LeRoy VanHee: His retirement years were devoted to photographing Edmonds wildlife

LeRoy VanHee

LeRoy VanHee spent his retirement years documenting wildlife in Edmonds. He could be seen most mornings, walking his circuit along the waterfront and the marsh with his Canon camera in hand. He died at home on March 21, 2020, following a short illness.

LeRoy contributed his photos to the Edmonds Department of Parks and Recreation, which has used them on the Wildlife of Edmonds poster and on a bird information display at Hickman Park. He collaborated with Carol Riddell on the early Bird Lore columns at My Edmonds News. Carol said she started the column to share LeRoy’s beautiful bird photos with the Edmonds community.

LeRoy posted some of his favorite photos at Flickr. They can be seen at this link. More of his photos can be enjoyed at his Facebook page.

LeRoy was born in 1935 in Plentywood, Montana. His family moved to other locations in the state. After his 1953 graduation from Missoula County High School in Missoula, Montana, LeRoy joined the U.S. Navy. He served two years as an electronics technician, mostly stationed at the U.S. Naval Base at Yokosuka, Japan.

Following his honorable discharge from the Navy, LeRoy studied electrical engineering at the University of Washington and Montana State University. He received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Puget Sound. LeRoy took his first job at Boeing and then worked at other companies. He spent the final 20 years of his career as a Quality Assurance Specialist, U.S. Department of Defense, at Boeing.

A mutual friend in Seattle introduced LeRoy and his wife, the former Lorie Hutcheon. After marrying in 1960, they lived in Seattle and then Lynnwood. They finally settled in Edmonds, where they have lived for the last 41 years. Lorie said that one of LeRoy’s favorite at-home pleasures was to stand in their back yard and photograph the Olympic Mountains, particularly when there were dramatic light and cloud formations.

Granddaughter Brittany Conner recalled, “My grandpa was a man of few words, but when he spoke I would always listen. Most of the time when I would call my grandparents, my grandpa would answer. He would say, ‘Hey Britt, here’s grandma.’ Sometimes he would ask how I was doing, but mostly he handed the phone to grandma.”

Lorie added that Lee (her name for LeRoy) did all the remodeling in their home. “Not knowing anything about carpentry, it didn’t always turn out right. His famous words were, ‘We can’t do anything about it now.’”

Daughter Valerie Magrini remembered the funny picture she took of her father at the Woodland Park Zoo birdhouse. A bird flew and landed on top of LeRoy’s signature floppy hat and wouldn’t leave.

LeRoy is survived by his wife Lorie and their three children, Valerie Magrini, Catherine (John) Simpson, and Terry (Tracy) VanHee, as well as by their four grandchildren, Sarah Gau, Danny Pearson, Brittany Conner, and Seth VanHee, and three great grandchildren.

LeRoy will be interred at Edmonds Memorial Cemetery.

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