Gone, not forgotten: Local community leaders we lost in 2022

Here are many of the notable deaths The Daily Herald reported on this past year.

The passing of another year is a time to reflect on those we lost, as well as the lasting impact they left on the community.

Of those who saw obituaries in the news section of The Daily Herald, their titles ranged from artist to restaurant owner to judge to doctor to mayor.

Here’s a look back at some of Snohomish County’s most notable deaths in 2022. And here’s a link to last year’s list.

Don Gough

Don Gough

Don Gough: Lynnwood Mayor

Former Mayor Don Gough steered the city through the Great Recession and helped lay a foundation for several major developments. He served a decade on the City Council until getting elected mayor in 2005. Gough served two terms — not without controversy — before losing his bid for a third in 2013.

On his watch, early planning began on the Lynnwood Link light rail extension, and he helped shepherd the renovation of the city’s pool into a state-of-the-art recreation center.

Gough was also instrumental in creating Lynnwood Moving Forward: Our Community Vision, a blueprint crafted by residents, businesses and civic leaders for the city’s future.

He died Jan. 4 at the age of 70.

Anne Abbott (The Abbott family)

Anne Abbott (The Abbott family)

Anne Abbott: Buck’s Cafe Co-Owner

Anne Michelle Abbott usually worked behind the scenes at Buck’s American Cafe, where she did everything but cook. Her husband James Abbott started working there as a chef in 1997. The couple wed in 1999 and took over the business in 2014.

James was the face of the restaurant at 2901 Hewitt Ave., that is perhaps best known for its peanut butter pie. Anne took care of the marketing, payroll, IT, accounting, inventory — all the restaurant work that is less glamorous than the food but equally important.

Anne died Jan. 15, just weeks after a cancerous mass was discovered in her brain. She was 46.

Jerry, left, and Andrea Dinsmore. (Diane Altman Jennings)

Jerry, left, and Andrea Dinsmore. (Diane Altman Jennings)

Jerry Dinsmore: Pacific Crest Trail Angel

Nestled in dense forest in the shadow of the Cascades, the Dinsmore Hiker Haven welcomed thousands of Pacific Crest Trail hikers to Baring over 20 years.

It started in 2002. Jerry Dinsmore, a career truck driver and diesel mechanic, and his wife Andrea Dinsmore began taking in hikers. A 23½-mile hitchhike west of the pass to the couple’s house led to a meal, a bunk and important advice before venturing into the home stretch on the 2,653-mile trail.

Jerry, who lived with health issues for years, died Feb. 6. He was 81. He was preceded by Andrea who died of pancreatic cancer in 2017. She was 68.

Bill Brayer (Beck’s Tribute Center)

Bill Brayer (Beck’s Tribute Center)

Bill Brayer: Helping Hands Founder

Nearly every square foot of the Edmonds MS Helping Hands Donor Closet is packed with lift chairs, scooters, wheelchairs, walkers and home accessories for people in need.

Longtime Edmonds resident Bill Brayer began the project in his garage, with a mission to expand access to mobility and medical equipment for those living with multiple sclerosis, a disease of the brain and spine that can cause people to lose the ability to write, speak or walk.

Brayer, a champion of MS issues, father, grandfather and the 2013 Edmonds Citizen of the Year, died on Jan. 31. He was just short of turning 89.

Cassandra Lopez-Shaw

Cassandra Lopez-Shaw

Cassandra Lopez-Shaw: SnoCo’s first Latinx judge

Cassandra Lopez-Shaw was a longtime defense attorney when voters elected her to a four-year term on the Superior Court bench in 2020 with over 55% of the vote. She was the county’s first woman of non-European heritage to be elected judge.

As a Snohomish County Superior Court judge, Lopez-Shaw served on committees for personnel and education, budget and planning, and drug court. She also coached a mock trial program and volunteered over 200 hours a year working pro bono.

Lopez-Shaw died March 3 after a battle with cancer. She was 54. Colleagues remembered her as humane, kind, empathetic and professional.

