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John A. Summers, 83, a lifelong resident of Skagit Valley, passed away in Anacortes, WA on February 19, 2020.

John was born in Burlington, WA on March 22, 1936 to Margaret (Hanson) Summers and Alvord C. Summers. He graduated from La Conner High School in 1954 and then graduated from Skagit Valley College. He attended Pacific Lutheran University, a fitting choice for a young man who was active in the Salem Lutheran Church which he credited with teaching him how to live and lead a good life.

He joined the US Army in 1958 and on September 15, 1958 he married the love of his life, Arlene Sullivan. After serving at Fort Monmouth, NJ and Fort Gordon, GA, John and Arlene returned to Mount Vernon, WA where he began a seven year career at Lakeside Western Lumber Company.

Deciding to follow his interests, working with young people and the sciences, he began a career in education. In 1968 he attended Western Washington State College (WWSC) and earned a degree in Education. He was hired by Mount Vernon High School (MVHS) where he taught Biology, Chemistry and Environmental Science for 28 years. At MVHS he co-founded the Bush and the Outback backpacking trips, which introduced students to the back country of the North Cascades.

WWSC continued to be an important part of John’s career. He returned to earn a Master’s in Biology, was a staff member for Project Overcome, where he also introduced students to the North Cascades through outdoor education and backpacking trips, and was appointed Affiliated Teaching Faculty from 1992-1995.

John supported science education at the state and national level. Participation in the Washington State Initiative for Math, Science, and Technology led to 13 years as a volunteer for the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) Toyota Foundation, awarding grants to support projects of classroom science teachers across the country. During this time he also taught online science education classes through the Jason Foundation and the Jason Academy.

John’s love of reading and writing led him to co-author two books for the NSTA Press, Investigating Safety: A Guide for High School Teachers and Science Safety in the Community College. John published articles for the Washington State Science Teachers’ Association Journal, NSTA Journal Online, reviewed and edited texts for NSTA, and edited high school biology textbooks, as well as presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science and NSTA Conferences.

In addition to his love of teaching, John was always active in the outdoors: hiking, sailing, bike riding and climbing Mt. Baker. John enjoyed many hobbies and interests. He was an avid woodworker who built both of his homes, wooden boats and furniture. He also pursued his interests in blacksmithing, amateur radio, botany, and milling his own lumber.

Retirement provided John time to pursue more activities. As a proud descendent of a Skagit County Pioneer Family, he volunteered for the Skagit County Pioneer Association, volunteered to help local veterans, and spent 10 years as a member of the Citizens’ Advisory Council of the Northwest Air Pollution Authority. His greatest joy was learning to play the accordion, a nod to his Swedish Finn roots, and becoming a member of the Hugo Helmer Accordion Band.

Survivors include his widow, Arlene Summers, his brother and sister-in-law, Steve and Ginny Summers; his daughter and son-in-law, Colleen and Joe Blevins; his son and daughter-in-law, Mike and Sarah Summers; and three perfect grandchildren, Karen Blevins Gustavson (Eric), Madeline Summers, and William Summers. He was preceded in death by a brother, Mark Summers.

We are especially appreciative and thankful for the care John received from Hospice of the Northwest in Mount Vernon.

In lieu of flowers, the family would like to support the work of the Skagit County Historical Museum. Donations may be mailed to P.O Box 818, La Conner, WA 98257.

A memorial service and reception will be held at Kern Funeral Home on Tuesday, February 25 at 11:00 a.m.


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