His laughter was infectious. His friendships tested. His family steadfast. Erik George Magnuson, 65, passed away in Seattle December 18 after a tumultuous life alternating between achievement and chaos.
Born June 7, 1953 in Washington, D.C., Erik declared his allegiance to the Pacific Northwest early on. His father Don Magnuson was Representative for Washington’s new 7th District and the family alternated between coasts. At the age of three, Erik disappeared from the family’s D.C. home. A search for the missing toddler ended when a policeman found Erik almost a mile from home, dragging a satchel along a busy street. Asked where he was going, Erik replied, “To Seattle.” When, soon after, he returned to Seattle after a 3,000 mile road trip, a reporter asked him how he got here. “I walked,” he replied firmly.
In 1963, Erik and two of his siblings, Joel and Mary, moved to Orcas Island with their mother June Magnuson (who later became postmaster in Deer Harbor). He graduated from Orcas High School in 1971.
One of Erik’s island summer jobs was at Rosario Resort, and a prank nearly sent him off the road one morning on his way to work. Climbing the hill from Crescent Beach on his motorcycle, he suddenly saw the freshly painted message on the fuel tank that still serves as a community message board: “Erik von Magnuson, King of the World.”
A gifted writer, Erik was editor of the literary magazine at WWSC (now WWSU) and graduated with a degree in journalism. His human interest stories displayed his empathy and easy rapport with strangers.
Erik was struck with mental illness in his junior year of high school, and in his twenties, it took an increasing toll. Between catastrophes he worked as a journalist, a molder in a foundry and a pile driver. He volunteered as a Big Brother and at the Crisis Clinic. He was a playful uncle to his nieces and nephews.
Erik is survived by brother Joel Magnuson and sisters Mary Macapia and Terry Cairns; and nephews and nieces, including Gerry Baker of Orcas Island. Remembrances may be made to NAMI Washington.
There will be a memorial gathering at 1 p.m. on Feb. 10 at the home of Gerry and Stu Baker, 912 N. Beach Road.