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Originally published Wednesday, December 26, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Obituary

Former legislator David Roderick dead at 86

David Roderick never was one to sit on the sidelines satisfied to watch his world pass by. No, the former state legislator and World War...

Seattle Times staff reporter

David Roderick never was one to sit on the sidelines satisfied to watch his world pass by. No, the former state legislator and World War II veteran was the type who got involved, infusing himself into the colorful waters of Democratic state politics and motivating his children to follow his lead and treat life as one big adventure.

Mr. Roderick died of respiratory failure Dec. 4 in Seattle at 86. He had suffered strokes.

"Dad was part of a really different generation, a generation that's fast on the wane," said John Roderick, of Seattle, one of Mr. Roderick's five children. "He was brought up with the idea that public service was something that any good citizen did, and he dedicated a large portion of his life working on behalf of other people."

Mr. Roderick attended Broadway High School in Seattle's Central District, where many of his friends were children of Japanese immigrants. John Roderick recounted his father's oft-told story of visiting a friend in Seattle's old Japantown only to find the family packing up, as they were being forced to move to an internment camp. He sat in a living room while a parade of white businessmen entered the house and offered next to nothing for the family's possessions.

Mr. Roderick fought the Japanese in World War II, flying planes for the U.S. Navy. "He had this tremendous conflict because so many of his friends were Japanese, but he was comfortable wrestling with those dichotomies," John Roderick said.

Mr. Roderick ran successfully for the state House in 1948, representing downtown Seattle, and served two terms while also attending University of Washington Law School.

He marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1960 and pushed for civil rights in the state, joining blacks at a right-to-vote rally in Ellensburg.

"It was like a scene out of Alabama with cowboys calling out names and good old boys with pickup trucks and shotguns," John Roderick said.

Mr. Roderick worked for John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign in 1960, arriving in cities in advance of the candidate to plan the visits. He was close to many historical figures of Washington politics, including U.S. Sens. Warren Magnuson and Henry "Scoop" Jackson, and Gov. Albert Rosellini, who appointed him to his "patronage committee" that awarded state contracts.

In law school, he met U.S. District Court Judge Jack Tanner, the maverick Tacoma jurist, and the two marched side by side in civil-rights demonstrations. They remained close until Tanner died two years ago.

"At one time Dad seemed like the heir apparent, but then he lost a power struggle within the party," John Roderick said. Mr. Roderick's FDR-styled idealism was giving way to a country divided over Vietnam. Although Mr. Roderick was swept away by the sea change, he remained good natured. His humor — a sassy, sardonic wit — served him well, drawing friends and earning the love of his children.

Mr. Roderick moved to Alaska in 1971 and began another adventure. Mr. Roderick's youngest child, Susan Roderick, said her father wanted his children to be "renaissance kids," making sure they were trained in music and art and encouraging them to compete in sports. Two of his sons are professional musicians, including John, who leads the indie-rock band The Long Winters.

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Susan Roderick was a competitive ski racer and snowboarder as a child and said her father "was at every one of my soccer practices — not just games — screaming at the ref or at the coach."

During ski races, he'd stand at a gate until she passed and scream, "Charge!" Although he had never snowboarded, he examined techniques of successful male racers to help his daughter improve. And he would come to her school every day, making social calls on the principal or teachers.

"I was mortified most days," Susan Roderick laughed. "He was a very dedicated, very involved dad."

Mr. Roderick is survived by brother Jack, of Anchorage; five children, David, of Seattle; Laura, of Olympia; Bartley, of Selah; John and Susan, both of Seattle; two grandchildren and one great granddaughter. Two marriages ended in divorce.

A celebration of his life is Friday from noon to 4 p.m. at Washington Athletic Club, 1325 Sixth Ave., Seattle. Memorials are to the Humane Society.

Stuart Eskenazi: 206-464-2293 or seskenazi@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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