter