Every generation has extraordinary citizens, who dedicate their time to doing their very best to preserve, protect and better their communities. The Snoqualmie Valley has just lost one of these essential people. Gardiner Vinnedge spent his life teaching and preserving history, but far beyond that, he immersed himself and his many talents, in building a better place in the Snoqualmie Valley for his and future generations.
Gardiner was first and foremost a teacher. Whether he was lecturing about Modern Russia, Civics, or Wetlands, he combined a depth of knowledge with a tremendous ability to tell a story. He made history come alive as he coaxed his students to grow as critical thinkers, writers, and speakers. In one of his experiential classes, his students gathered signatures for Initiative 99 and testified in Olympia which helped create a Presidential primary for the State of Washington. Before Seattle had home recycling, Gardiner initiated school paper drives and set up a used book store.
Among his favorite activities was acting as a docent for the Snoqualmie Valley Museum, where he continued his love of teaching by sharing Valley stories and finding something of interest for all visitors. When most guests arrive to the Snoqualmie Valley Museum on the weekends they have been greeted Gardiner. After retiring in 2017 he became the Museum’s regular weekend docent. Gardiner would love to show children Fuzzy the Bear and the painting of a road through the forest near Cedar Falls. He would use each of these artifacts as a launching point to begin sharing his deep knowledge of Valley history in an approachable and interactive way. It didn’t matter if this was your first time to the Valley or had lived here for decades, you would walk away learning something knew from Gardiner with each conversation.
Born in Denver, CO, to Doris McKey and Robert Webb Vinnedge, Jr., Gardiner spent his early years in North Bend, WA and at the Good News Bay mining camp, AK. After North Bend Elementary, he graduated from Lakeside, received a history degree from Colorado College, and his MA in modern American and medieval history from UC Santa Barbara. In 1974 he began his career at Catlin Gabel in Portland, and in 1977 he started at The Bush School, where he taught until he retired in 2017.
He was committed to preserving the history of the Snoqualmie Valley through various projects, as well as researching and writing the histories of many of his own ancestors, who first came to the Valley in 1883. For example, his paternal grandfather, Robert Vinnedge, was co-owner of the North Bend Timber Company that owned the mill town of Edgewick, which was destroyed in the ‘Boxley Blow’ flood of 1918 and Gardiner had many of his grandfather’s business papers to draw information from.
Gardiner was honored by the City of North Bend with its Citizen of the Year award in 2013. Gloria McNeely and Cristy Lake spoke for the Museum at this occasion: Gloria noted, “He’s such a special individual… so bright, so smart, and he has such wonderful ideas.” Cristy added, “He is an amazing man; articulate and thought-provoking – I learn something new from him every time we speak…… He is modest, brilliant, dedicated, community minded, and a treasure to our Valley.”
Dave Battey, Valley Historian, remembers his first serious involvement with Gardiner on a local history project. Dave and Margie Kowalski were the co-chairs of the Upper Snoqualmie Valley Centennial Commission, created by the North Bend and Snoqualmie mayors to gather the history and coordinate the celebrations of the centennials of both cities (and the State of Washington) in 1989. Dave’s Uncle George Swenson offered a meeting place in the lunch room at Monte Vista Distributors in Snoqualmie and as they began their planning, a major influence was Gardiner, driving all the way out from his home in Seattle to lend his history, teaching and overall event coordinator knowledge. One of his personal projects was researching Snoqualmie Valley Record newspapers on microfilm and he used most of the donations left over when the Commission disbanded, to purchase all known microfilm of the Valley paper and worked with the North Bend library to house the film rolls and purchase an expensive microfilm reader/printer. Later, Gardiner spent many months printing out Valley Record obituaries from the microfilms, building 3-ring binders and computerizing an index.
Gardiner moved his family back to the Valley in 1990 and began his career with the Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum, where he served terms as president and (for many years) as treasurer. Gardiner always created the next year’s budget and bounced it off of the board. He also kept an eye on the Museum investments and made careful and logical changes in the focus of the stocks. In August of 2006, Gardiner quietly announced he had computerized an index of the six big Museum scrapbooks. He also indexed Snoqualmie Valley obituaries from 1918 until 1952 and was continuing to continue on to future years. Though Gardiner was regularly participating in the operational side of the Museum, some of his most lasting contributions were on the governance side. In the background he quietly worked to encourage a vision for the future of the Museum, one where we one day would have a larger space share our important heritage with all. He had strong feelings about what that future should be, but felt it was most important that everyone come to the same conclusion he had on their own that after his death both his wife Janice and Assistant Director Cristy both agreed that they didn’t totally know what his vision was because he let others voice their thoughts while he quietly guided the process to get everyone to where he wanted us to be.
Gardiner was critical to the formation of the North Bend Park’s District from Si View and was a volunteer
board member of the Meadowbrook Farm Preservation Association Board for a full six years, during
which Meadowbrook and Si View partnered to create a mutually beneficial relationship where Si View
performed the critical scheduling of the farm’s 460 acres and Interpretive Center. For many years,
Gardiner had older Bush School students work (for credit) on Meadowbrook farm for a week. His
students created a curriculum that they used to teach Snoqualmie Elementary students about the
history and uses of Meadowbrook Farm.
Gardiner co-chaired the bond issue purchase of Tollgate Farm (physically adjacent to Meadowbrook
Farm) to preserve it as open space. Other affiliations include: Member AKCHO (Association of King
County Historical Organizations; member, Washington Museum Association; member, Association of
American Historians. Beginning in 1996, Gardiner was also involved in the North Bend King County Landmark’s Commission when a North Bend property was being considered and later was Special Commissioner for North Bend on the Commission.
In addition to all of his civic commitments, Gardiner enjoyed spending time working in his extensive garden and trying to reason with the deer that enjoyed eating his plants. His knowledge of native and introduced flora was extensive.
Gardiner was preceded in death by his father, Bob Vinnedge and his sister, Janet. He is survived by his wife of 42 years, Janice Osaka, daughter Margie Vinnedge (Brandon Willhight), mother Doris Vinnedge, brother Rob Vinnedge, and cousin/sister Victoria Bettes (Ward).
The family has request that in lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum (PO Box 179, North Bend, WA 98045)