Not even a month before he passed away Jan. 1, Richard Munson spent an entire morning at the very spot friends and family said their goodbyes to the former Spokane Valley mayor last Saturday.
The distance between the states of emotions of the Dec. 4 event at CenterPlace – the Rotary club’s “Breakfast with Santa” – was about as far from Saturday’s tearful remembrances as the moon is from the sun. But in both instances, the spirit of Munson was on full display.
|The flag flew at half-staff on Saturday at CenterPlace for the memorial service for former Mayor Richard Munson. Photo by: Mike Huffman
Munson – a longtime Rotarian – had, in the guise of Santa Claus, been the guest of honor at the preholiday fundraiser. Decked in St. Nick’s traditional red-and-white garb, Munson listened intently for as hours as children throughout the area sat on his lap and put in requests for footballs and Hannah Montana karaoke machines.
On Saturday, a photo of Munson in that same outfit filled the screen of CenterPlace’s Great Room as the Beatles’ “In My Life” played in the background. The photo montage capped an hour of anecdotes and prayers as Munson’s life was, with only some success, encapsulated in a short amount of time.
“He was a man of vision,” said Ian Robertson, a Spokane Valley pastor who served with Munson for a short time on the City Council.
“He could see beyond today into the future. My life has been enriched by his friendship.”
Munson -- who had been elected in 2002 for the very first City Council following Spokane Valley’s incorporation vote -- died from complications brought on by leukemia at the age of 68. He was buried in a private family interment ceremony on Jan. 6 at the new Washington State Veterans Cemetery.
His grown children – Munson and his wife, Janet, have two daughters and a son – described their shock at the speed of their father’s decline after a heart attack shortly after Christmas. They said they had believed he was “invincible” and that Munson had “done nothing small” during a life that was dominated by military and public service.
“I’ll always remember my father’s effortless ability to make you feel special,” said son Mark Munson.
David Mercier, Spokane Valley’s first city manager, described Munson as a “man of energy” who “would give you the shirt off his back.”
“Time will not erase the legacy of a life well lived,” Mercier said.
Brother-in-law John Chapman said that Munson’s Republican leanings were often on display, as well.
“He was a firm believer in the two-party system,” Chapman said. “The right, and the farther right.”
The large attendance at Munson’s memorial included former colleagues on the City Council and city staff, as well as Spokane County commissioners and other local officials.
Mark Lancaster, who served with Munson in the Air Force in Vietnam, related a particularly harrowing story where a plane carrying his friend crashed in enemy territory. Munson, who was an intelligence officer, was narrowly rescued by U.S. forces before he could be captured.
“I’m going to miss Richard,” he said. “I miss him every day.”