He attended a one-room schoolhouse through high school, and then went on to attend Kansas State University.
He worked very hard, financing his school through extra paid work and a loan from his Uncle Oscar.
At Kansas State, he met our mother Gloria Spiegel, then 17, at a school mixer at the Farmhouse Fraternity.
He cut in and she was dazzled: “Not only was Lee tall…he was also dark haired and handsome.
Add to that a gift of gab, very witty, charming, beautiful smile, and polite, and you have all the ingredients…” WWII interrupted his education, but not his determination to marry mom, which he did during a break from duty on a Tuesday evening, March 14, 1944.
Lee had joined the U.S. Army Air Force, predecessor of the U.S. Air Force, on December 11, 1941, four days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Upon graduation from Aviation Navigation School he became a Navigator Instructor first at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas and then at Hondo Army Air Field in Hondo, Texas.
He volunteered to join the 315th Bomb Wing on Guam as a Navigator on Bell-built Boeing B-29 bombers.
He flew missions from Guam to targets in Japan every other day.
In that role he flew the longest mission of World War II, 18 and a half hours round trip, and also flew the very last mission of World War II.
While returning to Guam from that final mission to Japan the crew received word of the Japanese surrender.
This last mission was commemorated in the book, “The Last Mission” by Jim Smith.
When his wife Gloria gave birth to twin boys in Kansas, he gained the “points” needed, and returned home from his work in the Air Force.
Returning to college with the valuable assistance of the GI Bill, dad graduated from Kansas State University with a BS in Civil Engineering.
In the 1950s, Lee participated in the last land rush in the continental US.
On a section of land lacking power, water, or road, he led the effort to make it a working farm.
Today it is an apple orchard near Othello, WA.
Gloria later wrote a book about those years titled, “We Built a Farm” which featured her on the cover astride their bright red FARMALL Tractor.
After five years, the family moved to Spokane where Lee worked for the Federal Bureau of Conservation until his retirement.
In his “leisure time” he built a lake house and dock at Hayden Lake, where the family vacationed.
He invested in properties to supplement his income and became a helpful and understanding landlord—several tenants actually became good friends.
Lee was proud of his four children; two of whom became electrical engineers, one who went into medicine and later became a playwright, and one who pursued nursing, homemaking and voiceover production.
Lee was always a crack shot with his .22 rifle, having had years of practice as a child helping to provide food for his family in rural Kansas.
From Spokane, he and Gloria moved to Carnation, WA to be closer to family.
When Gloria died, Lee moved into the Norse Home in the Phinney Ridge area of Seattle where he lived four years, passing away peacefully at almost 97 years of age.
Friends and staff at the Norse Home remembered him for his pleasant demeanor and great smile.
He always did his best to be a credit to the people he knew and loved, and we will greatly miss him.
Lee is survived by his four children, ten grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
A memorial will be held at the Norse Home in Seattle, Sunday, December 29th at 1:00pm.
Click here to comment on this story »