LETTER | Kirkland has lost a great community leader


Kirkland lost a great community leader when Hugh Givens died on August 30, 2013. Hugh and his wife Mary have lived in Kirkland for more than 30 years. Both were involved in Kirkland community life. They lived for many years in a beautiful home in Houghton with a garden that was the pride of the neighborhood. A few years ago, they moved to a condo in North Rose Hill. Hugh loved the Kirkland community and wanted to do right by itHe served on the Houghton Community Council from April of 1996 until February of 2007.

Long time Houghton Community Council member, Elsie Weber, described Hugh as being soft spoken but always effective."Whether we were working on Floor Area Ratio or the Merriwether Project, Hugh always had the facts to support his position". Hugh was the Chair 3 times during his long tenure on the Council and was respected for his ability to keep things moving. If there were disagreements, he could mediate among all sides to come to a resolution. Hugh allowed everyone to talk whilekeeping the discussion moving to a decision. "Hugh was an 'old school' gentleman, very polite, very popular. Everybody liked him--he was a wonderful person to know and so intelligent".

Hugh and I became acquainted through various community activities. He was thoughtful and wise and we enjoyed talkingabout various community issues. Hugh was knowledgeable aboutmany topics and was the first to educate me about affordable housing. He saw affordable housing as part of the vibrancy of a community. Hugh was remarkable for his fairness and practicalityapproaching every issue with a rational point of view. He was never judgmental and rarely political, he just saw things as being doable and problems as being solvable if people would get together and talk.

Hugh's longtime friend, Jim McElwee, said "our relationship was simple, coming from shared experiences. We were both engineers and managers working for the same employer, not ever working together professionally, but working on the same programs. We enjoyed hiking and bicycling, we shared social values. We were two experienced guys getting together as often as possible toswap stories and analyze the world. Hugh had one of the best analytical minds I have had the pleasure of being around. Anyone can have an opinion on practically any topic, but to have a reasoned position one needs to understand the issues. Hugh could take the analysis of an issue one step beyond my own reckoning, creating insights which evaded me".

Jim and Hugh bonded over bicycling. They spent hours discussing equipment, former bikes, current bikes, dream bikes. They discussed places they had ridden, how great a ride was, how steep the hills, how strong the wind, and how much they loved the experience even when they thought they would barely survive."Friday night racing at the Marymoor Velodrome was a great night out for us--two guys watching younger guys battling it out on two wheels wishing we could be out there with them. We laughed, we dreamed, we appreciated the world".

Hugh was concerned about social injustice. He was a man of integrity and he always treated those around him with fairness, insisting on doing the right thing. "One can be a good engineer, a good analyst, a good bicycler, a good talker, without caring  about how other people fare, but a good friend comes from the core values of the human condition, and Hugh was definitely a man of values. Our conversations were about things we both value."

Hugh suffered with Parkinson's Disease and it eventually robbedhim of his ability to communicate. He was a voracious reader and knew everything that was going on. He loved history as well as current events. He was able to read and comprehend even with Parkinson's and he read every word of several newspapers until his death. According to Mary "Hugh had a subtle, dry sense ofhumor. His humor was unexpected; he was a sweet, kind, brilliant man who never felt the need to prove himself". Hugh was involved with KITH, Kirkland Interfaith Housing Transitions, and in ministry projects with his church, Overlake Christian Church. He grieved over people in tragic circumstances, especially whenchildren were involved. For many years, Hugh helped people who were forced to move by physically moving them himself. He volunteered for the Seven Hills of Kirkland bicycle race and it was a great regret that he never got to ride in it.

Hugh and Mary were married for 57 years and had 2 sons and a daughter, 7 grandchildren, and 2 great-grandchildren. They moved to Washington from Tennessee when Hugh was hired by Boeing. Hugh retired from Boeing after more than 30 years. He worked on many projects and took pride in his work there. He worked on defensemissile testing in Florida and was proud of the fact that those missiles are now stored at Langley Air Force Base, just in case they are needed, he always said.

Hugh's daughter, Julie said, "he was positive and brave about his health and how Parkinson's affected him. He never complained, but was funny and humorous about it. The entire family shared Hugh's condition because he was honest and explained it. They teased him and he was a good sport about it. The younger children in the family were aware of Hugh's diseaseand took it as a natural thing. Mary tells the story of how the family gathered before each dinner holding hands in a circle topray. When Hugh's hands became shaky from Parkinson's he would send the shake around the circle. Family members passed it on.They continue this warm and funny tradition in Hugh's absence.

Hugh was an avid mountain climber and hiker. He loved the mountains, especially Mount Rainier. He and Mary traveled all over the US and the world having adventures. Mary and Hugh shared a deep love. They had fun together and were dancing in the kitchen the week before he died. They shared many common interests, travel, musictheatre. Hugh appreciated music from classical to jazz. He loved cars, especially sports cars. Hepassed this love onto his children and grandchildren and the whole family enjoyed going to the Kirkland Concourse. He got stopped for speeding in his Mazda Miata many times. He would speed on purpose, knowing the thrill was worth the price of the ticket.

Hugh Givens lived a full and rich life, with many interests and accomplishments, a supportive and loving family, and was dedicated to helping the Kirkland community. He was challenged by his illness, but never defeated by it. He was a kind,intelligent, and thoughtful man who cared deeply about people and social justiceHe was a true community hero and will be greatly missed.