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Remembering a Community Leader

Updated: Jan 21, 2023

In January, we published a tribute to Thurston Muskelly as he had returned home from the Parkshore retirement community. We were to learn later that Thurston died on Christmas Eve while our paper was at the printer. John Barber adds a farewell to fond memories of Thurston:

I actually knew Thurston long before he became President of the Leschi Community Council, a post he held for 9 years.

In the 1970s, I became union steward for the Seattle HUD office's newly formed branch of the American Federation of Government Employees. Thurston was the regional representative of the AFGE, Thurston's assignment was to ground us new union officers in the rules and best practices of union leadership. He was a knowledgeable, straight ahead guy who quickly had us on a strong path.

For many years, I didn't know how instrumental he had been in advocating for the public health community, like saving the building at the north tip Beacon Hill that served was discontinued as veterans’ hospital, for use (instead of sold on the real estate market) as a public community health clinic. During that time, he was mentored by Senator Warren G. Magnuson in the nuances and skills of political influence.

Increasingly, I saw his experience in political influence put into play with his leadership of the Central Area Development Association. He would give the Mayor and City Council members annual walks in the Central Area to raise awareness for fighting crime and for addressing the development aspirations of the local business community.

When he became President of the Leschi Community Council, he already had established his reputation among the elected city officials, who were just a phone call away. He was seen by many in City Hall as “Mayor” of the Central Area. I was already Chair of LCC’s Parks and Greenspace Committee when he became President. When he told me, “John, you've got to do something about Flo Ware Park,” I knew it must have some problems, and I got right on it, through a process of planning, grant writing, and fundraising that led to the total renovation of the park and active community policing. We made much other progress during his Presidency like renovating the King Street Shoreline Street End and a section of Lake Washington Boulevard leading to Leschi Park, trail-building in Frink Park, acquisition of wooded areas for the Leschi Natural Area, and major renovation at Powell Barnett Park. His support helped us throughout. He also fended off plans by Scientology to locate a drug treatment center in Leschi, because of how he saw as doubtful the credentials and goals of the sponsor.

His strong affiliation and influence at the Central Area Senior Center were assets for our community. He was a warm and steady friend, and I will miss him dearly.

~John Barber


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