The Harry Leavitt
Public Parkland Legacy Fund
In recognition of Harry Leavitt’s lifelong passion for sustainability and teaching of Mercer Island High School students, Harry’s family has established The Harry Leavitt Public Parkland Legacy Fund. Donations to this fund will provide resources to protect and preserve the Mercer Island public parkland that Harry loved so that it can be enjoyed by future generations of Mercer Island families.
Harry grew up on Mercer Island and was the Valedictorian of his Mercer Island High School class of 1965. He also won the Ethel Johnson Award, given by the faculty for leadership, character, and service. In his valedictory speech, Harry said, “A man is what he is in spirit, his inner being, not where he lives, but what and how he lives.” Throughout his life, Harry’s inner spirit has guided how he lives.
Following graduation from college, Harry began teaching at Mercer Island High School. In addition to his teaching, he served as Faculty Advisor to the “Committee to Save the Earth,” a student group committed to sustainability. The students started a community recycling program, then raised enough money to build the Mercer Island Recycling Center in the northwest corner of Mercerdale Park. Students were active participants in every stage of the project—planning, construction, and operation.
The Recycling Center opened on September 15, 1975. Funds from the sale of newspapers, tin cans, and glass were funneled back to the School District and were also donated for the construction of adjacent Bicentennial Park, which was dedicated on July 4, 1976. The Recycling Center ran successfully for 35 years until 2010, when it was closed due to the City’s curbside recycling program. According to Jane Meyer Brahm, the author of Mercer Island: From haunted wilderness to coveted community, “The Mercer Island Recycling Center was one of the first to be certified by the State Department of Ecology. In 1976, then-Gov. Dan Evans awarded the committee [to Save the Earth] the state’s Environmental Excellence Award.” (p. 124)
Harry also devoted his love, energy and effort to establishing and maintaining the Northwest Native Woodland Garden, between the Recycling Center and the Skate Park, with pathways for children to explore and benches for shaded summer picnics. The adjacent wetland provides habitat for wildlife.
Harry’s passion for the environment drove his imaginative and ceaseless work to protect Mercerdale Park from development. In 1997, when he heard that the Mercer Island City Council had voted to build a new Fire Station in the park, his first response, according to a close friend, was: “No, they’re not building in the park.” It took Harry and a small group of citizens months of creative and determined community organizing, but six months to the day after the City Council approved the plan, they voted to abandon it.
Harry’s three children wish to honor his lifelong commitment to preserving and protecting our environment by establishing a fund to protect and preserve public parkland. His son, Michael Leavitt, says, “In the last few years, he [Harry] has found it extremely important to search for means by which the legacy of his life could be carried on. Among many other ways that our family, friends and all of us who loved Harry will continue working to carry on his legacy as best we can, this fund [The Harry Leavitt Public Parkland Legacy Fund] will be an amazing addition.”
To donate, please click on the "Donate" button above
mail your check to:
c/o CCMIP, PO Box 1337, Mercer Island WA 98040
Please indicate: “Leavitt Fund contribution” on the subject line of your check.
We’d love to hear how you knew Harry and a time you remember being with him, something he said that you remember, or something you did together.
We will be posting these reflections about Harry on our website.
Please email your memories of Harry to protectMIparks@gmail.com. We’d love photos too!
View "A Brief History of the Mercer Island Recycle Center" here: tinyurl.com/protectMIparks
Harry Drumheller Leavitt
Seattle, WA b. 5/22/47, d. 3/29/17
Environmentalist, teacher, activist, father, grandfather. Many reasons why "everyone loves Harry". Responsible for earliest environmental initiatives in Seattle area, alternative middle schools in 1970's, affordable housing since 1978, scholarship fund in President Obama's mother's name, and Mercer Island Recycle Center's 35 years of operation. Survived by 3 children, 4 grandchildren all flourishing locally. Steward of the earth, champion of the disenfranchised. Harry mined hope with endless love. Join us to honor him - Harry Leavitt. Memorial Celebration: 1:30pm May 22, 2017, Mercer Island Community Center, 8236 SE 24th St, 98040. Three causes to donate in his name: protectmiparks.org/leavitt, swedishfoundation.org/cancer, stanleyanndunhamfund.org
--Published in the Mercer Island Reporter April 7, 2017
--Published in the Seattle Times April 23, 2017