Dennis Dong

Dennis Dong – A beloved math teacher

The CHS Alumni Association was notified through a family member about the sudden passing of a beloved CHS math teacher, Dennis Dong so we are adding him here in hopes to give other alumni the opportunity to share their memories.

“Enjoy every day as if it is going to be the best day of your life.” ~ Dennis Dong

Dennis Dong was born on April 12, 1945, to Lena Jane Chin and Gerald Dong in Bremerton, Washington. His parents divorced when he was young and he lived with his father and grandmother in Seattle while growing up, while his mother moved to San Francisco to start a new life. His older sister, Diana lived with their mother and then their mom remarried and had a daughter named Karen Wong.

As a young man, he also worked as a busboy at a long-time Chinese restaurant called The Hong Kong Restaurant in Seattle.

Dennis attended and graduated from Seattle University in June 1971 with a Bachelor of Arts in Education as well as from the University of Washington. His favorite subjects were English, science, and history. But why did he choose to become a math teacher? According to Dennis, “Because it always came easy. It is black and white; there is always an answer and many ways to get at that answer.” He was a dedicated teacher and believed that the greatest part of being a teacher is sharing his knowledge and contributing to the success of students.

He devoted over 30 years of his life as a math teacher/math department head (according to Melinda Goodleaf, Manager of Records & Archives, Seattle Schools) at Asa Mercer Middle School (1971/1972 to 1973/1974), Cleveland High School (1974/75 to 1986/87), Denny Middle School (1990/92 to 1993/94), Nathan Hale High School (1995/96 to 2001), and Ballard High School (2001 to 2007, retired in 2004 but subbed 2006/2007).

He loved seeing movies, concerts, and “getting some good eats.” According to an article from a Ballard High School newsletter, he was well-liked as he was full of enthusiasm, charm, and wit.

Dennis made such an impression on his students that former students would contact him after they completed his class. Even today, he has had a lasting impression on his former students.

He was beloved by his family and thousands of his former students. He leaves behind his two sisters, Diana (Les), Karen (Steve), a nephew, Theo, and niece, Natalie, as well as many cousins and friends.


Did you know Mr. Dong? Share your memories through the link below.
Evergreen Washelli Funeral Home & Cemetery

Patricia Rosenkranz

Patricia (Sullivan) Rosenkranz

VANCOUVER — Patricia Leone (Sullivan) Rosenkranz, 90, passed away peacefully on April 4, 2021, in Vancouver, Washington. She had a home in Ocean Park, Washington prior to moving to Glenwood Place Senior Living Community in Vancouver in 2019.

Pat was born in Minot, North Dakota, on Feb. 12, 1931. She moved to Seattle with her family in 1941 and graduated from Cleveland High School in 1949. Pat married H. Craig Rosenkranz in 1952. They moved to Spokane with their two daughters, where Pat eventually obtained her teaching degree from Eastern Washington University. She was an inspirational art and social Studies teacher at Medical Lake Middle School for 22 years.

The Long Beach Peninsula was a special location for Pat and her family for over 60 years. She and Craig were among the first property owners in the Pacific Pines Development in Ocean Park. They spent many happy years with family and friends, vacationing and building a cabin on their property. They eventually built their retirement home and Pat continued to live there following Craig’s death in 1997.

Honored Dead
Honored Dead, by Patricia Rosenkranz

Art, travel, and writing poetry were just a few of Pat’s many interests. Her association with the Cleveland High School Alumni Association and her lifelong interest in history led her to write the book “Honored Dead,” a collection of biographies of Cleveland High School boys who died in World War II.

Twenty years ago, a friend introduced Pat to Don Armeni, a fellow Cleveland H.S. alum. Together, Pat and Don enjoyed traveling in Europe and throughout the United States. They were active in the communities of Ocean Park and Kalama, Wash., where they attended the United Methodist Church.

Pat is survived by daughters Nancy Biasi (Dennis) of Portland, Jane Rettig (Steve) of Spokane; grandchildren Simon and Christopher Biasi, Cara Rettig Lommen (Drew), Haley Rettig Dang (Maika), five great-grandchildren, and her loving companion, Don Armeni. She will join her mother and brother at Holyrood Cemetery in Seattle where a family graveside memorial will be held at a later date.


The primary function of the CHS Alumni Association is not to benefit CHS students, but to preserve the CHS Memorial Forest. No one has done a better job of that than Pat Rosenkranz, because she has inspired many to work on the problems associated with the forest by writing her book, Honored Dead. ~ John R. Barton ’54

Last year our webmaster put together a video for Memorial Day, with photos and excerpts from the book. There is also a page on this website dedicated to the Honored Dead. Unfortunately, the book is out of print, and so we are currently in discussions to preserve this book, by having it bound in hardcover and distributing it to her family, as well as a close friend, and the Seattle Public Library.

