Leslie Edwin Lillquist of Laconner, Wash., died on Sunday, July 15, 2012, after a short but courageous battle with cancer. Les was born to Edwin and Violet Lillquist on November 7, 1931, the oldest of five sons, in Mount Vernon.
Soon after, his family moved to Grand Coulee where he grew up in the booming construction town and in the surrounding hills hunting, fishing and rockhounding with his dog King. It was on the sports fields of Grand Coulee and the backcountry of Northrup Canyon that he forged relationships with lifelong friends.
Les was confirmed at Zion Lutheran Church in Grand Coulee. During the Great Depression and World War II he learned the value of hard work and a dollar by delivering newspapers on Grand Coulee’s notorious B Street, and helping his dad remodel their house to fit their growing family. When his dad died of polio in 1945, Les stepped up and became the man of the house.
He graduated from Grand Coulee High School where he was a four-sport athlete as a member of the class of ’49. Les went on to Eastern Washington State College where he played football for two years and track and field for four years. As a college senior, he placed third in the NAIA national tournament as a javelin thrower.
He returned to the Skagit Valley in the summers to work in the pea harvest. It was there that he met the love of his life Karla Jean Ring. They married on August 25, 1954, at Salem Lutheran Church in Mount Vernon. Soon after, they moved to Coulee City where he fathered three sons: Ed, Vic and Karl, with whom he shared his love of hunting, fishing, camping, carpentry and yard sales.
He was a teacher, coach, principal and superintendent in the Coulee City, Oroville and Coulee-Hartline school districts. As a husband, father and teacher he had high expectations and a solid sense of right and wrong.
He was as devoted to his Chesapeake Bay retriever dogs as they were to him. He was an avid gardener and grew a variety of fruit trees.
He and Karla were members of three Lutheran churches during their marriage. Although he never had a daughter … he greatly admired his daughters-in-law, Jan and Nancy.
After retiring from Coulee-Hartline School District, he and Karla moved back to the Skagit Valley to spend their retirement years building a home, gardening and tracing their family roots. He was particularly proud of his Swede-Finn heritage. Through all the years, Les was a hard working, fair and honest man who, despite his often stern demeanor, had a kind heart.
He is survived by three brothers: Marv, Ray and Gene; his wife of 58 years Karla of LaConner; his sons: Ed (Jan) of Oroville and Karl (Nancy) of Ellensburg; grandchildren Jenny (Ben) Dimond, Wayne Lillquist, Kelly Lillquist and great-grandson Colter Dimond.
Les was preceded in death by his parents, an infant brother and his son Vic.
Kern Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.