Dan Babbitt: Oct. 9, 1934 – July 10, 2019

Babbitt

Babbitt

Dan’s life was shaped by bike riding and by fixing/doing/building things. Bikes were an essential part of his early life. During WWII on his 9th birthday, he received a black-market bicycle. He rode all over San Francisco on that bike, chasing firetrucks, exploring and picking up orders for his mother from the local grocery store.

In the fourth grade, his family moved to Kenosha Wis., where he continued to ride his bike. He had a huge paper route and later rode for Western Union. He started bicycle racing when he was 15 years old and was a serious contender by the time he was 16. He was the State Junior Division champion and participated in the Nationals. His bike racing was suspended for many years after he left Kenosha during his high school years to attend Northwestern Naval and Military Academy in Lake Geneva, Wis., and later to begin a career and family.

After a short stint at Knox College, he joined the Marines and served for three years in Japan at Mount Fuji. When he returned home, he enrolled at the University of Illinois under the GI Bill and realized a dream when he graduated with a degree from the school of landscape architecture and civil engineering.

The U.S. Park Service hired him during the summers while he was in college, and then permanently after he graduated. He was a man who could get the job done, any job they threw at him. For 35, years he worked on design and construction of recreational facilities, visitors centers, camp grounds, staff quarters, historic buildings and infrastructure. Some of his favorite jobs were restoring the historic and staff buildings, and rebuilding the infrastructure at Crater Lake; rebuilding the burned hotel at Denali in Alaska in the middle of winter; doing extensive work at Yosemite; and designing and building a suspension bridge on the Wonderland Trail at Mount Rainier. He also worked at parks in Colorado and many other places. He was innovative in his thinking and received many awards for his work, including the Meritorious Service Award. He ended his career with the Park Service as chief of design for the Western Region.

Bike racing re-entered his life in his 50s. Charles Odegaard, who was then regional director of the Park Service, had this to say about Dan’s bike racing: “We are very proud of Dan’s accomplishments as a bicycle racer. He does an excellent job as Regional Chief of Design for the Park Service, and he’s equally good at bicycling. He’s the best in his age category! Best in Washington state! Best in the U.S.! Best in Russia! Maybe best in the world!” During his years of racing as a master, he won dozens of races and broke all kinds of records. Notable among his accomplishments were three gold medals in the U.S. Masters National Track Championships and a gold and bronze in the Russian National Championships.

After his retirement, he built a house in Bellingham with his son, but sold it when he moved to Whidbey Island and married Linda Morris in 1999. He would often say, “I live in paradise. What more could a man want.”

Dan suffered from dementia in his later years which was very hard on him. He spent time in both Maple Ridge and Mukilteo Memory Care. His work ethic and helpful nature remained to the end. If you asked him how his day was going he would often tell you how he was managing the facility and trying to straighten things out.

He leaves behind his wife, Linda Morris; two children, Danielle Fulton (Brad) and Eric Babbitt (Shereen); two stepchildren, Carissa Morris (Angie) and Lyle Morris (Shanshan); four grandchildren, Hunter, Lauren, Sophia, and Rowan; his sister, Sally Rove; and nieces, Jane Whitehead, Susan Thompson and Peggy Simmons.

He was preceded in death by his father, Daniel R.; his mother, Sara Jane; and his first wife, Karen (mother of his children).

His wife wishes to thank the many caregivers who helped in so many ways … those at Maple Ridge, Time Together and Mukilteo Memory Care, plus many others. You are angels of patience and kindness. A service will be held at 3 p.m. Aug. 16 at Langley United Methodist Church. A private reception follows.

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