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Murray Arden Anderson
  • Skagit Preschool and Resource Center (SPARC)
    320 Pacific Place
    Mt. Vernon, WA 98273

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Memories & Candles

“Edona, Crystal, & Carrie, I was saddened when I heard about the passing of your parents within a couple of weeks of each other. I remember your...Read More »
1 of 5 | Posted by: Candy Johnson - Mount Vernon, WA

“I enjoyed knowing and working for Murry as his relief inseminator. The best to his family. ”
2 of 5 | Posted by: Ronald Power - Burlington

“To Murray's family, Great memories from long ago when we were farmers together. A man I always loved and admired for the person he was. I do have...Read More »
3 of 5 | Posted by: A friend

“To Family and friends Murray AndersonMy heartfelt sympathy go out to you during this difficult time. I hope that the promise in 1 Thessalonians 4:14...Read More »
4 of 5 | Posted by: A friend

“A great human being. My brother's life (who had Down's Syndrome) was so rich because of the programs developed by Murray.Dale Albert Johnson ”
5 of 5 | Posted by: A friend

January 13, 1928 - April 5, 2018

**UPDATE** A memorial service for Murray and Jean Anderson will be held at the Senior Center in Oak Harbor, Washington on Saturday, August 11, 2018 between the hours of 2 and 6 p.m.


About a week after his cherished wife of 67 years passed away, Murray Arden Anderson, of Oak Harbor, Wash., joined her on April 5, 2018. He was 90.

Murray, who had Alzheimer's, passed away peacefully at the Regency on Whidbey memory care facility in Oak Harbor, where his wife, Jean Anderson, died eight days earlier. A blind date in college became the love of his life, Jean had heart conditions and dementia.

He leaves a legacy of tireless, and much lauded, advocacy for education and other opportunities for the developmentally disabled. An accomplished writer, Murray also was a dairy farmer, an Army veteran and a leader in many philanthropic and nonprofit groups.

Murray was friendly with everyone, and Jean used to tease him that everywhere they went he always found at least one person he knew.

He was born Jan. 13, 1928, at home on Maylor's Point across the harbor from Oak Harbor to Peter Anderson and Lillian Christenson Anderson. He had a brother, Dallas Anderson, and two sisters, Charmian Lander and the late Eleanor Grovdahl.

Murray's family left Whidbey Island when he was 13 and moved to a farm in Startup, Wash. He was the salutatorian at graduation from Sultan High School in 1946. The first in his family to go to college, he put himself through the Animal Husbandry program at Washington State University in Pullman, Wash.

He worked in dairy barns on campus, worked summers on dairy farms and sold one of his precious few cattle when it became necessary. He received a bachelor's degree in agriculture in 1950.

Near the end of his senior year, he returned from a dairy judging contest a few days before the senior prom. Murray had no date, so he asked his roommate if he knew anyone he could take to the dance. His roommate called the dorm of a friend of his and asked her if she wanted to go. She told him she already had a date, but she'd check with other girls in the dorm.

She yelled across the common room, asking if anyone wanted to go to the senior prom. The only one who said yes was freshman Jean Brattain. She went on a coffee date with this unknown young man, borrowed a dress -- with the school year ending, she had shipped her clothes home to Alaska -- and went to the prom with him.

Murray went to work on a farm on Washington's Olympic Peninsula and corresponded with Jean all summer. In the fall, she attended business school in Seattle so they could spend time together. Their courtship took place on ferries traveling between Seattle and Bremerton.

Murray received an Army draft notice in mid-November, just over four months since the U.S. sent the first ground troops to the Korean War. He married Jean on Nov. 28, 1950, three days before he reported for duty.

When his turn came in the line for appointment to a military station, Murray and the woman assigning recruits to posts realized they knew each other from high school -- yet another instance of Murray coming across someone he knew. She turned the book with the list of duty stations around to face him and asked, "Where would you like to go?"

He chose Fairbanks, Alaska, so his new bride would be near her family, and the couple lived in a converted garage. When temperatures turned frigid, they had to go out every few hours and run a lighter under the fuel line to keep fuel running to their heating stove.

After Murray left the Army in 1952, Murray and Jean leased and/or worked on farms in Skagit and Whatcom counties. They welcomed daughters Edona and Crystal into their lives.

In 1960, when the family lived in Sumas, Wash., their youngest child, Carrie, was born and diagnosed with Down's Syndrome. Murray and Jean were told their only option was to put her in an institution. They visited the only one in the state and were appalled by the conditions there. They decided to keep Carrie at home.

Murray started volunteer work with what was then known as the Washington Association of Retarded Citizens in Skagit County. He was so effective that he was hired as the first executive director of New Leaf in Mount Vernon. He took New Leaf from a new, small program to one of the leaders in the state. The grant written to form New Leaf and that resulted in hiring Murray was described by state officials concerned with workshops as "the best use of a grant they had seen."

New Leaf was the first sheltered workshop to "test the waters with the Javita-Wagner-O'Day Program (JWOD)" and contract with a federal agency to allow a service from the disabled: care of the grounds at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island -- a contract that continues today.

"I'm very committed to creating opportunity for handicapped people that other people have," Murray once said. "We have to guard against accepting our conceptions about what such people can do."

New Leaf began at a time when Washington released about 800 institutionalized adults. The institutional downsizing created opportunities for people with disabilities to integrate into the workforce, and that's where New Leaf stepped in.

By then, schools were forming special-education classes, but children who needed them did not have the skills to be in a classroom. Murray and Jean were instrumental in founding the Skagit Preschool Association for Retarded Children (SPARC), now known as the Skagit Preschool And Resource Center, in Mount Vernon.

Over the years, Murray became increasingly active at local, state and federal levels in what's known as the normalization movement for developmentally disabled children and adults to integrate them into the mainstream in schools, workshops and group homes. He worked as an executive director of many sheltered-workshop organizations in Washington and Alaska.

He also served as the acting director