Late Clallam commissioner Lawrence Gaydeski to be remembered Dec. 8

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

FORKS — West End native and former Clallam County Commissioner Lawrence Irwin Gaydeski, 82, who died Sunday of complications from diabetes, will be celebrated by friends and family at an upcoming potluck lunch.

The remembrance event is at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, at the 110 Business Park Roundhouse in Forks.

It will be officiated by childhood friend Merle Watson, who was vice president of the Forks High School Class of 1948 when Gaydeski was senior class president.

“I don't know how he made it as a politician, mainly because he was honest and didn't lie,” Watson, 82, of Beaver said earlier this week.

“He was probably the best friend I ever had,” Watson said, recalling that he and Gaydeski hunted together and did “all kinds of silly things together” as kids.

Gaydeski was a logger for three decades before he became a three-term Republican county commissioner representing the West End, beginning in 1982.

He helped make a name for himself by championing a no-debt policy for county government that lives to this day, said Peninsula Daily News columnist Martha Ireland of Sequim, herself a Republican county commissioner from 1996 through 1999.

Clallam County Auditor Patty Rosand, a member of the Clallam County Republican Party, said Gaydeski was a party icon.

“He was very revered in the party,” she said.

“He was just a great mentor to many candidates.”

Gaydeski's wife, Dixie, his high school sweetheart, said her husband's political mindset did not go unnoticed in high school.

“He always wanted to know why,” she said.

“He got into trouble lots of times because he always asked the question.

“I think politics ran in his blood.”

A teacher suggested Gaydeski would “reach great heights” if he sought elected office.

The couple raised six children on their family farm on the Sol Duc River, the same home Gaydeski returned to from the hospital 12 days before he died.

As a young man, before he entered the political arena, Gaydeski joked that he had, indeed, reached great heights — as a “high climber” in the logging industry, Dixie said.

But his serious side drove him to politics and to 12 years representing West End District 3 as one of the county government's three top political leaders.

When wild-rivers environmental legislation came before Congress in the early 1980s, he got mad and decided to do something about it, Dixie said.

“He fought that quite a bit,” Dixie said.

“That year he spent trying to fight that rivers bill made him so angry at how things were run, he decided to run for county commissioner,” she said.

During his muscular political career, he handily defeated Democrat Jervis F. Russell by 54 percent to 46 percent in 1982, ran unopposed in 1986 and crushed Democrat Paul Kovatch in 1990 with 64 percent of the vote.

Growing up during the Great Depression had an impact on County Commissioner Gaydeski that echoed in his no-debt stance on building a new county juvenile detention facility, Ireland said.

He stood firm on not borrowing money to finance the project, saying, in effect, “we're going to save money and pay cash,” Ireland said.

Clallam remains one of the few counties in Washington state without bonded debt.

“People had come through the Great Depression, and they didn't want any debt,” Ireland said.

“They had seen people lose their homes and property because they couldn't pay their bills.

“For him, it was very important. Today, we call it being a fiscal conservative.”

In that respect, Gaydeski was before his time compared with many other elected officials, Ireland said.

“He said we cannot count on timber revenue always being there, and we shouldn't spend it as it comes in. We need to save it for one-time expenditures.

“That fiscal philosophy is still there to this day for the benefit of the county.”

Dixie said her husband decided not to seek re-election to a fourth term after he developed severe hearing problems.

But politics was still in his blood.

Several years after bowing out of politics, he bought new, improved hearing aids.

Gaydeski probably would have run for elected office again if not for severe leg burns he suffered during a 2002 welding accident, Dixie said.

“He said, 'I think I'm going to run,' then he got burned,” she said.

The couple bought the land traversed by Gaydeski Road many years ago, then subdivided and gave parcels to their offspring, Watson said.

Watson said the Gaydeski family history contains a multitude of sometimes-prankish stories about the patriarch, many during hunting forays, and recalled one tale from his own Forks High School days.

Gaydeski and Watson drove to school in a car owned by Gaydeski's uncle, unusual in the days when students rarely had wheels.

In the pouring rain, Gaydeski spotted a music teacher walking near a huge puddle, swerved toward the instructor and splashed him mightily.

“He just drowned the poor guy and drowned the motor in the car, and it stalled right there,” Watson recalled with a hearty laugh.

The teacher “laughed with us after he cooled off a bit,” Watson said.



Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: November 23. 2012 3:08PM
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