LETTER: Earl Cruzen

Editor's Note: The following letter was intended to read at the funeral service for one of West Seattle's most well known and beloved residents Earl Cruzen, who died Jan. 23, 2017. It was written by the former Executive Director of the West Seattle Junction Merchants and was intended to be read at the service. A mixup and delays prevented from being read, so we present it here, in memory of and in tribute to Earl.

by Kay Knapton

West Seattle has lost one of its greatest supporters. Earl Cruzen grew up in the area, did business and lived in the community his whole life. But he did more than reside here. He actively worked to improve the area and enjoyed doing it.

Earl was tapped by community leaders to chair a committee of business people who endeavored to find solutions to a declining business district in The Junction (at California and Alaska). Many here may not remember but West Seattle was in a slump, population had declined, families had fewer children and many of those left seeking fortunes elsewhere. The Junction had a 40% vacancy rate. Not the same picture we have today.

He promoted the idea of putting murals on blank walls of buildings to tell the history of West Seattle, and to draw tourists to the area. The committee he chaired established a business improvement area which has guided the development of the Junction ever since, maintaining free customer parking, keeping the Junction clean, hosting promotional activities. These efforts have resulted in the thriving business community we see today.

Earl’s interest in public art extended to funding and installing the “Dancing on Logs” sculpture that greets visitors arriving in West Seattle via the Spokane Street Viaduct. For many years Earl was the sole landscaper on the hillside, removing invasive plants so the sculptures remained visible and planting flowering shrubs to enhance them. When Earl married Adah (on his 80th birthday!) his friends from the West Seattle Rotary Club dressed the sculptures in formal wedding garb!

South Seattle Community College benefitted from his generosity, not only his financial contributions, but his time and energy on their Board and Foundation to assure a stable management of growth and adaptation to new technologies.

On a personal level, Earl was a mentor, supporter and coach to my work with The Junction and in my professional endeavors. To help me purchased my condo, he bought some gold coins from me at retail price, above the price from a dealer. He persistently urged me to relocate to West Seattle. When I retorted that I’d move when he provided a home here, he changed the topic! It was a continuing joke between us for many years.

We both enjoyed world travels. He often went on trade missions meeting with business people and government officials in a variety of developing countries.

When he lived near the Fauntleroy Ferry we had a destination for a bike ride. I’d call and tell him to put beer in the fridge, we’d ride the 15 miles from Queen Anne, ready for a rest and a cold beer when we arrived at his door.

Earl managed to persuade two of the finest, most gracious women to share their lives with him; how lucky can one man get!

I will miss Earl. West Seattle has lost part of its heart with his passing.

Kay Knapton
West Seattle

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