Mike Gallagher (Mukilteo School District)

Mike Gallagher (Mukilteo School District)

Mike Gallagher: Kamiak Principal

Mike Gallagher was Kamiak High School principal from 2008 to 2018.

After leaving Kamiak, Gallagher served as interim director for the Sno-Isle center and the district’s human resources department. His latest role was as a human resource specialist, recruiting workers to keep the schools staffed.

A statement from the Mukilteo School District said he died peacefully in his sleep the night of Feb. 21. He was 68.

“His death was sudden, and we are still in shock,” the letter to staff said. “He had a passion for the students and families of Mukilteo. In all, he spent over 40 years serving the education community.”

Hank Nelson (Andrea Brown / The Herald)

Hank Nelson (Andrea Brown / The Herald)

Hank Nelson: Cloudstone Park Sculptor

With so much to see, visitors to the 20-acre Cloudstone Sculpture Park on Whidbey Island weren’t likely to notice the tall, unassuming guy in jeans and a sock hat.

Henry “Hank” Nelson liked it that way.

He was the park’s creator, but he wanted the attention on his 450 sculptures, not on him.

Nelson died on Feb. 28 from complications of pneumonia. He was 84.

Officer Dan Rocha

Officer Dan Rocha

Dan Rocha: Everett Police Officer

Dan Rocha, 41, joined the Everett Police Department as a parking enforcement officer in 2017. A year later he was promoted to patrol, where he worked a beat in north Everett.

Rocha, a husband and father of two, was shot and killed in the line of duty on March 25 while on patrol near Everett Community College. An outpouring of public support followed for the husband and father of two sons, with thousands attending a memorial service at Angel of the Winds Arena.

“He was a great man,” Everett police officer Kerby Duncan said, “and he was very committed. He really had a heart for service.”

Officer Tyler Steffins (Edmonds Police Department)

Officer Tyler Steffins (Edmonds Police Department)

Tyler Steffins: Edmonds Police Officer

Tyler Steffins, 33, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Afghanistan, had graduated from the police academy in 2019, finishing first in his class.

Just after 9:30 p.m. on March 26 , a man stabbed Steffins while he was off duty and visiting Las Vegas, Nevada. Steffins was taken to a local hospital, where he died.

Edmonds police Acting Assistant Chief Josh McClure said Steffins “is incredibly missed in our building already, just in the last 12 hours or so, and I can only imagine what his family is going through as well.”

Steffins was survived by his wife and two elementary school-age children, as well as his father, stepmother, brothers and a sister.

Rick Thurmer (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Rick Thurmer (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Dr. Richard Thurmer: Mukilteo Mountaineer

An accomplished Mukilteo mountaineer who summited the highest peaks on all seven continents died in a climbing accident on Dragontail Peak in the Cascade Range.

Dr. Richard Thurmer, 66, who worked for The Everett Clinic, had gone solo climbing in the Enchantments southwest of Leavenworth over a weekend. His body was recovered March 31. It appeared he had fallen hundreds of feet.

Thurmer climbed the tallest mountains on each continent. His passion took him to France, Italy, Russia, Indonesia, Canada, Argentina, Nepal and Antarctica, as well as many summits in the United States and Canada.

Atop the most difficult peaks, he told The Herald in 2017, “is where I feel most alive.”

Mike Hopson

Mike Hopson

Mike Hopson: Arlington Council Member

Mike Hopson was a familiar face in local government before his tenure on the Arlington City Council began in 2016. He served as an airport commissioner and would often attend council meetings in the years leading up to his own election.

Hopson served a few years in the Peace Corps in West Africa before beginning a teaching career of over four decades in Alaska and Hawaii.

On the council, Hopson advocated for expanding affordable housing options; connected with Stillaguamish tribal members to draft the city’s first land acknowledgement; and condemned race-based hate.

Hopson died April 19 at the age of 74.

Hans Korompis (Feedme Hospitality & Restaurant Group).

Hans Korompis (Feedme Hospitality & Restaurant Group).

Hans Korompis: Edmonds Chef

Hans Korompis was the director and creative force behind Mar•Ket in Edmonds.

