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 Leavitt

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

or

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


 

OBITUARY:

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

“Harry lived next door in Mt Baker. In the front yard, he grew gigantic sweet corn and a host of other vegetables. These thrived on the load of fresh chicken manure dumped in preparation for the summer crops. A great neighbor that kept us entertained and amazed at every turn. I am sad we lost touch in the intervening 30 years while we all pursued a variety of interests and Harry moved away.”
— Nancy Eitreim, Seattle, WA Seattle Times April 23, 2017
“I remember Mr. Leavitt’s class when I was at North Mercer Junior High in the early 1970’s. He was a different kind of teacher than most of the rest because he taught from a principled belief in his subject. The class was called Man and His (the?) Environment and he had the ability to make everything very real to a person in their early teens who might not otherwise have a care in the world. I know a few friends who also remember Mr. Leavitt who say that he had a real impact on the trajectory of their lives. Condolences to his family over their loss.”
— Rick Furman, Mercer Island Reporter April 13, 2017
“Harry Leavitt was so full of vitality, caring, and warmth that it is hard to imagine him gone from this astral plane. He had a profound influence on me and other students who were lucky to have him as a teacher and CSE advisor in the 1970s. (Looking back, he was young, then, but we didn’t know this. :-) ) His visionary “Man and the Environment” course was decades ahead of its time — as was Harry on so many issues — in its attention to environmental and global issues, and the holistic, interconnected, synergies among them. His behind-the-scenes, lead-by-example style had a major influence in moving the Seattle area forward (and those who learned from us) on various environmental issues — both directly and indirectly through his gentle impact on others. I have many memories from him. E.g., strategizing with students on a “bottle bill” that would require a $0.05 deposit on bottles and cans (something we now take for granted) and lessons from its failure in Olympia the first time around. His personal convictions and leadership in proving the market for recycling, and him driving forward mandatory recycling (again now taken for granted). Various class field trips and educational lessons on them — Mt. Rainier, Pioneer Park, the Cascades, Cyprus Island, etc. He was a principled visionary. Even when many years went by, when our paths would cross, Harry would be eager to catch up, modest about himself, full of fascinating ideas and insights, and generous in his networking. He was there at my campaign launch event a decade ago. Most recently in July he was there at my wedding, which he assisted in very meaningful ways. He will be sorely missed; his spirit carries on within many of us.”
— Dale Murphy, Mercer Island Reporter May 1, 2017
“Of those of is fortunate enough to have been young SWIS students in the 70s, and fortunate enough to be “taught” by Harry (and Mary Jo, and Bill, and Frank, and Ruth... and later, many others), the lessons of that school, and the inspiration and freedom of it, were entirely life changing. I say “taught” in quotes, because Harry encouraged and supported a kid’s explorations far more than I recall him teaching- and that made all the difference. As Rick said here, he was principled and in a way few people are. Its hard to imagine a learning environment like that now- as open and free and full of life experience, and for me, it was among the best years of my life- and I owe much to Harry and his colleagues for making it happen. A great teacher and human being, and I will really miss him. Thank you Harry.”
— Matthew Waddington, Mercer Island Reporter April 13, 2017
“I was fortunate to work with Harry & the other SWIS teachers as their secretary when they began an alternative program for 120 junior high school students at North Mercer Island Junior High School in the early 1970’s. This was a half-day job (mornings) where I spent my afternoons as a volunteer arranging their many field trips. I watched Harry turn many youths, who would have been drop-outs in a regular school situation, into eager students because of his interesting presentations of hands-on learning experiences & many off campus field trips (i.e. open heart surgery of an animal, several days hiking through the Rain Forest, overnight igloo building at Snoqualmie Pass). The two years I spent helping & observing became a highlight of my life - showing me what education could be if given the inspiring help of such educators as Harry. Our friendship continued until his final days, and I am forever grateful for knowing this wonderful person who will be sorely missed.”
— Betty Morgan, Mercer Island Reporter April 27, 2017