I recall an editorial you wrote this summer in tribute to Valley leaders who had passed on in the past year. It was timely and true, and I thank you for your acknowledgement of valuable leadership and friends lost. Add another name to that list – Wilbur Fitch.
Wilbur Fitch died on Feb. 2, 2004. At his memorial service on Feb. 7, we were reminded of all the things Wilbur participated in as he lived and died in Snoqualmie Valley. As a young boy he moved to the Valley and lived here for another 78 years. We heard stories of his involvement with the Snoqualmie United Methodist Church, his contributions as a coach of Little League teams and as coach of teams with no names or organization. He was an early volunteer with the Snoqualmie Fire Department.
He spent many years as a commissioner with the hospital district. He gave up “Monday Night Football” for many a hospital meeting. Few remember that it was Wilbur who was a friend of the reclusive Ethan Wade. Wilbur persuaded Ethan Wade to donate a portion of the acreage for the Snoqualmie Valley Hospital site, and it was Wilbur who negotiated with Ethan Wade to keep the purchase price of the remaining acres within the hospital district’s limited budget. Ethan Wade Way is named for that hospital and Valley benefactor.
Wilbur was a man of many skills. He started out his work life as a baker, and then was a barber. He had a long career as the safety director at the Weyerhaeuser sawmill and logging operation. He had no formal training as a teacher, but he taught all his life, by example and by the book. He taught first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation at Weyerhaeuser as safety director, as a volunteer fireman and to the larger Puget Sound community with the Seattle-King County chapter of the American Red Cross until he was well into his 70s.
The list of his accomplishments and service in the community are long, but cannot truly capture all that Wilbur was to his family and his community. It is the stories that friends and family will tell you about Wilbur that reveal the real man. Through his teaching of first aid and CPR, hundreds of people know how to react in emergencies and even save a life. Hundreds are alive because Wilbur taught someone what to do when needed.
Wilbur loved a joke. He could be straight faced and pull you into a joke you never saw coming. Once, when I was new as a nurse at Weyerhaeuser, Wilbur came to work one morning and his mouth was black and blue with bruises. I said, “Wilbur, what happened to you?” Dead pan he replied, “It’s that other woman I spend time with.” I’m thinking, “Oh no, this is more information than I really want to know.” Then Wilbur went on to say, “Her name is Resusci Annie” – the name for the CPR manikin used in training classes!
I didn’t worry about Wilbur’s other woman again. I think Wibur’s wife, Evalyn, heard him pull that joke on so many people, she also could keep a straight face with his answer.
Wilbur never wanted to be the one leading the parade, or chairing the committee, or directing the show. He didn’t want the accolades. He was a behind-the-scenes leader. He always did participate and contribute. No matter what he was involved in, by his quiet presence and support, by his presence of leadership, Wilbur made a difference in the Valley, and in the world.
There is an old gospel song about friends singing friends through the end-of-life passage called “Who Will Sing For Me?” Wilbur, this song is for you.