August 20, 2009 in Region

Seattle paper’s readers ID man with apparent amnesia

Ian Ith, Craig Welch and Susan Gilmore Seattle Times
Mike Siegel photo

A man in his 50s says he woke up in Discovery Park three weeks ago with no memory of who he is or how he got to Seattle is seen in an Aug. 17, 2009, photo. After the Seattle Times posted a story about him Aug. 20, commenters provided evidence that suggested the man was Edward F. Lighthart.
(Full-size photo)

The Web in action

Click here to read the comment thread in which readers of identified Ed Lighthart.

Click here to read the original story and see photos of Lighthart.

The man who wandered out of Discovery Park three weeks ago suffering from apparent amnesia is Edward F. Lighthart, according to friends who recognize him from his photograph published in The Seattle Times.

Friends have e-mailed photographs of Lighthart, and he acknowledges that the man in the photographs is he.

“The name isn’t ringing a bell, but the image is definitely me,” said the man who had been at Swedish Medical Center as Jon Doe since he walked out of the park.

While he didn’t recognize his name, he said that might happen down the road.

Within hours of posting the story online, a reader identified Jon Doe as Lighthart, an English teacher he knew in China. The reader, David Akast, said Lighthart taught at English schools in China and “had an incredible knowledge of European cultural history.

“We had a coffee at Starbucks soon after a meeting and he talked incessantly about European history,” Akast said in an e-mail today. “He really has an astonishing knowledge. He was eccentric, to say the least, but completely harmless. Who knows what has led him to be where he is, but from the very short time I knew him, I can’t imagine him being violent or aggressive.”

Another friend, Randall Snyder of Columbus, Ohio, said he knew Lighthart from the mid-1990s when they attended the Union Institute in Cincinnati together.

He said Lighthart was a high-caliber chef in New York but left that profession following an accident. He then moved to Cincinnati to attend the Union Institute.

Snyder, who hasn’t seen Lighthart since the late 1990s, said Lighthart left the school without graduating and moved to Europe.

He said he has a huge art collection. “He is a very, very brilliant man and knows art like nobody I know,” Snyder said.

Other records show that Lighthart, born in December 1955, graduated in 1974 from a high school in Tucson.

Seattle police said now that they have Lighthart’s birth date, they’re trying to find family, friends and colleagues, said Tina Drain, with Seattle Police Department missing person’s office.

Police also said they are working with Interpol to find his European contacts.

Drain said that Lighthart entered the U.S. in March 2008 from Calgary, Alberta.

John Lucas, a spokesman at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, said Lighthart graduated in 1984 with a bachelor’s degree in French. Prior to attending the university he attended the University of Arizona at Tucson, and the Pima County Community College in Tucson. He also attended the Culinary Institute of America.

When he left with the University of Wisconsin, he gave them an address in Vienna, Austria.

Istvan Deak, a professor at Columbia University, said records show that Edward Lighthart was a student in the General Studies section of Columbia University, and that he took a single class with him entitled, “History of the Habsburg Monarchy, 1815-1918”.

In that class, Lighthart gave a special lecture entitled, “Viennese art of the fin-de-siecle” for which he earned a straight “A”; overall, his grade for the course was “B+”.

“His memory is as sharp as can be,” Deak said.

The man known only as Jon Doe wandered out of Discovery Park wearing pressed khakis and had $600 in his sock. He said he didn’t know who he was or when he was born. He is fluent in English, French and German and has a professorial knowledge of European cultural history.

He remembered attending the Culinary Institute of America in New York and being a chef.

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