The passing of a Queen Anne icon

James Douglas Lorentzen 1945-2008

James Douglas Lortenzen died March 4, 2008. He was a very private person, yet one of Seattle's finest public citizens.

Mr. Lorentzen was soft-spoken and invariably polite. Despite his mild demeanor, he was a friend, confidante and public affairs advisor to many leaders in Seattle and especially in Queen Anne. Bob Frazier, former president of the Queen Anne Historical Society called him, "a giant in our community."

Doug, as he wanted to be known, had the energy and brilliance to go further than most Seattle citizens to be a bridge between his community and Seattle government.

If you needed to know what was really going on at the city council and inside city departments, Doug was the person to ask. At key moments he was often the best communicator from Queen Anne to city government. For Queen Anne he was the living memory of the interactions between the neighborhood and City Hall.

Mr. Lorentzen was born on June 23, 1945, to Egil and Mildred Lorentzen of Wallingford. Egil was the E. Lorentzen to whom Seattleites made out their property tax checks for many years. He was the elected city treasurer, a position that gave Doug an early, inside look at Seattle city government and its personalities.

Doug grew up in Wallingford and Queen Anne. He graduated from Lincoln High School in 1963 and studied at the University of Washington until he moved to Norway in 1969. Doug, who held dual U.S. and Norwegian citizenship, was employed in Norway as a secondary school teacher and a freelance writer.

Returning to Seattle in 1981, he engaged in a wholesale seafood business in Ballard for a number of years. Known for his lutefisk preparation, Doug was a familiar sight pedaling around north Seattle on his fat tire bike.

Literature and rare books were Doug's life-long fascination. He put in many hours of volunteer work as a leader in the Friends of the Seattle Public Library book sale, that vast, bi-annual event held in recent years at a gigantic naval hangar building in Magnuson Park. He was named "Friend of the Year" by that Seattle library volunteer organization in 2005.

Doug was a member of the Citywide Review Team that judges Neighborhood Matching Fund applications. The committee awarded millions of dollars for neighborhood improvement projects city-wide over the last decade.

Dr. Vic Barry, former chair of the Magnolia/Queen Anne District Council and the City Neighborhood Council remembers, "Doug's reports to the City Neighborhood Council were always accurate, timely and inspiring. It is a testament to his leadership."

Doug emerged as a strong leader in the formation of the Queen Anne Plan in 1994 - 1999. The plan is the document establishing the urban form, which the Queen Anne neighborhoods would take in the following decade, including the Uptown Urban Center. Doug was always protective of Queen Anne's unique, single-family neighborhoods.

For years he worked tirelessly behind the scenes with the Seattle Department of Transportation to ensure that Queen Anne received its fair share and more of street maintenance and repaving monies. Most recently he obtained a three-year cycle of funding for sidewalk renewal on the business frontage of Queen Anne Avenue North between Galer and McGraw, which had an added benefit of fulfilling a key component of the Picture Perfect Queen Anne Streetscape Plan.

As the Seattle Pacific University Master Plan process unfolded in 2000, Doug was active in proposing a reasonable neighborhood position on the plan. He served for years on the SPU Citizen Advisory Group.

Doug was the founder and long-time president of Friends of Queen Anne, a non-profit organization that looks out for Queen Anne's interests.

He was responsible with a few others for the revival of the Magnolia/Queen Anne District Council and chaired the Council at times over the years.

Mr. Lorentzen served in many public, volunteer capacities including the Citizen Transportation Advisory Committee, founder and president of the Friends of Queen Anne, Tree Preservation Ordinance Advisory Committee and Seattle Water Systems advisory chair among many others.

A gathering in celebration of Doug Lorentzen's life and work was held Saturday, March 8, in the Friends of the Library book sale sorting room in Magnuson Park. Remembrances can be sent to the Friends of the Seattle Public Library book sale offices at 6310 N.E. 74th St., Seattle, WA 98115.

This writer thanks Doug's neighbor Florence Helliesen and good friend Beth Dunn for their contributions to this article.

Queen Anne resident John Coney was a long-time friend of Mr. Lorentzen.

[[In-content Ad]]