Please join us in honoring Pat’s life and her work by making a contribution to the CHS Alumni Association in her name. Donate here.

Aerial View of Memorial Forest

Development Rights Proposal Passed Unanimously

Our proposal to sell the development rights of the CHS Memorial Forest went before the full school board today and . . . PASSED UNANIMOUSLY.  Noel Treat served as the attorney for SPS.  In the discussion prior to the vote, the line most commonly stated was our line . . . It’s a WIN-WIN-WIN situation.  SPS wins, King County Parks wins, and the CHSAA wins.

The proposal also included the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between SPS and CHSAA, which calls for $150,000 for a new lyceum, and CHSAA would be allowed to put up a new sign calling it the Cleveland High School Memorial Forest.

Board Meeting Minutes Excerpt:

Cleveland High School Memorial Forest Conservation Easement Agreement with King County and Memorandum of Understanding with the Cleveland High School Alumni Association (Ops, February 4, for approval) Approval of this item would authorize the Superintendent to execute a Conservation Easement Purchase and Sale Agreement with King County and to execute a Memorandum of Understanding between Seattle Public Schools and the Cleveland High School Alumni Association in the form of the draft agreements attached to the BAR, with any minor additions, deletions, and modifications deemed necessary by the Superintendent to implement these agreements. (Updated Since Introduction) Director Hersey moved to approve this item. Director Rivera-Smith seconded. Director DeWolf noted the update since introduction to add an excerpt from the Cleveland High School alumni newsletter. Directors spoke in support of the item.

This motion passed unanimously.

View minutes:

Edwina Nelson Gannis

Edwina Nelson Gannis

January 5, 1949, to November 21, 2020.

Edwina, 70, passed away the evening of November 21st, 2020, at Swedish Hospital in Seattle, with her husband and son by her side. The last years of her life were spent battling the effects of multiple heart failures. She was tremendously tough and courageous in dealing with her persisting health issues. The word “fighter” does not do her justice.

Edwina was born in Everett, Washington to Edwin Nelson, and Kathryn “Kay” Nelson. She graduated from the University of Washington, where she met her husband of nearly 50 years Michael Gannis, and would later receive a Masters’s degree in Sociology. Edwina met Michael at the Century Tavern, next to the university, and was engaged within a month and married on June 6th, 1971.

She became a high school teacher spending most of her career at Cleveland High School, in Seattle, where she taught Social Studies, History, and Journalism. She was devoted to helping her students reach their utmost potential.

Edwina was beloved by the Cleveland HS Community and loved them just as much.

Edwina was extremely kind and intelligent. She had a voracity for adventure, travel, food/wine and learning. Summers were spent with her family soaking in as many different cultures in as many different locations as she could. If she wasn’t with her family
on an adventure she could be found hosting parties for friends, at brunch with a Sunday newspaper finishing the NYT crossword, or playing golf. She always had something to do or somewhere to go.

A loving, caring, and thoughtful wife and mother, She leaves behind her husband Michael Gannis, her son Zachary, her sister Edalyn Wicklund, her nephew Brandon Wicklund, and niece Haley Saunders. Edwina left an indelible footprint wherever she stepped and will be sorely missed.


This message goes out to the Cleveland High School staff and students from about 1980 to 2010.

Edwina was a superb Social Studies teacher and a wonderful friend.

When I wanted to know about European History, she would know it… Edwina was a genius, she knew everything about everything. She never acted superior when she knew so much. It was easy to ask her questions; she never made me feel uncomfortable.

Edwina was funny, warm, generous, unique & kind. I have so many great memories of Edwina. She was a great person.

Faith Ann Beatt

Newsletter Editor Wanted

Newsletter Editor Wanted!

John Barton, Class of ’54 is resigning after having served as editor of the CHS Alumni Newsletter for 11 years. He is asking for someone to volunteer to take the reins as soon as possible to keep this form of communication to over 7000 subscribers active.

In his own words John writes:

I’m out-of-date, over the hill, ready to retire, and ready to give up this job that I’ve had for over 11 years. The major problem… I don’t connect well with younger readers.

We need someone to advance our beloved newsletter into the 21st century.

We need an editor on the same wavelength as our younger alumni — the millennials, generation X and Y, graduates of the last 40 years. Not someone from the Stoneage.

