At the age of about 102, Louis Smith Livingston joked that his life expectancy was only six more months.
“And I went to five more birthday parties for him,” laughed Bruce Eldredge, CEO of the Inland Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture.
The 107-year-old Livingston, of Spokane, died last week at Rockwood Manor’s skilled nursing unit after having broken his hip in late November, Eldredge said.
Livingston was a central figure for 40 years at Lewis and Clark High School. A history and civics teacher, he rose to become assistant principal before retiring in 1966.
“He was a very, very dedicated … teacher; very tough and very unbending,” Eldredge said. “I wouldn’t go so far to say he was well-liked (by his students) but he was well-respected.”
Livingston was instrumental in creating the U.S. military’s American School system in South Korea. He also served as director of what then was called the Cheney Cowles Museum, now known as Spokane’s MAC.
In the days leading up to his Sept. 10 birthday this year, Livingston sat down with a newspaper reporter to reflect on his experiences.
“The most pleasure in life is the work you have to do,” he said good-naturedly.
He said he enjoyed a life filled with love, world travel and good deeds.
His wife of 63 years, Margery, was one of Washington’s first female hospital administrators. She guided Spokane’s Shriners Hospital for Children in the 1930s, Eldredge said.
Margery Livingston died in 2002, six months shy of her 100th birthday. The couple had no children and spent their free time globetrotting.
“I’ve had a good life, no complaints,” Livingston told the reporter. “I’ve pretty well done what I wanted to.”
His crowning work will survive him. A financial whiz, Livingston parlayed his modest savings into about $4 million in stocks, Eldredge said. Then “he began giving it all away,” he added.
In his final years, Livingston set up charitable trusts to support his favorite causes: The Salvation Army, Whitworth University, The Inland Northwest Community Foundation, the Spokane Symphony and the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture.
He held his beneficiaries accountable for their gifts, said Richard Pierson, director of finance for the Inland Northwest Community Foundation, which gives grants throughout the region.
“He was always calling me and asking me how his investments were doing. He was very sharp and attuned to what was going on,” Pierson remembered fondly.
Added Eldredge, “He loved it. He kept saying, ‘You can’t take it with you.’ He thought that was the right thing to do, to give money to help others. It’s a real nice Christmas story.”
A memorial service for Livingston will be held Jan. 4 at 11 a.m. at Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Spokane.