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Daniel C. Grinstead


1943 - 2018 Obituary Condolences Gallery
Daniel C. Grinstead

December 19, 1943-September 6, 2018

I was born on December 19, 1943, to Bonnie Atkinson, a single mother, in Lexington, Michigan, in a "home" for "you know what". My father was John LaPonsa of Detroit, a sailor about to be deployed on a troop ship bound for Europe. Although those two parties never met again, they each described their encounter to me, forty years later, as a "toot". Thanks a lot, folks!

My real parents adopted me at birth. Betsy Grinstead, ne;e Auld, was a business and math professor at the University of South Carolina, and a volunteer USO pianist. Loren Grinstead was a former naval officer, working for Boeing as an engineer in Detroit. In 1945 we moved to Mercer Island, near Loren's hometown, Seattle.

Our house was filled with music. Betsy played the piano every day. Loren bought and played records, from classical to Sousa to Spike Jones, and, at age four, I picked out tunes from the radio on the piano.

Betsy insisted that I should have been a fine classical musician; alas, my "ear" for music was stronger than my "eye", and by age fourteen I was tending towards early jazz and ragtime. I could also "fake" the classics. My parents sort of forgave me, when, at age twenty-one and armed with a union card, they witnessed my first big job: the Olympic Hotel! Both up-beat background music and sing-a-long, with a quirky contralto who started every song in unannounced (but very low) keys. I quickly learned to play anything I knew in any key, but favored the sharp and flat ones, because, as the man said, "the notes stick up!"

I received an advanced degree in music from the University of Washington and took employment with them as the archivist in Ethnomusicology, gracefully avoiding military service.

Part-time work in piano shops (from ages 16 to 30) was also formative, allowing a life-long indulgence in player pianos and their music.

My father Loren had a major interest in boats and engines which he passed along to me. When I formed Ace Tugboat Company in 1971 and sought antique craft to fix and maintain, he remarked, "Old boats, old music; make sure you're paid."

And so it went with dozens of customers until my retirement in 2011. Old stuff from small freighters to fish boats to yachts to classic sailboats from Juneau to San Diego. And I got the money until everything got even older and scarcer, or tastes changed-in both the music and boat worlds. The right time and place-my lucky choice at the time!

Speaking of time brings up prostate cancer, my soon-to-be demise. It's been nine years since diagnosis, the first seven pretty good. Earlier diagnosis (like age 55) well might have saved me, Dear Doctor Friends, take note.

Old Boats and Old Music:

Final Fond Memories

My mother Betsy and my piano teacher Nancy having a cutting contest over a piano duet of a Haydn symphony-all elbows and page turns. I still hear it on many occasions!

Our floathouse (houseboat) 300 miles up in Canada, surrounded by old yachts and tugboats, fueled by summer partying and seafood, with music on the landlady's piano in the next bay, where a drunken Irishman took a swing at me for changing keys in "Danny Boy". Best investment I ever made: 1985-2005.

To the late Hokum Jeebs who brought vaudeville back to Seattle, taught me showmanship, fed me and paid me well: 1990-2003.

To Tom Jacobus, founder and arranger for the Evergreen Classic Jazz Band, 1985-2005, which helped me make a third of my living on music (old music I can still hear in my head). That band disintegrated due to an aging audience and cranky musicians.

Just like I am disintegrating now. At least I got paid.

Finally, a meeting of my two loves. I "borrowed" a 1937 90-foot steel tugboat / fireboat with original engine for the Olympia Tugboat Race, and put the entire Evergreen Band (with guests) aboard to play 1920's music. We turned on the fire pumps and sprayed the competition (with help from longtime business partner Peter Orton, mate, and the reliable Tiny Freeman, engineer and deckhand).

I received a nice commission for sale of the vessel. - Dan

Dan is survived by his longtime partner Carol A. Campbell.

At his request, there will be no formal services.

A celebration of Dan's life will be held at a later date.
Published in The Seattle Times from Sept. 13 to Sept. 14, 2018
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