CHS has many alumni capable of writing and producing our newsletter, from retired school teachers, business people, journalists, wanna-be journalists, to retired engineers – like me. In fact, anyone with the desire can do this job. With the help of me and others, you will become an excellent publication editor in no time. All you need are typing and basic computer skills. You don’t even have to live in the Seattle area.

We need you to VOLUNTEER.

I’ll put out one more newsletter, and after that, the newsletter will fade away unless someone steps forward.

So, to my 7000 readers, we’re looking for one of you to take that step. This is a very rewarding job but we need new blood to make a good connection with our younger alumni.

John Barton, President

If you are interested in volunteering to take on the job of CHSAA Newsletter Editor, please send an email directly to John at

CHS Volleyball 2021

CHS Volleyball during COVID

Eagle Athletics Are Back!
by John Hughes, Athletic Director

It was music to the ears for all the Eagle student-athletes (especially the seniors) to hear the WIAA, Department of Health, Metro League, and Seattle Public Schools February 1, 2021 announcement that sports are back! It has been over a year since the Eagles last took the field for any competitions due to the pandemic.

The ability for sports to return is conditioned upon compliance with all guidance and protocol measures outlined by the various agencies. First practices are set to begin on February 22, 2021. Most sports competitions may continue as long as the Puget Sound Region, composed of King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties stays in Phase 2.

There will be two seasons this year:

“Season 1” begins February 22, 2021, and includes the following sports: football, cross country, golf, girls bowling, girls soccer, slowpitch softball, girls swim, and volleyball.

“Season 2” begins on April 19, 2021, and includes baseball, boys soccer, boys swimming, basketball, fastpitch softball, track, wrestling, and tennis.

Indoor “high-risk” sports such as wrestling and basketball are not yet authorized to participate in competitions. We are hopeful the Covid numbers will improve to allow them to compete.

Safety will be the number one focus.

Everyone in the Eagle athletics department has had extra time to be trained on Covid-19 return-to-play guidelines.

  • Every practice and game will have a Site Supervisor in charge to ensure compliance with all guidelines and protocols.
  • Coaches have been trained to take Covid screening information, temperature checks, etc.
  • All coaches and student-athletes will wear masks during all events, including practices and competitions.
  • No fans will be allowed at any Metro League competitions this year.

The Eagle athletic department is taking the safety of our coaches, athletes, and community very seriously. The picture shown here is of our volleyball team demonstrating how safely we plan to conduct all events.

There is a new website rolling out where you can see all sports schedules and score results: We encourage all alumni to take a look.

We are excited to offer our students the benefits that participating in high school sports provides. With remote learning still taking place, sports will improve physical fitness, social and emotional development, personal and team goal attainment, leadership development, teamwork, time management skills, and improved academics.

While there will be no state championships this year, there will be Metro League playoffs in a variety of formats allowing our students to set their goals high!

It has been a challenging school year for everyone, but especially for our youth. We hope these next few months give our students some joy and happiness.


Finding an Ex-POW

Finding an ex-POW – Part 2

Murele Ipsen ‘43 — on his way to the Western Front
Murele Ipsen ‘43 — on his way to the Western Front

Our October newsletter featured a story that received a lot of interest. Written by Angela Duane, “Finding an Ex-POW who saved my Uncle during WW II” described the author’s experience in tracking down Murele Ipsen (CHS c/o ’43).

Murele helped save John Duane (Angela’s uncle) when they fled a POW camp at the end of World War II. Both men were imprisoned at Stalag 2, which was located near Neubrandenburg, about 75 miles north of Berlin, and about 300 miles from the Western Front.

With the war over, the German guards abandoned the prison camp. Then, it was up to the former prisoners to make their way to the Western Front and the Allied forces [at that point, the Allied forces were a bit east of the Rhine River]. Murele Ipsen played a major role in helping Angela’s uncle be a part of that journey, as John was badly injured. Murele assisted John as he (John) reportedly collapsed while trying to leave the camp.

Thankfully, John, Murele, and company had some luck along the way. As they walked westward, somewhere, somehow, this group of Americans commandeered a horse-drawn wagon—and the injured in their caravan could now ride to safety. Also en route, Murele Ipsen found a camera and film in a bombed-out camera shop. He managed to capture several photos, including the two shown above—a rare glimpse into the dangerous days immediately following the war. There was little law and order if any; a limited supply of food— and local citizens were probably hesitant to part with what they had (and, most likely, suspicious of American troops). There was also the possibility of crossing paths with German troops, who, like the Americans, were headed home—and desperate for food and transportation (not to mention, some being on the run to avoid prosecution for war crimes). [In today’s Seattle Times, Feb. 20th, there was a story about an ex-prison camp guard being deported back to Germany.]

