Bill and Esther Littlejohn are pictured at a groundbreaking ceremony at the Olympic Medical Cancer Center in April. The event honored major donors to a campaign that raised $1.2 million of the $4.4 million OMCC expansion. Bill Littlejohn, a longtime businessman and philanthropist, died Dec. 12. (Olympic Peninsula News Group file photo by Michael Dashiell)

Bill and Esther Littlejohn are pictured at a groundbreaking ceremony at the Olympic Medical Cancer Center in April. The event honored major donors to a campaign that raised $1.2 million of the $4.4 million OMCC expansion. Bill Littlejohn, a longtime businessman and philanthropist, died Dec. 12. (Olympic Peninsula News Group file photo by Michael Dashiell)

Littlejohn, longtime Sequim philanthropist and businessman, dies at 73

SEQUIM — Bill Littlejohn, a Sequim businessman who owned numerous senior care facilities and whose philanthropy and advocacy boosted dozens of local organizations, has died.

Friends and associates confirmed that Littlejohn died Thursday night. He was 73.

Services will be announced at a later date.

The son of Dr. Robert Littlejohn, who was a physician on the Olympic Peninsula for four decades, Bill Littlejohn was a business owner and developer who owned and oversaw several senior living facilities, including Sherwood Assisted Living, Fifth Avenue Senior Independent Living and the Lodge at Sherwood Village.

Littlejohn, who owned Thomas Building Center and Olympic Ambulance, was a significant contributor to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula and Olympic Medical Center Foundation.

Esther Littlejohn, Bill’s wife of 51 years, said Friday that her husband’s death was expected, but that his health had deteriorated very quickly.

He had an as-yet unnamed neurological disease, she said.

“He was able to let us know what his wishes were,” Esther said. “He fought to the very end; he loved life.”

The Littlejohns were honored with the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce’s 2007 Humanitarian Award.

Among a number of philanthropic endeavors, the Littlejohns also bestowed scholarships annually to local high school students.

“I think it was important to him to leave Sequim a better place,” Esther said. “This has been his home; he grew up here.

“It has always been important to us to give back to our community and our employees who have been so wonderful and hard working.”

An advocate for young and old

While much of his commercial interests had to to with developments, Bill Littlejohn followed in his father’s footsteps in his support of local youth facilities.

Mary Budke, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula, said Robert Littlejohn was on the ground floor of getting Sequim’s Carrol C. Kendall unit built.

His son Bill Littlejohn made donations of varying amounts — most recently, the donation of a 1963 VW Volkswagen for the 2019 auction that netted the club $14,000.

When club officials were seeking significant donations for the soon-to-be-built Port Angeles facility, Budke sat down with Littlejohn to see if he’d contribute once again.

“I was nervous — I said, ‘Bill, you’ve already given so much to the B&G club … (but) I have something to ask of you.’” Budke proceeded to ask him for a $250,000 donation.

“He got a huge smile on his face, and he said, ‘Is that all?’ And he said yes.

“He’s just been there. He ever told me ‘no.’”

Budke said several club employees went on to work for Littlejohn and they typically stayed in his employ for years.

“Once you start working for him you stay,” she said. “I think people knew that they thought they were worthy.”

“I’m so sad about this loss of the community and for Esther and (their daughter) Lindsay, but (I’m) so thankful I got to know him,” Budke said.

Senior housing, health

Started in 1973, Sherwood Village off North Fifth Avenue eventually saw the rise of 187 homes/condominiums. Over the years, Littlejohn built nearby senior housing options The Lodge at Sherwood Village (opened in 2005) and The Fifth Avenue as well.

The Littlejohns also started Olympic Ambulance Service, Inc., in 1971, opening its doors with just one ambulance and five part-time employees.

Littlejohn was also a significant backer of the Olympic Medical Cancer Center, serving as chairman of the capital campaign.

Bruce Skinner, OMC Foundation executive director, worked with Littlejohn closely the last three years, particularly the past year when Littlejohn served as OMC Foundation president.

“We set a preliminary goal of $500,000 (with the capital campaign), and would have been very happy with that,” Skinner wrote in an email after hearing of Littlejohn’s death.

“When Bill became chair, he raised that figure to $1 million. We ended up raising $1.3 million.”

Skinner noted Littlejohn’s various community activities and donations included the Sequim-Dungeness Chamber of Commerce (former president), Clallam County Economic Development Council (board member, 2015-2019), the Sequim Irrigation Festival, Olympic Peninsula Humane Society, Peninsula Friends of Animals, the Dungeness Health and Wellness Clinic, Dungeness River Audubon Center and the Peninsula College nursing program, as well as OMC foundation fundraising events such as the Festival of Trees, Harvest of Hope, the Red, Set, Go Luncheon and the Great Olympic Peninsula Duck Derby.

Littlejohn was the Duck Derby’s top duck seller in 2019 with 2,601.

“No one has given more of (their) time and resources to the Sequim-Port Angeles communities than Bill and Esther,” Skinner said.

Brown Maloney, a friend and fellow Sequim businessman and philanthropist, noted that Littlejohn was an avid hiker who had traversed nearly every trail in the Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest.

Littlejohn’s death, Maloney said, was a surprise to many.

“He has been an active leader in Sequim and the county,” said Colleen McAleer, executive director of the Clallam County Economic Development Council in an email sent to several people Friday with the news of Littlejohn’s death.

Littlejohn is survived by his wife Esther of Sequim and his daughter Lindsay of Portland, Ore.

The last project the Littlejohns had in mind — one that is still going to happen, Esther said — is a series of affordable duplexes for employees of their businesses.

“It’s not going to be a moneymaker for us at all (but) we want our employees to be safe and comfortable,” she said.

________

Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].

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