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.

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4 Responses to “Longtime Issaquah History Museums volunteer dies in hiking accident”

  1. Craig Houghton on August 10th, 2010 10:04 am

    My wife and I took Steve’s Issaquah Coal Mine history tour and were greatly impressed with him. He was a fine man and his loss is a substantial loss to the community. Our sympathy goes to his family and friends.

  2. Ryan on August 10th, 2010 10:15 am

    I once accompanied Stephen on one of his hikes through the abandoned mining sites in Issaquah. He was quite nice and extremely knowledgable of the history in the area. This is very sad.

  3. James Berkheiser on August 15th, 2010 6:48 pm

    I got to know Steve when he lived in Peru IN When he was a Boy scout master he also done children sermons at Main Street United Methodist Church. A very good christan man.

  4. Issaquah Valley Elementary on August 16th, 2010 8:31 am

    The third grade teachers at our school were so sorry to hear about Mr. Grate. He gave our classes a wonderful tour of the train depot, and the students learned quite a bit. His knowledge and patience will be missed.

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