John Duane, in wagon on far left — on his way to the Western Front
John Duane, in wagon on far left — on his way to the Western Front

John Duane did eventually get home to Seattle, where he just “showed up on the porch” one day to a mother who had been hoping and praying for months after receiving notice that he was MIA (missing in action). A few months later, Murele called to check in on John but ended up speaking to his mother, letting her know that he’d been in a POW camp with her son. Years later, Angela was digging through old letters and found one from her grandma to Uncle John, telling him “a Murele Ipsen had called and that he’d helped carry John out of there” (meaning out of the stalag so John could join the others in traveling to the Western Front).

Angela was stunned, as there’d been little said about John’s time as a POW, and she was determined to find out more about the man who helped bring her uncle home. Uncle John eventually became Angela’s godfather, watching over her as she grew up. Angela also believes her uncle saved her life in that, because of him, she was able to pay for college. Without Murele Ipsen saving her Uncle John, none of that would have happened.

As it turned out, Angela (after a lot of online research) found Murele Ipsen, but he had suffered a stroke in 2019 and was no longer able to really communicate. Then, only a few weeks later, he died [Murele’s obituary is in this issue of the newsletter on page 8].

Woulda, shoulda, coulda . . . if only Angela would have started her search a couple of years earlier! –Angela is a writer and might have given us another great story on the aftermath of World War II. The adventure shared by Murele, John, and their comrades really does have all the makings of a book and/or movie!

From the Principal’s Desk

We continue to wish you and our alumni families good health, peace, and steadfastness. I would like to also thank the alumni, PTSA, staff, and students for your continued perseverance through the pandemic.

We just finished the first semester of the 2020-21 school year in this virtual environment. Cleveland teachers have done an amazing job of adjusting their instructional styles to meet all our students’ needs in this unique learning setting. Our students have done an excellent job of meeting the challenges of the pandemic, virtual learning, jobs, family stress, and isolation. We are all in this together, and united, we shall get through this storm together.

Currently, the district and the teacher’s union are in negotiations for a phased-in return to in-person learning for K-1, first graders, and Intensive Service Pathways students. High school students are not currently ready to return. All decisions will be negotiated and determined by the District, the School Board, and the SEA teacher’s union.

The sports season is set to begin this week, and follow- ing Governor Inslee’s Road map to Recovery Metrics, athletics are slated to begin in February. Our region needs to be in the new Phase 2 for competitions to take place.

Based on the information in Governor Inslee’s plan, the Metro League adopted a two-season sports model for this year only. Season 1 begins February 22 for football, bowling, girls soccer, slow-pitch softball, girls swim and dive, volleyball, cross country, and golf. Season 2 begins April 19 for baseball, boys soccer, boys swim and dive, basketball, fastpitch softball, tennis, track, and wrestling.

Cleveland’s softball team has been selected as one of the winners of the $5,000 Mariners Care Equipment Donation Grant. The organizers received over 45 applications from high schools across the state. Cleveland was one of just 10 schools to receive the award.

As always, a big THANK YOU to the Cleveland Alumni Association for your continued support; you are an integral part of the Cleveland community. I cannot wait to see what 2020-21 has in store!

Cleveland Eagles keep soaring!

********* In Other News *********
Feb 25, 2021,

Seattle Public Schools names interim superintendent

Aerial View of Memorial Forest

CHS Memorial Forest Update: Meeting with SPS

The Operations Committee of the Seattle School Board met via video conference on February 4th to address the proposal to sell the development rights of the CHS Memorial Forest to the King County Parks Department (KCPD). Noel Treat, the attorney handling the case for Seattle Public Schools (SPS), was to offer the presentation and invited CHS Alumni Association’s Vice President John Barton (Class of ’54)  to participate so he could answer questions about the letters of support if asked.

Mr. Barton was asked to comment after Mr. Treat spoke and briefly went over the alumni concerns over the survivability of the forest and said that selling the development rights to King County Parks was a great way of protecting the forest far into the future.

Before the meeting, Mr. Barton sent a series of emails to each school board member. Each email represented one of the military/patriotic organizations from which the Alumni Association received a letter of support for preserving the forest. Along with their letter of support, he included membership numbers of the respective organization for Washington State and King County. “The original intent was to dump a million letters of support on their desks, but that was difficult to do in a video-conference meeting,” said Mr. Barton.

