Longtime Issaquah History Museums volunteer dies in hiking accident
August 9, 2010
By Warren Kagarise
NEW — 3 p.m. Aug. 9, 2010
Longtime Issaquah History Museums volunteer Stephen Grate — esteemed for his knowledge of the area’s coalmining heritage and a frequent guide for hikes to local mine sites — died Friday in a hiking accident near Leavenworth.
Grate, 52, died from head injuries he sustained in a fall from a rock on Asgaard Pass, a steep and challenging route in the Enchantment Lakes Basin.
Grate, a Renton resident and former Issaquah Cable TV Commission member, became interested in coalmining history after he noticed traces of old mines on the mountains surrounding Issaquah.
“He was one of those people who, when he was interested in a subject, he researched it until he knew everything about it,” museums Volunteer Coordinator Karen Klein said.
Grate stood out among the more than 70 volunteers on the museums’ roster for contributions large and small: He upgraded museum computers for free and tailored hikes for children and people using walkers.
“We were running out of things to give him awards for,” Klein said.
City TV Coordinator Tim Smith recalled Grate as a knowledgeable and thoughtful Cable TV Commission member. Though Grate left the advisory board in 2005, he and Smith planned to film a video tour of local mining sites.
DownTown Issaquah Association Executive Director Greg Spranger praised Grate for his voluminous knowledge of local history.
“Other than Milt Swanson up in Newcastle, he probably knew more about Issaquah coalmining than anyone else on the planet,” Spranger said, referring the longtime local historian.
Grate also taught a digital photography course at the Issaquah Valley Senior Center. Courtney Jaren, senior center executive director, said Grate enthralled seniors at a lecture series devoted to Issaquah history, and then signed on to teach the photography classes.
“He was just so loved here, and once our people hear about it, they’re going to be so upset,” Jaren said.
In addition the frequent hikes he led to abandoned mining sites — in sunshine and rain — Grate served as a docent at the historic Issaquah Train Depot. Klein said he had a contagious enthusiasm for history and a keen ability to interest children in the topic.
“It was hard not to be excited about a subject when you were around him, because he was so enthusiastic about it,” Klein said.
The family has planned a memorial service for 2 p.m. Thursday at St. Peter’s United Methodist Church, 17222 N.E. Eighth St., Bellevue. Remembrances can be donated to the history museums.