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Washington Voices

Park named after tireless neighbor

Thu., Oct. 14, 2010

Dorothy and Dick Carson are longtime neighborhood activists.  (Colin Mulvany)
Dorothy and Dick Carson are longtime neighborhood activists. (Colin Mulvany)

Dick Carson, his wife have helped community in many ways

When Dick Carson headed to the Northwest Neighborhood Council meeting in September, he didn’t suspect anything unusual was going on. At 85, he’s cut back a bit on his community involvement but he still goes to the neighborhood council meetings and he’s been a member of the Northeast Spokane Kiwanis Club since 1974.

He did notice some people from the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department at the meeting, but he was simply astounded when they announced they were there to name a new park at nearby Dwight Merkel Sports Complex after him.

“It surprised the heck out of me,” said Dick Carson. “I mean, I pushed and pushed for a park to be developed by Upper Driscoll Boulevard – people were planting flowers there and taking their own hoses over to irrigate it – but I never expected this.”

Park naming follows a rigorous set of rules and regulations, but in this case the Parks Board determined it was appropriate to let the Northwest Neighborhood Association suggest the name of the park.

“I don’t feel like we really deserve it,” said Dorothy Carson, his wife. “And who knows? Maybe 10 years from now they’ll rename it something else.”

Victor Frazier, chairman of the Northwest Neighborhood Association, wrote in an e-mail that Dick Carson was a charter member of the Northwest Neighborhood Association and instrumental in establishing it as a nonprofit organization, and that Dorothy Carson served as secretary of the association for many years.

“They helped with litter cleanup on I-90 for many, many years, and have done so much for youth in this community,” Frazier wrote.

Dorothy and Dick Carson have lived in the same home on West Hoffman for 45 years. They raised four children there, and that’s where they’ve spent the biggest part of their life, but their story begins in Great Falls.

The two met in high school and have been married for 62 years.

“We married on Bastille Day, that makes it easy to remember,” said Dorothy Carson. “Sometimes I get very upset with him. He doesn’t look like the boy I married anymore, but then I look carefully I can still see the boy in him and that makes it all OK.”

And what is Dick Carson’s secret to a long and happy marriage?

“I just shut up sometimes,” he said, laughing.

A big man with a twinkle in his eyes, Dick Carson said they are very fortunate to be born at the time they were.

“Our childhoods were pleasant, it was a good time, we were between two big wars but didn’t feel a lot of it,” Dorothy Carson chimes in.

Dick Carson joined the U.S. Navy in 1943 and attended boot camp at Farragut State Park, before being sent to the Pacific theater.

“They trained him to be an aircraft mechanic and then to be a secondary pilot because they were afraid to run out of pilots,” said Dorothy Carson. “He was gone for some time, on the Ticonderoga. I didn’t like that. I still remember when he called me, when he got back.”

The two married in 1948, and before settling in Spokane they lived in Lewistown, Mont., The Dalles, Ore., and in Seattle, while Dick Carson worked a variety of jobs including one as a railroad detective for the Union Pacific Railroad. In Spokane, Dick Carson spent the main part of his career with the Air National Guard, which he retired from in April 1985 with the rank of master sergeant.

Dorothy Carson was a science and math teacher at St. Charles Catholic School.

“I taught there for 10 years and there were times where I taught everything,” said Dorothy Carson. “I figured I’d enjoy teaching literature and English, when I got the chance. But I wasn’t that good at geography.”

Another thing that didn’t quite agree with Dorothy Carson was driving.

“I had three incidents when I was trying to learn how to drive,” Dorothy Carson said, laughing. “I was in the alley one time, trying to turn around, and all of a sudden smoke billowed out from underneath the hood.” It wasn’t anything serious but that was the day she decided driving wasn’t for her.

The list of the couple’s community involvement and volunteer work is long. Dick Carson was a Boy Scout leader for decades, and they have both been active in Kiwanis since 1974.

“One year we were in charge of the annual convention and the mail and all the checks came here to the house,” Dorothy Carson said. “I don’t know how we managed all of that, but we did.”

Dick Carson also served as the executive director of Junior Achievement starting in 1963, and he was the leader of Explorer Post No. 42 from 1974 to 1985.

He has held countless positions with the Northeast Spokane Kiwanis, where he received the Jack Delf Distinguished Service Medal in 1996. At that time he had served 21 years with perfect attendance.

“Dick is our hero in the Northeast Spokane Kiwanis Club. He’s the one we call when we need information, affirmation or participation. Dick has been NEK’s ‘Kiwanian of the Year’ many times and we anticipate he will collect more accolades and awards in his lifetime than any other member,” the nomination letter read in part.

“He has always been involved in so many things,” said Dorothy Carson, “and I’ve always been right there with him. I’ve been his backup all these years.”

Being a backup took on a whole new meaning when Dick Carson had a stroke in 2005.

“Just like that, from one day to the next,” Dorothy Carson said, smiling at the love of her life. “But we were lucky. He can walk and talk and do a lot of things by himself.”

Dick Carson smiled right back at her.

“We have been lucky,” he said.

Today, life at the Carson household has slowed down, but that’s just fine and good.

Dick Carson said he’s looking forward to walking on a trail around Carson Park and Dorothy Carson can’t wait to take the grandkids and the great-grandkids.

“I hope there’s a swing set when it gets all done. I’d love to take the kids to swing on the swings – actually, that’s what I’d like to do myself,” Dorothy Carson said with a big smile, “just go and swing on the swings.”

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