June 11, 1926 – June 16, 2018
Joseph Frederick Lightfoot passed away several days after his 92nd birthday and two days after celebrating his 59th wedding anniversary with his wife, Lyn. Joe, born in 1926, grew up in a house in what is now the town center of Mercer Island. His parents, George and Minnie Lightfoot, were early settlers of Mercer Island. George, also known as “Speed”, ran many of the island’s first businesses with his brother, Ewart, aka “Hap”, and was responsible for the establishment of the first bridges off the island – both the East Channel Bridge and the Lake Washington Floating Bridge, hence his “Father of the Bridge” plaque that can be found at the Lid Park, as well as the first island telephone service, mail delivery, bus service, as well as many of the island’s roads.
Joe grew up hunting and fishing on the island, and spent much time with his Lightfoot cousins who lived nearby. He attended East Seattle School on Mercer Island and Franklin High School in Seattle, where he loved to play the trombone. Joe’s father died when he was 14 years old, but his mother worked hard as a bookkeeper to support him. Joe majored in mechanical engineering at Seattle University, and initially worked at Boeing and for the Town of Mercer Island, and later at Washington State Public Power and King County as a Zoning Hearing Examiner.
Joe loved to be on the water, whether fishing, camping, sailing or flying his seaplane, which is fitting for a man who lived nearly all his life on an island. He and his future wife, Lyn, met at a sailing party in Bellevue. Joe was a fantastic dancer, and he and Lyn could clear out the dance floor dancing the jitterbug to “Sweet Georgia Brown”. They later took up square and round dancing, and travelled around the northwest in their trailer attending various dancing conventions.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Joe had an interest in public service and served as the Mayor of the Town of Mercer Island in the 1960s, before the two island municipalities merged. Joe loved to follow the news and was active in local politics, and enjoyed debating with people with differing political views. He had a quick and subtle wit. He was also an early conservationist, with an elaborate recycling system in his garage, and prided himself on not having home garbage collection until the 1980s. But his true nature was as an engineer, and he loved designing, building, driving tractors, and visiting engineering marvels. There are family photos with Joe and his family all with hardhats on as they visited dams or thermal power plants as side trips from their camping vacations.
Also similar to his father, Joe, along with Lyn, had a number of projects, ranging from owning Bellevue Country Day School to converting a small apartment building in Seattle into an establishment that rented furnished apartments to families coming for bone marrow transplants at the Fred Hutchinson Center. After retiring, Joe and Lyn spent about ten years traveling the world, including trips to Europe, China and the Panama Canal, as well as a family cruise to Alaska with all their grandchildren.
Joe and Lyn raised their two children on Mercer Island, and at times Joe commuted all the way to Olympia to continue living with his family on the island. Joe loved to watch his children, George & Liz, play sports when they were children, take camping trips to state parks around the northwest, and work in his large vegetable garden. He was an active member of St. Monica Catholic Church since the early 1980s. He was a long-suffering fan of the Seattle Mariners, and a later-life Gonzaga basketball fan. Joe especially loved spending time and following along with the activities of his six granddaughters, who knew him as “Bapa”. He loved them all very much.
Joe’s will to live was impressive, and he beat numerous illnesses throughout his life. He was born prematurely and missed a lot of school as a boy with severe asthma. His doctors thought it was a miracle he beat advanced cancer as a 19 year old before chemotherapy. He survived strokes and other illnesses in his middle years, and outlived his stage IV cancer diagnosis by more than a dozen years. Thus, while he had been sick for many years, we were shocked when he finally passed away. During his final years he was lovingly cared for by many wonderful caregivers at Homewatch and Sunrise Senior Living.
Joe will be missed by many, including his wife, Lyn Lightfoot, son, George Lightfoot of Mercer Island, daughter-in-law Suzy Lightfoot, daughter Liz Lightfoot of St. Paul, MN, and his six granddaughters, Emily, Maxine, Lindsay, Alice, Ruby and Carly, as well as cousin Bill Lightfoot and many other cousins, nieces, nephews and good friends.
Memorial gifts can be made in Joe’s name to Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center online (www.fredhutch.org/memorial) or by mail (Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, PO Box 19024, Dept. J5-200 Seattle, WA 98109).
A Funeral Mass will be held at St Monica Catholic Church (4301 88th Ave SE) on Mercer Island on July 6th at 11 am. Reception to follow.