Mr. Barton sent a second email to board members, that offered a brief history of the forest and the concerns of CHS alumni including:

  1. How the students worked for two years to save $300 to honor their fallen classmates.
  2. How Vice-Principal Imus took the $300 to a tax auction of logged-off timberland to bid on 131.52 acres.
  3. How no one bid against VP Imus when they heard the CHS students wanted to create a memorial forest.
  4. How the CHS students planted 10,000 trees on the logged-off land.
  5. How today, it’s a beautiful forest of Sitka Spruce, Douglas Fir, and Western Red Cedar, and is worth millions of dollars.
  6. How it was determined years ago that a high school cannot own property, so it was given to the school district as a perpetual memorial to . . “the Cleveland boys who lost their lives while serving in the United States armed forces.”
  7. How some people would sell the property just to get the money.

Barton then summarized the email by pointing out to prevent the property from being developed for any other use, the CHS Alumni proposes that the development rights of the property be sold to King County Parks as part of their conservation program.

Highlighted were the positive aspects of this proposal for all:

“We see this proposal as a WIN-WIN-WIN agreement. SPS retains ownership, KCPD expands their conservation program, and the CHS Alumni concerns for the longevity of the forest would be put to rest.”

A short discussion by the school board members followed. They mentioned the military and patriotic organizations that had provided letters of support, and they quoted Barton’s WIN-WIN-WIN statement above. It turns out that KCPD will pay $3.47 million for the development rights of the property if this agreement is accepted by both parties.

The board made a motion to submit the proposal to the full school board meeting and it passed unanimously.

The presentation of the CHSAA’s proposal to the full school board is scheduled for March 10th.

Finding an ex-POW who saved my uncle

Finding an ex-POW who saved my uncle during WWII

by Angela Duane
Holy Names Academy, Seattle – Class of 1986

Angela Duane
Angela Duane

It all started with a letter—one of many that had sat in a box for years, stored in my father’s garage. We discovered them upon his death a few years back, and I’d taken some time to read through and sort them according to a decade. Still, I had missed something.

This summer, I perused the “1940s” stack, again, as I was doing some writing about our family and searching for clarity on the events surrounding my Uncle John’s experience abroad as an army soldier during WWII.

Uncle John Duane
Uncle John Duane

Uncle John Duane was injured, captured, and spent months in a German prison camp—a story that holds a sacred place in my family history/lore. Still, the tidbits shared by older cousins and my father were often fuzzy in detail or sometimes conflicting and filled with gaps. —Not surprising, as the events of 1944-1945 had been a painful experience for my uncle. He rarely spoke of the war, so details were few and far between.

But back to the letters. I squinted at one of the yellow messages scrawled in my grandmother’s writing, postmarked August of 1945. It was addressed to my Uncle John, a couple of months after he’d been liberated and made his way back to Seattle from Germany.

Toward the bottom of the letter, my grandmother wrote:

“A Murele Ipsen called. He was one of the boys who carried you out of there when you collapsed. —Said you were in a bad way, bleeding from your nose and mouth. Said he saw you in the stalag! He was from Georgetown.” [Murele Ipsen, CHS class of 1943.]

I was stunned. A name. I had stumbled upon an actual name of someone who was witness to that which had been such a profound and altering experience for my uncle; a name of someone who may have had a major hand in shaping my own personal trajectory.

So, I started googling. I found census information, draft card information, and a few random links that showed old addresses in Kent and Burien—but I found no obituary or death date.

Murele Ipsen
Murele Ipsen

Was Murele Ipsen still alive? It was possible. He’d be 95, but… it was possible. I continued to comb through search results and ended up clicking on a Cleveland Alumni Newsletter article. Murele’s sister Leona was mentioned, along with a reference to Murele’s capture in WWII!

I immediately email John Barton who had written the piece and held my breath. Would he respond? Would he think I was some sort of solicitor or weirdo trying to take advantage of an older veteran? Miraculously, John Barton emailed me back and agreed to reach out to Murele or his family if I drafted a letter of intention.

No problem! But… what was I to tell him? That I was still searching for closure, 31 years after Uncle John’s death? That I still wanted answers; clarity; insight into the life of my mysterious but beloved godfather?

Despite the altering experience of war, John Duane had been a kind, gentle, goofy soul—and he always watched out for me. He ready to me; babysat me; took me too/from school; lifted me up to see into Grandma’s cabinets; gave me my first calculator, desk, nail polish, desk lamp, first camera—the man even bought all of my Holy Names candy bars so I wouldn’t have to stand int he cold to help our school raise money.

