Horace Eaton, 1953, Taiwan. Horace Eaton was a man of hard work, with a tender heart. He and his wife, June, married in a wooden, Finnish church in Michigan. They worked for the CIA together, and raised three children in a flower-lined brick home in West Seattle.
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An Untold Life: Horace Eaton
By Maggie Nicholson
Horace Eaton Junior was born in a grassy suburb of Boston in the summer of 1925. His parents Horace Mann and Laura Clark had relocated there from Nova Scotia during the Great Depression. They were looking for work. Horace Mann shuffled in and out of sales agencies, his head furrowed forward in earnestness. Laura found a job with an insurance company. Horace Mann was named after ‘Horace Mann the Educator.’ Later in life, Horace and Laura retired to Franklin, Massachusetts, coincidentally the same town in which Horace the Educator was born. They lived in a small apartment, a stone’s throw away from a marble statue in his honor.
Horace Junior, named after his father, was made a self-reliant man. Growing up amid the depression had prepared Horace for the coarseness of the world. He was adept at holding jobs and was prone toward savings. His parents’ struggles had taught him the value of hard work, and the gravity of each possession.
On Friday the 13th, in the spring of 1950, Horace Eaton Junior met the love of his life, June. They were introduced at a basketball game at Michigan Technological University, where Horace received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering in June of 1951. Shortly thereafter, he was employed by the CIA in Washington, D.C. and lived that summer with a fellow CIA member in Alexandria, VA, a town with cobblestone roads and small stores, just outside of the city. That summer, he proposed marriage to his sweetheart, and they set the date for September 22nd, 1951.
They married in a wooden, Finnish church in Baltic in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. June’s family, going back generation after generation, is Scandinavian. She speaks Finnish fluidly to this day. There were many Finnish exclamations of joy at their ceremony. “Onneksi olkoon,” cried the women to the sky, their eyes glassy and wet with love. June wore a long sleeved, silk dress. Her hair was veiled by colorless lace.
When the couple arrived in D.C. after the wedding, they moved into a house trailer near Alexandra. Horace persuaded June to take a written and polygraph test. She was then hired by the CIA to work alongside him. In January of 1953, Horace was assigned to an outfit in Taipei, Taiwan. June discovered she was pregnant with their first child. Horace flew out first, arranging their living space and situating himself with the country. June, 7 ½ months pregnant, flew out to meet him. It was her first time on an airplane.
Horace and two of their Taiwanese CIA team members met June at the airport with a bouquet of dark red flowers. They moved into a compound of fourteen houses just below the Yang Ming Shang Mountains. On May 24th, their first child, Fred, was born in a hospital nestled into a green overhang of trees, under the watchful eyes of a small and patient staff. He was the second child ever born in the hospital. He had clear blue eyes and light blonde hair. The locals loved to reach into the family car through its vacuous doors, to tousle and rub Fred’s pallid hair for good luck. Sharon, their second child, followed him into the bright world, a mere fourteen months later.
Horace was in charge of the CIA’s motor pool in Taipei. Often, the vehicles would become stuck in muddy rice fields, overturning and causing damage to the cars. Horace took photographs of the cars he rescued from the rice fields, and kept them in a documented collection. Horace could play music by ear. He had intuitive fingers that could pluck at any instrument and make it croon. In Taipei, he directed a choir at the local YMCA. The group consisted of an elder organist named Mrs. Green and a group of young Taiwanese singers with beautiful voices.
Sharon, from an early age, had Horace’s instinctual gift for music. As a tiny girl, she would plop herself onto glass piano benches, and plunk out intricate melodies, astounding the room.
Madam Chiang Kaishek, Horace and June’s CIA superior, had her own choir. She was a gorgeous and esteemed woman, with considerable power. When she held a tea outing for the women of the CIA group, which included June, Horace was in charge of what transportation would carry the women up to Madam Kaishek’s residence, high in the mountains. He suggested a bus, but the idea was rejected, as it did not harbor the correct amount of prestige. The women were given private cars to transport them to Madam Kaishek’s home.
June had a nanny and housemaid in Taipei. She and her nanny cooked nightly alongside each other. Both were skilled with vegetables and meats. Daily, peddlers knocked on June’s door, arms and crates filled with fragrant and colorful flowers. Magnificent flowers abounded throughout the valleys of Taipei.
In January of 1955, Horace and June moved back to the United States. They retrieved their cream colored trailer from its storage in Maryland. They resided in the trailer until June, when Horace accepted an engineering job with Boeing in Seattle.
June, Horace, Fred and Sharon piled into the trailer and drove across the country, to what would soon become their lasting home.
At the steep rocky mountain passes, with their young children bundled in comforters behind them, cool air frosting the windshield like animal breath, Horace and June exchanged gazes and wondered if they would ever make it to Washington.
When the Eaton family arrived, they were weary but cheerful. They rented a living space in Rainier Valley, until they bought their first home, in West Seattle. They settled into a brick house on SW Othello Street. Lilac bushes and white blossoming plants manned the entrance. Two trees swept tenderly toward the front door.
They laid red rugs across the windswept floors. They filled the kitchen, whose walls were painted light blue, with china mugs, floral plates and a squat, rectangular radio. In the basement, Horace fashioned himself a woodworking shop. He built the family a shed, which still stands in the backyard. He managed an eight-unit apartment building on California and Myrtle. He took care of his tenants’ problems, fixing shelves and refurbishing the spaces. Fred remembers fondly ‘helping’ Horace with the rental property and stopping on their way home for hamburgers together. Horace recycled many of the items left behind by his tenants. He liked to give objects a second chance at operating. He extended this kindness to his tenants as well. He was empathetic and helpful if anyone was late on rent or needed his help with anything.
Horace and June had their final and youngest child in West Seattle, a son named Jonathan, who worked tirelessly in Seattle’s shipyard.
Horace owned West Seattle’s ‘Olympic Heights Hall,’ where he hosted garage sales and community dances. He also helped to build ‘Lake Kayak,’ in Snohomish County. He and nine fellow Boeing engineers bought two hundred acres of property in 1965 from the ‘Welcome Brothers,’ a company that built roads. The land they purchased was filled with drainage areas and pools of collected water. In 1970, the lake was finished. No electric boats were allowed on the water: only kayaks, canoes, rowboats and swimmers.
Horace and June sang in their church’s choir in West Seattle for forty years. Horace played songs on the organ. The couple wasn’t much into jazz, preferring gentler music. Horace’s favorite to play on the organ was an unhurried and soulful version of “Softly and Tenderly, Jesus is Calling.”
On the 13th of January this year, Horace and June were talking to each other over a telephone line. Horace had been hospitalized a few months back.
“I won’t be calling you too much longer,” said Horace to June.
“Do you know what day it is?” asked June.
“Yes,” said Horace. “It is the 13th.”
Two minutes later, Horace passed away. In their last moment together, they acknowledged the day: the 13th, how special it was, and how fortunate they had been to meet each other on that day so many adventures, and so many years, before.
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