Webb Moffett leaves enduring legacy

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When Webb Moffett passed away at 91years old on Feb. 26 following complications from a

stroke suffered in late December, he left behind so many important things: a

loving family, good friends, belongings and momentos gathered over a

lifetime filled with adventure and accomplishment.

Along with those gifts from his life, Moffett left an enduring

legend and legacy that changed the Snoqualmie Valley _ and the

entire region _ forever.

Born Jan. 27, 1909, in New York City, Moffett graduated from

the Rensselayer Polytechnic Institute with a degree in civil engineering in

1930. The annual gathering of his college fraternity, to be held in Seattle in

1932, induced Moffett to drive cross-country in his Model A Ford.

As a youngster, Moffett loved to slide down the snow-covered hills

at Wykagyl Golf Course in New Rochelle, N.Y. But his first inspiring

view of Mount Rainier during that 1932 reunion set the course for the rest of

his life, and in the process shaped some of the Pacific Northwest's most

defining characteristics.

Moffett set his stakes in Seattle, obtaining work with the Army

Corps of Engineers as assistant director at the Ballard Locks. But his heart _ and

all his free time _ were in the mountains.

"People had to walk up the hills, then ski down," said Moffett's son

and business partner, David Moffett. "So Dad took an engine out of a car

and used wheels at the top and bottom of the hill to create the first rope tow."

By 1936, Moffett had met and married Seattle native

Virginia Robinson, who preceded him in death in 1996. In 1937 the couple, in

partnership with Chauncey Griggs, installed the first automated rope tow

at Mount Rainier, quickly followed by tows at Mount Baker and

Snoqualmie Pass.

While Moffett worked on expansion, construction and

engineering, Virginia managed publicity, food service, bookkeeping, the gift shop,

and all other aspects of daily operation.

In 1941 with World War II gas rationing a determining factor,

Moffett concentrated his efforts at Snoqualmie Pass. With eight rope tows now in

use, he offered free ski lessons to all ticket holders and organized the first ski

patrol in the Northwest.

Among Moffett's innumerable contributions to the sport of skiing

and development of Snoqualmie Pass, he introduced the first night skiing

capability in the United States, engineered and built the first snow

grooming equipment, and installed the first double-seat chair lift.

By the early 1950s, Moffett had built the second largest ski area in

the country. Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Moffett purchased Ski

Acres, Alpental and Hyak, making Snoqualmie Summit a

world-class destination.

The Moffett's two crowning achievements came with the 1960

construction of the Chapel of St. Bernard. The first house of worship at a ski

area, it was built with funds donated by skiers.

Their second unique contribution was the 1982 formation

of SKIFORALL, a program dedicated to teaching the disabled of all ages

and handicaps to ski. Beginning with just a handful of participants,

the SKIFORALL now boasts 500 highly trained volunteers and is the

second largest program in the country.

While personalities, modes of travel and snow sports equipment

have evolved over the years, Moffett was known for welcoming enthusiasts

of the new trend in snowboarding when many other ski areas turned

them away.

As unique and momentous as the Moffetts'achievements at

Snoqualmie Summit were, the couple contributed to another enduring Seattle legacy.

In 1959 the Moffetts vacationed in Germany with friends Eddie and

Nell Carlson. Carlson, who worked his way up from being a bellhop at the

Benjamin Franklin Hotel to CEO of Western Hotels and, eventually,

president of United Airlines, had been chosen to organize the 1962 Seattle

World's Fair.

The foursome were dining at the Television Tower in Stuttgart,

which had the restaurant located near the top of the tower. Impressed with the

experience, Virginia suggested what a wonderful concept a similar

structure would be for the World's Fair.

As Virginia talked, Eddie Carlson sketched on a napkin. Before

dinner was over, "Space Needle" entered

the conversation as an appropriate name for the futuristic design. Carlson

sent his napkin sketch to John Graham, architect of the Space Needle, and

the rest is history.

Known for his character, honesty and compassion, Moffett gave

many Snoqualmie Valley youth their first jobs.

"He was always interested in the Valley kids," said Peggy

Westerlund of North Bend. "He always had a

carload of kids riding up the mountain with him. He wanted to make sure

the kids were able to have a clean, sober, fun life so he made efforts to

sponsor them and keep them on a straight path."

The Westerlund family remained close friends throughout

Don Westerlund Sr.'s 30-year employment with Moffett. All six Westerlund

children had also worked for Moffett.

"We often went boating together," Peggy Westerlund said. "Webb

was also a really good magician _ it's how he put himself through college.

"He would keep the kids entertained with magic tricks and old stories. The

only argument I ever heard them have was whether to raise the price of a cup

of coffee from five cents to ten," Westerlund said, commenting

on Moffett's close friendship within their marriage.

"Webb and Dad were the closest of friends," said Tim Westerlund,

who worked for Moffett for about 20 years. He was very generous with our

family over the years. He even offered to send me through college. He was

a very down-to-earth man and he allowed me to learn the building

trade through work at the Pass."

"I also want to thank the Moffetts for everything they did for my

family," added Don Westerlund Jr. Now with his own excavating

business, Westerlund credits Moffett with allowing him to pursue learning his

trade through his 14-year employment at the ski area.

As a lasting tribute to the children of Snoqualmie Valley, in 1994

Webb Moffett donated $50,000 for the construction of a baseball field,

behind Les Schwab Tires in North Bend. The Webb Moffett Memorial

Baseball Field now provides organized sports activities to hundreds of area kids.

The balance of the money to build the complex was donated by residents of

the Valley.

"My parents affected so many lives," Dave Moffett said in

conclusion. "They touched tens of thousands of lives and employed about

2,000 Valley residents. They were incredible people."

A memorial service was held on March 13 at the Church of

Epiphany in Seattle. Moffett was also an avid tennis player, and a reception

followed at the Seattle Tennis Club.

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