Uncle John and young Angela
Uncle John and young Angela

In a way, Uncle John also saved my life. I was a “good girl,” but my teen years were fraught with turbulence as I battled with my parents in a strict Catholic household. We were constantly at loggerheads, and it made for a rather stressful adolescence. Let’s just say my stuff ended up on the porch (along with myself!) on more than one occasion. After high school, I started college and then took a break about a couple of years in. Money was running short, and tensions were only worsening at home which didn’t allow for focus. I found work in a restaurant but was starting to turn toward not-so-nice people for comfort and support, heading down potentially dangerous paths. Then Uncle John died. It was a horrible shock that just about did me in. —But my godfather had been looking out for me ’til the very end. In a final selfless and generous act, he left me a college fund. I was able to finish school, move out, and I found some much-needed stability. Meanwhile, my family finally found some peace. I mean, I loved my parents, but sometimes people get along better when they don’t live together!

Well, I wrote to John Barton and told him all of the above, explaining that I wanted to thank Murele Ipsen for helping my uncle; a man who had such a major impact on my life. But I was also hoping that maybe Murele could shed some light on what, exactly, happened in Germany during the war.

Feelings of guilt and excitement clashed in my brain. Maybe my uncle wouldn’t want me stirring all of this up. Maybe I should just let it rest. Maybe it was time to accept that you just don’t get clarity of “closure” on everything in life. —I decided to leave it up to fate.

The wonderful John Barton Delivered my letter to Murele’s house in person (imagine—Murele’s place is just a short distance from him!). However, his stepson, Dale Leyde, quickly clued us in on a sad situation. Murele suffered a stroke last year, and his family doesn’t anticipate that he’ll live much longer.

Murele and stepson Dale Leyde
Murele and stepson Dale Leyde

Fortunately, stepson Dale was kind enough to share what details he had heard about Murele’s capture. Separated from a larger unit, Murele’s group had surrendered upon a run-in with a German tank and ended up at the stalag listed on my uncle’s records. Hmmm.

My understanding was that my uncle had been wounded and in a hospital before ending up in the prison camp. Had my uncle really been with Murele during his capture? Once again, I was working with another set of conflicting information.

But let’s face it, stories told over time and through the lens of trauma can change.

My brother Peter and I discussed the information we’d been privy to over the years, comparing it to these new details. In an “aha” moment, we agreed that it was possible Murele and Uncle John had been captured in separate incidents but then ended up in the same camp. Then Murele could have helped Uncle John leave the camp when the guards bailed (following German surrender).

I also remembered a cousin had told me that Uncle John said the guards treated him “like a Jew.” My uncle could easily pass for Jewish, so I often wondered if that had affected his prison stay. The worst of it for Murele had been a head-butting with a rifle when he reached for a cabbage off a train rolling by. Perhaps my uncle faced more routine beatings??? It was possible that he could have been recently roughed up and was not in good shape the day they all “walked out.” —And the only reason he may have been able to actually/physically leave that place was because of Murele’s kindness and integrity.

Then… enter another clue from stepson Dale: He said that en route to the allied territory, Murele’s crew happened upon a bombed-out camera store. Murele found a camera and some film, then took a few pictures… one of which included a wagon. Amazing. All of the stories my own family had discussed over the years involved a “wagon.”

It was coming together: The camp… liberated. Everyone is leaving. Murele and perhaps a couple of other Seattle or west-coast kids stick together as they make their way out. Murele sees a bloodied John Duane collapse nearby, and Murele and some “other boys” help carry him through the gates. They snag a wagon en route to the allied territory; perhaps they take turns pushing injured or sick comrades who could now ride versus walk. Then they stop at what was left of the camera store, scavenge a camera or two and snap some pix before continuing on their way. —Was that exactly what happened? We’ll never know. But I think that’s as close as it’s ever gonna get.

Murele and his wife Rosemary
Murele and his wife Rosemary

Dale Leyde told me he was glad I had such a good uncle in my life, and I told him I was glad he had such a good father in his life. It was a very nice conversation—he even said he’d try to dig up the aforementioned photos!

In the meantime, I am happy to have experienced such a beautiful (and almost impossible!) “connection in the time of Covid.” Connection across generations, history, time, and place. After speaking with John Barton, I cried for an hour as he reminded me so much of my father.

I felt like I’d made a new friend but that I was also given a gift of time travel to spend a few minutes with my “dad” again. After speaking with Dale, I felt a kinship in having been cared for by men of such special character and decency—and I also started to feel more at peace with my quest. I think that Uncle John would understand that my search for answers was just another way of staying connected to someone who had loved me so much and who had given me so much. Someone who I will miss forever.

But… the journey wasn’t quite over! A couple of nights ago, I stumbled upon an old email with a link to online POW records I’d found several years ago. I brought up my uncle’s record, and then I backtracked to the search tool. I held my breath and typed in Murele’s name. Success!

