Remembering Lawrence Colman Pierce, 1936-2021

Family and friends are remembering Larry Pierce and sharing his story with the community:

Lawrence (“Larry”) Colman Pierce, devoted husband and father, passed away, surrounded by his loving family, at Virginia Mason Medical Center on Thursday, July 22, 2021, from cancer. He was 84.

Larry was born in Seattle on December 24, 1936, the son of the late Lawrence and Isabel (Colman) Pierce. He grew up in West Seattle and graduated from West Seattle High School in 1955 and Yale University in 1959. In 1961, he married his high school sweetheart, Robin E. Gaffner (1937-1985), also of West Seattle. After several years in the US Navy as a lieutenant junior grade, Larry attended Cornell University, earning an MPA in Public Administration and Finance. A Fulbright Scholarship took him to the University of the West Indies for two years to create a degree program in administration. He returned to Cornell for a Ph.D. in Government and then settled with Robin in Eugene, Oregon, where they had a son, Eric. At the University of Oregon, Larry worked as a professor of political science, department chair, assistant to the university president, and assistant to the chancellor of the University of Oregon system. After leaving Oregon, he spent several months as a Postdoctoral Fellow at Oxford Brookes College, Oxford University.

Larry moved to Baton Rouge in 1990 to become dean of the College of Education at Louisiana State University. There, he met Donna L. Mealey, a literacy education professor, and they married in 1992. They moved to Seattle in 1996 to raise their daughters, Emma and Katie. From 1996 to 1999, Larry was a research professor in the Center for Reinventing Public Education in the Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington before retiring to enjoy his young family. He built a house himself on Horsehead Bay in Gig Harbor and planted and tended a large garden there on beloved family property, the original site of Camp Colman before its relocation to Longbranch in 1966.

Larry served on the boards of Westside School and the White Center Food Bank, taking on the roles of president and treasurer at the food bank for several years. He also served on the board of the West Seattle Monogram Club and chaired the Scholarship Committee. Along with other community members, he was instrumental in bringing the International Baccalaureate program to Chief Sealth International High School and arranged for college admissions representatives from across the country to visit and inform students about schools beyond the Pacific Northwest. He served Fauntleroy Church United Church of Christ as moderator, worked on the finance ministry, helped lead a capital campaign, and was a devoted member of the choir’s tenor section.

Larry is survived by his loving wife of 28 years, Donna of Seattle; son Eric and daughter Katie of Seattle; daughter Emma of Cambridge, Massachusetts; twin sister Katharine Ramfield of Hood River; brother Dr. John Pierce and sister-in-law Leilia of Gig Harbor; and a large, dear extended family. Throughout his life, he enjoyed good books, choral music, national and world politics, and especially gardening. He loved to share cuttings with friends, grow starts for the church’s annual plant sale, and donate his garden’s fruit and vegetable largesse to the White Center Food Bank. We will miss his steadfastness, patience, integrity, quiet humor, devotion, kindness, love, buttermilk pancakes, berry pies, and professorial lectures at Thanksgiving dinners.

A memorial service will be held at Fauntleroy Church in West Seattle later in August. In lieu of flowers, the family welcomes memorial donations to the White Center Food Bank and YMCA Camp Colman. Memories and condolences to the family may be written below in the comments.

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6 Replies to "Remembering Lawrence Colman Pierce, 1936-2021"

  • Mariam K.S. August 3, 2021 (10:46 am)

    I remember Mr. Pierce very much. My late mother adored him and his wife. She would always strike up conversations with them during my elementary school days when parents pick up their children after the school day is over. I will forever be reminded of his grace and kindness. My sincerest condolences to his family and friends. May he Rest In Peace.

  • JohnW August 3, 2021 (1:48 pm)

    One of the last of the legendary generation of the Colman family that were fundamental in their sharing of wealth and the contributions to the community of Fauntleroy and a forever legacy. ———————- Thank you and R.I.P.

  • Clay Eals August 3, 2021 (3:04 pm)

    A West Seattle giant. Grace and kindness, indeed.

  • David August 3, 2021 (5:27 pm)

    With his vast wisdom and life experience, Larry had every right to domineer each room he entered and be unwavering in his opinions. Yet he was the exact opposite. Instead, he welcomed new ideas with a warm smile and never lost his child-like curiosity. That’s one of the many reasons you just felt comfortable and safe with Larry almost instantaneously. I will miss his quiet confidence, his love for knowledge, and his humble charisma. What a great life he’s lived and what a privilege it was to have met him.

  • Sherrie Olejnik August 4, 2021 (4:01 pm)

    A life well lived. 

  • Cindy Lavoie August 12, 2021 (6:29 pm)

    I will miss Larry’s deep knowledge and quiet wisdom, delivered with humility and good humor.  And that beautiful tenor voice, in both choir and barbershop quartet.

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