He joined Feedme Hospitality in 2015 as a line cook at Salt & Iron in Edmonds and quickly became one of their best. His cool and collected demeanor, culinary creativity and passion for food didn’t go unnoticed: In 2018, the restaurant group sought Korompis to lead Mar•Ket, a new seafood-forward concept.

“Mar•Ket was really built for Hans and not the other way around,” said Feedme Hospitality owner Shubert Ho, who opened Mar•Ket under his restaurant group. “We came up with the idea, we put him into place and let him just run wild.”

Korompis was presumed dead after a diving accident around the waters of Mukilteo Lighthouse Park on June 17. He was 33.

Pedaling his legs as he holds onto hand rails, Jim Freeman shows off the rare railroad caboose he calls home on Apr. 20, 2016 in Freeland. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Pedaling his legs as he holds onto hand rails, Jim Freeman shows off the rare railroad caboose he calls home on Apr. 20, 2016 in Freeland. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Jim Freeman: Conductor of Fun

Jim Freeman, a Marine Corps veteran and law school graduate, lived in a red caboose parked in the woods of Freeland. The Loose Caboose, he called it. His email address was

If you met him, you’d never forget him. They just don’t make characters like him anymore.

Tall, lanky with long wispy hair, white tennis shoes, a flip phone and a flip sense of humor, the guy had a toothy smile that took up over half of his elastic face.

Freeman died on June 19, a week before his birthday. He was 74.98.

“The end of an era,” a social media post sums his passing.

Kristiana Johnson

Kristiana Johnson

Kristiana Johnson: Edmonds Council Member

Kristiana Johnson began her career in public service on the city’s volunteer transportation commission in 2005. In 2012, she was appointed to a vacant seat left by City Councilmember Michael Plunkett. She went on to win re-election three times.

Johnson spent most of her life in the city and wanted to preserve the Edmonds she knew. Her colleagues referred to her as a “fiscal conservative,” and she urged caution in changes to Edmonds’ zoning.

She was an advocate for the arts, and specifically, the city’s Fourth Avenue Cultural Corridor. She also helped draft the city’s “Zero Waste” resolution.

Johnson died July 18. She was 70.

Terry Williams points out a steep hillside near Mission Beach that has been gradually eroding for years. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Terry Williams points out a steep hillside near Mission Beach that has been gradually eroding for years. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Terry Williams: Tulalip Tribal Elder

For nearly half a century, Tulalip tribal elder Terry Williams stood at the forefront of the fight against climate change, often donning a bolo tie.

As the tribal liaison to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and locally as the Tulalip Fisheries and Natural Resources Commissioner, Williams brought Indigenous knowledge and representation to the table.

In the 1980s, he helped draw up the first Timber/Fish/Wildlife Agreement, which provided the blueprint for regulations to protect old growth and fish-bearing streams.

Williams died July 19 at the age of 74. He “retired” just a few years ago, but remained hard at work launching salmon migration mapping programs and weighing in on local watershed management plans.

Lucy Mason, circa 1959. (Everett Clinic)

Lucy Mason, circa 1959. (Everett Clinic)

Lucy Mason: Everett Clinic’s First Woman Physician

In 1924, the Everett Clinic was founded by four physicians. All men. It would be another 35 years until the clinic hired a woman as a physician. Her name was Lucille “Lucy” (Winkler) Mason.

Mason started work at the clinic in 1959. She entered the medical field at a time when women were a rarity among doctors. She specialized in family medicine and treated multiple generations of patients in Snohomish County.

On Aug. 13, Mason died of complications related to Parkinson’s disease. She was 92. Mason was preceded in death by her husband in 1993. She was survived by four children and 10 grandchildren.

Jim, left, and Karen Staniford. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Jim, left, and Karen Staniford. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Karen Staniford: Vintage Cafe Founder

It was called The Alley and then Aaron’s before the name was changed to Vintage Cafe in 2002.

But since the restaurant’s founding 46 years ago, it has never changed hands. Same family. Three generations.

Karen Staniford, the cafe’s founder, died Aug. 31. She was 79. The family did not respond to interview requests, and the cause of death was not released.