I compared the records side by side but could not cross-check their unit numbers as Murele’s was blank. Arrrgh! Then I paused. “Theatres” were listed for both men (a theatre is the area of capture). And… Uncle John had been captured in Holland; Murele had been captured in Germany. I scrolled down further, and… the same prison camp was listed for both. Wow.

So the theory about Murele carrying my uncle out of the camp was probably correct, after all.

In closing, I can’t say for sure that my “version” of such a long-ago chapter is totally accurate, but I’m fairly certain that my uncle made it out of that place because Murele Ipsen took the time to be a decent human being. —Because Murele Ipsen had been a soldier, and a gentleman.

Summer is over; fall is around the corner. The days continue to move forward, and Mr. Ipsen may not have much time left in this world. But I choose to believe that John Duane will be ready and waiting to help him through the gates of the next one. Thank you, Mr. Murele Ipsen, for taking care of my uncle and making it possible for him to return home to us. You saved his life, and because of that, you saved mine. Finally, a special thank you to John Barton for joining me on this journey.


Follow up post to this one:

Cleveland Spirit

By Don Duncan ’43

Don Duncan
Don Duncan ’43

Like many seniors coping responsibly with the lockdown, I sought to bring a semblance of order to a long-neglected area of my home – an upstairs closet piled high with newspaper clippings (1949-1991) and hand-written letters from those who once qualified as Seattle’s movers and shakers. Which is how I stumbled on a battered book titled “Cleveland Spirit.”

On the left side of the red-and-white cover is a sketch of snow-capped Mount Rainier atop a scaled-down Cleveland High School. On the right are dueling open-cockpit airplanes (presumably Boeing-built) followed by the numerals 1927-1928.

My discovery, of course, was the yearbook of the first students to graduate from Seattle’s then – newest high school. I am “unsure” – a better word than “forgetful” at 94 – how it came to be in my closet.

Besides being Cleveland’s first yearbook, 1927-‘28 is historically significant because it pretty much marked the end of this nation’s sometimes wild-and-crazy “Roaring Twenties.” The “Crash” that triggered The Great Depression began in ’29 and didn’t end until World War II.

Full disclosure: I was born in ’26, making me one year older than Cleveland High School, and graduated in ’43 – 77 eventful years ago.

Cleveland’s official colors in ’27-‘28 were “blue-and-white,” and its teams were The Highlanders. The colors, of course, would be changed to red-and-white, The Highlanders would become the Eagles and “Spirit” (perhaps used only once) would give way to Aquila.

The ’27-‘28 yearbook is signed by H.N. Gridley, principal of both Cleveland High School and Cleveland Intermediate School (junior high), which were first combined in a Georgetown elementary school building.

The first full-page photo inside the yearbook is of Charles Lindbergh (“Lucky Lindy”), who stunned the world by making a solo airplane flight from New York to Paris in 1927. Jeopardy question: “What was the name of Lindbergh’s plane?” Answer: “What is The Spirit of St. Louis?” Lindbergh also was Time Magazine’s Man of the Year in ’27. As for who appeared on the cover of Time the most times (“Who is Richard Nixon’’ (55 times).

I’d have preferred Audrey Hepburn.

I was a 13-year-old 9th grader upon arriving at Cleveland from Beacon Hill in January 1940. Almost immediately we “new” students heard about “The Trek,” which teachers and older students seemed to rank only slightly below The Lewis & Clark Expedition and the first ascent of Mount Rainier.

It started the morning of Jan. 3, 1927 at the Georgetown school. Principal Gridley led the march, at first on the level and then up “a steep hill” (huffing and puffing sound effects) as 525 high school students and their 22 teachers, plus 452 intermediate-school students and their 15 teachers pressed on to reach The Promised Land at 15th Avenue South and Lucile Street.

There they found a beautiful new three-story, all-brick schoolhouse named after Grover Cleveland, the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms in The White House as the 22nd president (1885-1889) and the 24th (1893-1897).

The new school had 31 rooms, an auditorium, a well-outfitted cafeteria, and at least one indoor sports venue. There was no blueprint for juggling the schedules of high school and intermediate school students so they wouldn’t bump into each other in the halls or the cafeteria. Nor were there any outdoor sports facilities. But the latter, everyone said, was sure to come. Someday!

The ’27-’28 yearbook was dedicated to Miss Alice T. Stach, “whose teaching (English) has lifted us to heights beyond the commonplace.” Besides Miss Stach, five other teachers from the ’27-’28 faculty were still at Cleveland when I graduated 15 years later: Gaylord Peltier, Dora Leavitt, Lynden K. Hassenmiller, Bill Maginnis, and Margaret Raine.

