Dr. Brian Dennis Cleary1937-2021


Dr. Brian Dennis Cleary died on May 7, 2021 at the Birchview Care Center in Sedro-Wooley, WA, of complications due to Parkinson’s disease.

Brian was born in Racine, WI on April 21, 1937. He grew up in Racine and married his high school sweetheart, Judith Ann Sommers on Jan. 10, 1959. They welcomed their daughter Dawn, in June of 1960, and in 1962, they packed all their belongings into a home-made trailer and “went west.” They settled in Corvallis, OR, where Judy worked as a nurse and Brian (who had been told he was not “college material”) completed a PhD in plant physiology. Son Brad was born in 1971 when Brian was working in Centralia, WA for Weyerhaeuser Corporation.

The family then moved back to Corvallis where Brian worked for Oregon State University’s Forestry Department, eventually starting a small business selling an instrument he developed that is used in agriculture and forestry around the world.

Besides being in the forest and helping to grow trees, Brian’s two other loves were flying and sailing. He said flying was “escaping in space” and sailing was “escaping in time.” Brian got his private pilot’s license and bought a Cessna Cardinal which he flew all over the west, sometimes for work, sometimes for pleasure.

He grew up sailing small boats on Lake Michigan and bought his first 16 foot sailboat in 1972. From there the boats got bigger every year until he finally bought his beloved 40-foot Valiant yacht Windsong. He spent many years sailing the San Juan Islands, the Gulf Islands, and Desolation Sound in Canada. In 1990 he realized his life-long dream of sailing to the South Pacific. He and Judy and various friends and family sailed Windsong from Orcas Island to New Zealand, stopping along the way in the Marquesas, Tuamotus, French Polynesia, and Tonga. Both Brian and Judy said it was “the adventure of a lifetime.”

Judy died of Alzheimer’s disease in 1996, and Brian grieved her for the rest of his life. He moved to Orcas Island in 1996 where he built a house with an amazing view of the islands, and lived and sailed until his illness forced him into a care facility. He is survived by his daughter, Dawn and her husband Sheldon Gregory, of Tucson AZ, and his son, Brad and partner Indra, of Welches, OR. A memorial service will be held at a later time when it is safe to travel and gather.