The Vintage Cafe, the storied Everett restaurant and bar she founded, lives on.

“Karen did not want a funeral or service,” the family said. Instead she hoped “everyone would continue to visit the businesses she loved so much.”

Ross Andrew Mickel shows off the new tasting bar at Ross Andrew Winery in 2013. (Ross Andrew Winery via Facebook)

Ross Andrew Mickel shows off the new tasting bar at Ross Andrew Winery in 2013. (Ross Andrew Winery via Facebook)

Ross Andrew Mickel: Woodinville Winemaker

When Ross Andrew Mickel opened his Woodinville winery in 1999, Washington was still a purple dot on the global viticultural map.

Ross Andrew Winery had been one of only a handful in the area: Now, more than 130 wineries and tasting rooms line Woodinville’s four districts, often side by side.

“Ross was an important part of that growth and success,” wrote Sean Sullivan, founder of Washington Wine Report. “He really was at the front end of a lot of trends in Woodinville.”

Mickel, 47, along with his pregnant wife Lauren Hilty, 39, and their toddler son, Remy Mickel, perished in a float plane crash in the waters off Whidbey Island on Sept. 4.

Larry Countryman

Larry Countryman

Larry Countryman: Snohomish City Council member

Friends of Larry Countryman said he often shared how when he was in the third-grade his teacher told him he couldn’t draw pictures all his life.

Yet he did, as a career and as an instrument of political expression throughout his life in Snohomish, where he influenced its economic development and civic debate for more than half a century. Countryman died Dec. 6 at the age of 81.

An unvarnished conservative Republican, Countryman took much pleasure in poking foes on the political left with biting satirical cartoons. Come election season, he sometimes cranked out a comic book targeting those he hoped to see defeated.

Artist Paul Vexler, from Machias, stands the staircase at Washington State University Everett with his creation behind him on Jan. 9, 2018 in Everett. The hanging woodwork art is 35 feet tall and hangs in the main lobby at the school. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Artist Paul Vexler, from Machias, stands the staircase at Washington State University Everett with his creation behind him on Jan. 9, 2018 in Everett. The hanging woodwork art is 35 feet tall and hangs in the main lobby at the school. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Paul Vexler: Sculptor

Paul Vexler studied physics in college before turning to sculpture. His work became a blend of art, math and science.

His sculptures are in schools, libraries and businesses in Washington and nationwide.

“Conic Sections,” an art installation made by Vexler in 2018, makes a grand entrance in the foyer of the Washington State University-Everett campus.

The steel grid weighs 750 pounds and the wood objects weigh another 750 pounds. It’s about 30 feet tall and 15 feet wide.

He spent a year and a half working on the sculpture in his Machias studio, which has a 30-foot ceiling.

“I did one at SeaTac Airport that’s bigger, in some ways,” he told The Daily Herald in 2018. “This is the most ambitious project I’ve ever done.”

Vexler was the Schack Art Center’s 2011 Artist of the Year for his accomplishments and contributions to the visual arts world.

“Paul is a genius. He rose to the top in whatever he did,” his longtime friend Bruce Keithly wrote in an email.

Vexler died on Dec. 14. He was 75.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mukilteo in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118

Charlie Pancerzewski: Mukilteo Citizen Watchdog

At nearly every City Council meeting, “Mr. Pancerzewski” was there. Speaking up and setting people straight.

He was on top of everything going on in Mukilteo.

Whether or not you agreed with him, there was no debating that he’d done his homework and that he cared deeply about his community.

After a story about Mukilteo, reporters could count on getting a long email or call from him.

“Charlie was one of the smartest men I ever met,” Council President Steve Schmalz said. “He had this ability to rattle off numbers from the budget or past policies. We had some long conversations over the years discussing city issues. I learned a lot from Charlie. He made me a better Councilmember. I will miss him.”

The former Microsoft auditor was appointed to fill vacancies two times, in 1972 to 1973 and 1998 to 99, on the City Council. He was a board member of the South Whidbey Historical Society.

Mr. Pancerzewski died Dec. 15. He was 83.

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