Hassenmiller, who answered to “Hassey” and taught science, coached virtually every boys’ sports team for a year or so, during which Cleveland suffered some horrific defeats (losing 65-5 against O’Dea’s basketball team). Hassey would finally settle on coaching golf, which had less pressure. Students took losses pretty much in stride, learning early to say “Wait’ll next year.”

Girls played only volleyball, basketball, and field hockey, where there was less pressure.

In addition to academics and sports, there were a variety of clubs. The Intermediate Boys’ Yacht Club showed imagination. It wasn’t for students whose families owned yachts, but for young men and a smattering of young women who designed and built small wooden “yachts” they showed off in a local pond.
Although the Latin Club had a handful of members, the school orchestra – open to all – had enough members to fill the chairs of The New York Philharmonic. No indication of how they sounded.

Two important notes: Ray K. Imus, who spent 35 years as Cleveland’s vice principal, had yet to join the staff in ’27-’28, and all women teachers had “Miss” in front of their names. They would continue to be “Miss” in the years ahead “because a married woman should not be taking a scarce job from a man.” Sexism 101.
Marguerite Fox was Cleveland’s first valedictorian and Mona Mueller its first salutatorian. Also speaking at the first formal graduation were Walter Fisher, representing the arts, Gunnar Carlson, representing science, and Marjorie Brown, who touched on both writing and dramatics.

Frances Beyering wrote the senior-class poem. The first stanza: “As we leave your doors old Cleveland/To face the world anew/We want to thank you dearly/For the things we owe to you.”

Fifteen years later, the poem I was asked to write was recited by the class of ’43 at a Moving-Up Day Ceremony. It spoofed many things and was followed by a dozen or so limericks aimed at high-profile grads. Joy Malde and Ruth Barnier, singer and pianist respectively, provided background music for the limericks.
The first graduating class was small, just 52 grads. Mine, 15 years later, was barely over 100. Class photos show boys and male teachers without a hint of a beard. Nor was there a hint of trousers on girl students and female teachers.
Many girls and women teachers did, however, have “marcelled” hair (tight curls) in the ‘20s. Fifteen years later their hair was “more relaxed.”

A nice touch in the school’s first yearbook was giving each grad an opportunity to say what he or she hoped to do in life. The boys wanted to be salesmen, engineers, lawyers, journalists, airplane pilots, and businessmen.

Although ‘stenographer” dominated the girls’ choices, even that of the valedictorian, some bravely hoped to become a church or theater organist, gym teacher or businesswomen. One even said “a rich woman’s traveling companion.” Two said simply “a housewife.”

One boy said his main goal was to become “a husband.” Perhaps he connected with one of the young ladies with matrimonial ambitions.

Class prophecies were provided, gratis, for each student – predicting a career on Broadway for one student and playing in one of the great symphony orchestras for another. The amateur psychology was also interesting: “Just because a man blushes is no sign he’s bashful,” and “Knows a lot but says nothing.”

In 1997, I emceed my old high school’s 70th birthday party in the school auditorium, which hadn’t changed much in well over half-a-century. There was a wonderful turnout, even a visit by Al Hostak, who had been a student at Cleveland High School for several years before launching a prize-fighting career in which he won the Middleweight Boxing Championship of the World. Al brought down the house when his arrival on stage was delayed because he didn’t hear his name being called. “Ya shoulda rung da bell,” he said, laughing as he ran across the stage.

Don Clifford (’44) and I closed the celebration by singing lyrics I’d penned to a melody [I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face] from Lerner & Loewe’s “My Fair Lady.”

The final verse:

We’d grown accustomed to this place,
To all the times we didn’t win.
We’d grown accustomed to the rain,
To tests that were a pain.
Tan cords, white shirts, saddle-shoes, and skirts,
Were such a habit with us then,
Like faded loves that might have been.
Like Mr. Imus roaming hallways
and rules that didn’t bend,
Tardy bells and blackboard chalk
– we thought they’d never end.
We’d grown accustomed to a way of living that’s no more,
Accustomed to this place.


Don Duncan spent 41 years on newspapers, 28 as a reporter and columnist for The Seattle Times. A Pulitzer judge in 1977. He won two national (Ernie Pyle) awards for human-interest writing and wrote two books. “Washington: The First 100 Years” and “Meet Me at The Center.”

Biggest coups: a solo interview with Elvis, two hours alone with Eleanor Roosevelt, and about 15 minutes with Princess Di, while the rest of the press corps was looking for her.

Wife of 69 years died two years ago.

He never worked for the P-I, which The Times staff called “The Pig’s Eye.” The P-I staff, in response, referred to The Times as “Fairview Fanny.”