Here is my Uncle Dick in his graduation portrait. A larger version fit for high-quality printing is here.
Richard David Fleagle was born on 22 July, 1926, the fifth child of James Fleagle and Jennie (Coffin) Fleagle and the third of what the family called “the triplets” (Ben, Vivian and Dick) because they came one after the other very quickly. Dick had a rapier-sharp sense of humor and was a past master of the subtle witty remark. Of my aunts and uncles, Dick was the closest in age to my father, who was the sixth and last child, and accordingly they did not get along as well with each other as young boys as they did later in life. For when they had grown and after brothers Jim, Ben and Dick had all returned from the war, my dad followed Dick and Jim out West to Seattle, a town that promised opportunity, and consequently I grew up with Uncle Dick and Aunt Jean as my closest and most familiar representatives of extranuclear kinship. I had many cousins, but the one I knew as a cousin was their son Gary, who is nine years my senior.
Dick, I think I’ve mentioned before, was in charge of supplies while stationed in the Pacific during the war, and he had access to good photographic equipment and film (he was also a ball gunner, in I think a B-29, about which I’d like to know more), which led to an interest in photography. Living at home again after the war, he incommoded the family by filling the bathtub with darkroom chemicals and developing his prints in it – that can take some time – while siblings and parents “held their pee-ce” outside the door.
Out West, Dick worked for United Airlines in Portland, Oregon, where he met his wife Jean LeGall, and then at Boeing for a while – in Seattle, I assume – as an expediter, but like all his brothers he dreamed of shaping his own destiny, and my earliest recollection of Dick as a breadwinner was as the proprietor of Fleagle’s TV Sales and Service in Kirkland, Washington, at that time a small town even smaller than Bellevue, its neighbor on the Eastside (the Eastside refers to the communities across Lake Washington from Seattle).
Dick followed his older brother Jim’s example and bought land along the shores of Lake Cushman over on the Olympic Peninsula, and one of the deep pleasures of my early and teen years was visiting the cabin he built there, often with a large contingent of other relatives. He had a speedboat docked 80 feet or so below on the lake and liked to take people out waterskiing. (Once my father, at age 44, never having waterskied, succumbed to the entreaties of his older brother and donned the float vest and allowed himself to be pulled up onto the skis. I am only now realizing how amazing the fact of this achievement was, a fact we might be forgiven for missing because when one ski started to come loose, my dad shook it off his foot and rode the rest of the way on one leg, one ski, and we only discovered after it was all over that the doffed ski had bounced back up off the water and hit his foot so hard that a knob the size of a golf ball grew on it that made him lame for weeks.)
It was Dick who took at interest in a little notebook I made in my teens, in which I had used colored felt pens to more easily visualize generations of the Fleagle family. This was my replication of my father’s set of rolled up pages of yellow legal paper that had our family tree on it, which my dad in turn had copied from a giant patchwork chart that Aunt Miriam showed him on our visit there in 1973, and which she still has today. Dick asked me if he could borrow my notebook, and he started his own genealogical endeavor using it as a seed, then began entering the information into a computer, and decades later his database of thousands of names of descendants of Johan Valentin Flügel is the backbone of an online Fleagle family tree (fleagle.tribalpages.com/) that all the far-flung relatives can use. Though separated geographically by thousands of miles, he became active in the doings of the Fleagle reunion that is held annually back in Maryland, giving presentations on his genealogical research when he was able to attend.
Dick died shortly after a stroke on 18 January 2014, aged 87, and was laid to rest at Sunset Hills Cemetery in Bellevue. – mdf
Image archive ID:
About the physical photograph:
Written on back:
“For Willard –
Dicks graduation 1943