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Wendell McCain

Wendell McCain

After a very long, interesting and useful life Wendell McCain died peacefully on Sunday morning, Jan 6, 2013 at the age of 97. He was born Dec 11, 1915 in Spearfish, South Dakota, where his father was a geography professor at Spearfish Normal (now Black Hills State University). Wendell was one of eight children born to Lynn and Bessie McCain and spent his youth in idyllic Spearfish.

Following in the footsteps of his parents, both educators, Wendell attended Spearfish Normal for two years then Northern Normal (now Northern State University) in Aberdeen, SD where he graduated in 1936. Dad's first teaching job was in tiny Winfred, SD. His pay for that first year was $785. One benefit of that job was a fellow teacher, Lura Gregerson, whom he had first met at Northern Normal. After two years of teaching together they were married in 1939. They had been married for 60 years when Lura died in 1999.

Following the two years in Winfred he taught for three years in Delmont, SD, and then for one year in Volga, SD. He then taught physics and math for a United States Air Force College Training Detachment at Spearfish Normal. All told, he taught 21 different subjects at four different schools in his first seven years as a teacher, including Band and Girl's Chorus. His mother had told him many times "if you ever get the opportunity, Go West", so in 1943, "sight unseen and knowledge unknown", he packed his belongings in his old Ford and drove the gravel roads from SD to Washington to begin a job teaching chemistry and math at Roosevelt High School in Port Angeles - Lura and their three children (at the time) followed by train. Thus began a very significant career as a much loved high school chemistry and physics teacher. In 1957 Wendell was awarded a prestigious Fellowship to Yale University by the John Hay Whitney Foundation. This time he packed Lura and their (now) four children in the '55 Studebaker and drove cross country on the now paved roads. He returned to P.A. for one year before moving to the Seattle School District in 1959 where he taught one year at Eckstein Junior High School while awaiting the opening of Ingraham High School where he taught chemistry for 22 years.

A school teacher at that time, with four children to feed, had to work extra jobs to make ends meet and Wendell at various times worked at a Crown Zellerbach paper mill, at the US Post Office, as a radio dispatcher for the Olympic National Park and as a "cargo checker" on the waterfront in Seattle. For several years he would rise early enough to work for two hours at the Post Office before returning home to put on a suit and tie and head off to school.

In 1961 Wendell became one of 100 pioneer teachers of the new CHEM Study curriculum for high school chemistry. In 1964 and 1965 he spent the summers on the staff of the University of British Columbia as their resident expert teaching teachers the CHEM Study program and subsequently taught seminars on CHEM Study in Victoria, Vancouver and Prince George, BC and Edmonton, Alberta. In 1981 he was recognized by the American Chemistry Society for his "accomplishments as an Outstanding and Inspiring Teacher of Chemistry". Dad was a very principled, rigorous taskmaster, but with a humorous demeanor who always drew the best out of his students. He handed out a lot of "tough love" at report card time but everyone knew they had received the grade they deserved and respected him for it. Over the years he received many letters from former students thanking him for preparing them for success in their careers.

Wendell finally retired from Ingraham and teaching in 1982. In 1992 Lura and Wendell were among the first residents of Emerald Heights Retirement Community in Redmond, WA where they lived until their deaths. He was preceded in death by Lura in 1999 and is survived by their four children; Carol Purvis, Yarrow Point, WA; George McCain (Alice), Kirkland, WA; Jay McCain (Dierdre), Reno, NV and Dori Hathaway (Ken), Denver, CO, along with eight grandchildren; Kirsten (Jim) Smith; Tim McCain; Jay Purvis; Andrew (Sunshine) Purvis; Kevin (Sarah) McCain; Laurie (Steve) Hettinga; Eric (Carolyn) Rader and Ryan (Heather) Rader and six great grandchildren; Lauren McCain, Roy McCain, Tess McCain, Zimri Rader, Zoey Rader and Tara Miley.

The family is very indebted to everyone at Emerald Heights for all the wonderful care that was given to Wendell and Lura over the years, and to Dr. Kaschko and the nurses at the Wound Care Clinic at Group Health Redmond.

A Celebration of Life for Wendell will be held at 2:00 pm on Thursday, Jan 17, 2013 at the University Methodist Temple, 1415 N.E. 43rd St, Seattle, where dad was a long-time member of the choir and Bible study teacher. Please sign Wendell's online Guest Book at www.Legacy.com.

Published in The Seattle Times from Jan. 12 to Jan. 13, 2013
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