Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate the ones we love the most. So it was appropriate that hundreds of friends and former colleagues of Dr. Arthur H. Himmler gathered at Oberlin Church in Steilacoom to remember someone very near and dear to their hearts.
Dr. Himmler, or “Art” as many new him, died in a car crash on February 7, 2013 in eastern Washington. He was 68 years old. Himmler was the superintendent of the Steilacoom Historical School District from 1994 to 2009. It was a time of great change for the district, and Himmler was there leading the way in every way, shape and form.
During his memorial service on Feb. 14, friends and family shared memories about a humble man who loved music, loved his family, and loved life.
In paying tribute to Himmler’s music background, the Steilacoom High School Jazz Band and the Steilacoom High School Choir performed. The choir performed the song, I Hear Sweet Music, and gave a beautiful performance of Amazing Grace.
Retired general John Hemphill touched on many of Himmler’s accomplishments both as a Kiwanis member and as superintendent, including the rebuilding of Saltar’s Point Elementary, remodeling the high school, bringing Chloe Clark Elementary online, and integrating computers into the district.
“There comes a time when a man must choose between what is right, and what is easy. Art never failed to choose the right,” said Hemphill.
Himmler led the charge in getting the school district’s boundary changed so all of DuPont’s city limits was included in the Steilacoom School District boundary.
“He was a great man. I will never forget him,” remarked Hemphill.
Former Steilacoom High School Principal Jan McCrimmon shared a story that took place last summer, when she visited Himmler and his family in Omak, WA.
“What do you do at night in Omak? You sit outside with Art and Noi, look up at the sky, and watch for the first satellite.”
Chloe Clark Elementary Principal Gary Yoho shared that Himmler was a great believer in family.
“I once made the mistake of attending a board meeting on the same night one of my kids had a concert. After the meeting, Art came up to me with a very serious look on his face, and he told me he never wanted me to attend a board meeting again if my kids had a concert on the same night.”
For two hours, friends from across the state shared stories about a brilliant music teacher who loved the outdoors and made everyone smile. Himmler was described as the ‘god father’ of WAVA, or the Washington Virtual Academy. He touched the lives of children, parents and educators from Hong Kong and Bangkok to Washington’s Orcas Island, Carbonado, Steilacoom and Omak school districts. He was someone who could see the good in every child, and in all of us.
Above everything, Art placed his family first. The best part of his life was his wife Noi, and daughters Ja-ay, Apple and Elna.
Himmler’s youngest daughter, Elna Himmler Leavitt, beautifully eulogized her father.
“He was my Indiana Jones,” she said.
Elna asked that instead of living each day like it’s our last, to instead live each day like it’s our dad’s or mom’s last day.
“Do something that will make a positive impact in their life.”
She also encouraged all who loved her father to act and be just a little more like him.
Based on those who loved him the most, that would include being humble and a good listener. Be a positive role model. Show kindness and compassion no matter what. And always, put your family first.
“He was a brother and a dear friend. Art loved the Lord. I know for certain we’ll see him again someday,” offered friend Duane Hardesty.
Until then Dr. Himmler, Cheers.