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October 18, 2019

10/2/2019 3:43:00 PM
Chuck Hedlund remembered as 'Mr. Civic Responsibility'
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Bill Reynolds

Chuck Hedlund enjoyed a great career, one that took him halfway across the globe as a pioneer in modern international trade.
But it was what he did in retirement, back home in La Conner, that has truly made a world of difference.
On that count, pretty much everyone here is agreed.
“Chuck Hedlund returned home from Singapore and took on the mantle of Community Volunteer,” said Maureen Harlan, a lifelong friend and herself a local civic leader. “He was dedicated to promoting and serving the youth of our community.”
Harlan, a retired La Conner teacher and administrator, insists on capitalizing the “C” and “V” in Community Volunteer when speaking of Hedlund, who passed away three weeks ago at age 81.
“Chuck’s service,” she stressed, “meant getting his hands dirty building and repairing baseball diamonds, giving of time and energy on committees and boards leading to development of Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County, the La Conner Community Scholarship Foundation and enhancements to the local fire district to name just a few.”
As a member of the La Conner Kiwanis Club, Hedlund was instrumental in launching successful fundraising campaigns in support of numerous worthy causes.
“It was his idea for our Cash Cow program,” said Kiwanian Joy Neal, director of La Conner Regional Library.
The Cash Cow format invited artists to donate storefront display pieces for direct sale or as auction items.
“The first year the artwork had to be cows,” Neal said. “After that, it was pigs, then chickens and later even turkeys. It was Chuck’s idea to do that and it raised a lot of money for scholarships.”
It only seemed right, then, that La Conner Kiwanians would name their community service scholarship, awarded each spring at high school graduation, in Hedlund’s honor.
Neal said that Hedlund, a La Conner High alum, had an amazing network of friends and had built up such widespread goodwill over the years that few if any could resist his pleas on behalf of those missions he undertook.
“He was always supportive of things the library was doing,” Neal said. “He knew everybody. If I needed help with a project he knew exactly who to contact.”
Hedlund didn’t live his entire life in La Conner. It just seemed as if he did. After graduating from La Conner High in 1956, he worked variously for Dunlap Towing and as a tender engineer in Alaska before training as an electrician in Renton.
In 1958 he wed Marianne Swanson, also of La Conner. She returned to their alma mater as a much-admired teacher and librarian.
Over the years they would share many travels together.
In 1963 Chuck began a long career in the bottling industry, one that took the Hedlunds to Asia. While in China he was involved in development of a plant that was one of the nation’s first non-Chinese construction projects.
The Hedlunds came home in the early 1980s, where Chuck had been active in youth league baseball a decade earlier.
His volunteerism flourished after retiring in 1989.
“He stopped getting a paycheck but just kept on working,” said Skagit County Fire District 13 Chief Roy Horn.
Horn praised Hedlund for his long service to the fire district as a commissioner. Hedlund was chairing the three-member panel at the time of his death.
“One thing that stands out for me about Chuck Hedlund is that he always put the firefighters first and foremost,” Horn said. “He left a very positive footprint in this community.”
Horn called Hedlund an eternal optimist, one who remained upbeat to the end.
“He was just a great guy,” said Horn.
Hedlund was an active fire commissioner, regularly stopping in at the station on Snee-Oosh Road to see how things were going, said District 13 Secretary Tracy Berg.
“He really appreciated the employees and volunteers of the fire district,” Berg said. “He was a good man and we miss him already.”
That was perhaps most apparent during recent memorial services honoring Hedlund. More than a dozen uniformed firefighters, arriving aboard fire district vehicles, were in attendance.
“Everyone wanted to say good-bye properly,” Horn said.
The firefighters were far from alone on that score.
“We’ve all benefited from the dedication to community service that Chuck Hedlund modeled for us,” said Harlan. “Alongside his fellow La Conner Kiwanians he supported activities which enhanced healthy opportunities for children and he provided labor for a myriad of community needs for everyone.”
Among the many titles he earned throughout a life well lived, there is one in particular that stands out, Harlan said.
“Chuck,” she insisted, echoing a sentiment shared by all in and around La Conner, “was Mr. Civic Responsibility.”

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