On April 6, 2023, this world lost a truly good soul, Duane Uusitalo, a man of veracity and integrity, who knew himself and enjoyed the company of others. Born to Vilho and Taimi Uusitalo in Duluth, Minnesota in 1943, his family also included a sister, Virginia and a brother, Arlen.
In the early 1950’s the family of five moved to the Kitsap Peninsula of Washington where he spent his formative years. Duane grew up playing sports (especially basketball and baseball), roaming the local creeks and beaches of the Poulsbo area, and it was during this time he developed a passion and joy for salmon and trout that lived in these small streams. He also enjoyed music of the times …rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, blues and POLKA. His proud Finnish heritage demanded that he learn accordion and he enjoyed playing songs from the Old Country, especially Sauna songs.
Duane attended North Kitsap High School (Class of ’61), then on to Olympic College, where he met Norma Clark (“a really good dancer who could keep up with me”). Duane and Norma continued their education at Central Washington State College (now CWU), married, started a family with son Paul, and graduated with Education degrees in 1965. They both took teaching positions in Prosser that fall where “Mr. U” taught science at Prosser Junior High and coached basketball. 1967 brought Duane and his young family to Edmonds and Meadowdale Junior High where he taught several different science classes in the same building until his retirement in 1997. Daughter Kelly was born in Everett in 1969.
One of his proudest achievements was the formation of his Salmonids classes. Mr. Uusitalo was one of the first science teachers in the area to raise salmon from eggs in a classroom aquarium. His students watched daily as the little fingerlings grew. When they were strong enough to leave the aquarium, he took his classes on field trips to selected creeks and watersheds in the local area where students would carefully release these small salmon into the nurturing streams. As was the case with many things in Duane’s life, he partnered in this program with his wife Norma (a 2nd grade teacher at Oak Heights Elementary in Lynwood) to involve students of many ages from across the Edmonds School District.
Outside of education, Duane and Norma loved collecting antique glass and were members of the PNW Carnival Glass Club. They also loved dancing and growing a bountiful garden full of veggies with lots of tomatoes!! He enjoyed brewing his own beer and even dabbled in making blackberry wine. Duane was an excellent woodworker, was passionate about Finnish saunas and built several for himself and friends.
After retirement Duane continued with his love of fish and fishing, working with local residents to rear salmon near the headwaters of Lund’s Gulch Creek in Edmonds. This stream, which flows through Meadowdale County Park, received a large share of the fish he raised over the past 45 years. He was a productive sport salmon fisherman also and netted many salmon in Alaska, British Columbia and Washington waters. He often mused about raising thousands of them from eggs and then putting “just a few” adult salmon in the freezer. He loved the Pacific Northwest. Living out in the country — where he could see both Mt. Baker and the Twin Sisters — was a great joy for him.
Duane leaves behind Norma, his wife of 58 years, adult children Kelly and Paul, sister Virginia, brother Arlen, and three grandchildren. He touched the lives of countless students and colleagues over his 31 years in public education. Would that this world had more souls such as Duane (“Mr. U”) Uusitalo.
A memorial service has been scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday, July 23 at the Lynndale Park Amphitheater, 18927 72nd Ave. W., Lynnwood.