Donald Gordon Munro was born August 4th, 1908, the ninth of ten children born to Alexander and Janet (Montgomery) Munro. Alexander was a stone mason who emigrated from Scotland in 1887 and was followed in 1890 by his sweetheart, Janet Montgomery. Gordon attended school on Bainbridge Island and graduated from Winslow High School in 1926. He attended the University of Washington and served his apprenticeship in the machine shop at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, where he enjoyed a long and successful career. Gordon was a meticulous man with an enormous sense of humor and a joy for life.
His dear wife, Marjorie Behrens, was born September 20th, 1914, the youngest of three children born to Jerry and Gina (Hilstad) Behrens. The Hilstad family emigrated from Norway in 1878 and eventually settled in the Poulsbo area. Like the Munros, they were a large and loving extended family who cared for each other deeply and enjoyed each others company. Marjorie’s father, Jerry Behrens, was the son of Washington State Legislator Adolf Behrens and was a mining engineer. He died in a tragic accident in 1927 when Marjorie was just thirteen. After his death, Gina Behrens moved her children to Seattle, first to live with Grandfather Adolf Behrens and then to the top of Queen Ann Hill, where Gina managed apartments. Marjorie graduated from Queen Ann High School in 1932 and attended the University of Washington.
In her late teens, Marjorie lived for a time with her Aunt Rachael Hilstad at their summer cabin at Pleasant Beach on Bainbridge Island. While on Bainbridge she played tennis at Lynwood Center, went to the local dances, and rode the ferry back and forth to Seattle. She soon met Jimmy Munro and his niece Janet Kelly-Black who introduced her to Gordon. They married in August of 1935 and truly lived happily ever after.
Following are a few precious memories of their life.
When we were kids Gordon and Jimmy slept upstairs in the old house on Bainbridge, in a big double bed by the window. One day a group of us were sitting outside eating cherries off of the trees in front of the house. The next thing we knew Gordon flew out the second-story bedroom window with wings he had made out of paper. They didn’t work too much, but they must have helped him a little. He landed next to that cherry tree and he wasn’t hurt a bit. I always thought that was the funniest thing, watching Gordon fly out that window.
Gordon was quite a slicker – a good-looking young fella – and he had a low slung car. He was always trying to get girls into that car. One time he got eight girls into it at one time.
Gordon and Jimmy always had fireworks for the family gathering on the 4th of July. One year, they had a stick of dynamite attached to a little piece of wood, like a small raft. They rowed out into the bay, set the dynamite afloat and lit the fuse. But in their hurry to row away they lost an oar – so they both dove off and swam to shore!
Right after Marjorie and Gordon got married they lived up at the top of Queen Ann Hill in Seattle. Marjorie was taking a dietician course at the University of Washington, and Gordon helped Marjorie’s mother manage the apartments. Later Gordon went to the University of Washington in the winter and apprenticed at the shipyard in the summer.
Gordon was the one who stood up with my parents (Euphemia Munro and Jimmy Hodges) when they got married in 1930 in Seattle. Gordon was always Uncle Soapy to me. When I was a baby and we were staying at Grandmother’s while my father was in Samoa, it seemed like I was always in the bathtub when Gordon came by. So he started calling me Soapy. So when I learned to talk I called him Uncle Soapy.
One 4th of July Gordon showed up wearing this crazy diaper. It was the funniest thing. Most of the people there were fairly prim, and here’s Gordon wearing a diaper and diving off Grandmother’s dock.
Gordon and Marjorie were married in 1935. Many times over the years Marjorie reminded me that my mother could not come to their wedding because she was having a baby that day, and I am that baby.
One time as a young man I went to their house, and Gordon walked us down to the beach where there was a little lagoon that filled with water when the tide was high. He had a big Airedale dog, and if you threw a clamshell into the water the dog would swim out, dive under water, and swim down and retrieve the clam shell. The dog had many of his front teeth broken off, because if you threw a rock in the air the dog would run under it and try to catch it in his mouth. If you spit on a rock (so the dog could smell your scent on the rock), then threw the rock far into the woods, the dog would hunt for it and retrieve it. Sometimes it took him an hour or two to find the rock, but he always came back with it eventually.
Gordon obtained a pattern from Popular Mechanics magazine for building a rowboat. He built the boat, and then liked how it came out so well that he gave it to my father as a gift. He then built a second one for himself. Most of the time he would give my Dad a bottle of whiskey at Christmas time. It always came in a Christmas decorated box, and therefore he didn’t have to wrap it up. (You know how those Scotsmen are). I don’t think it ever entered Gordon’s mind that my Dad didn’t drink, and when he died we found about a dozen of these bottles tucked away in a box in the house on Bainbridge. All still in the original box of course, and never opened. Most still had the Christmas card attached, so we knew where they came from.
Marjorie was the sweetest person I ever met. In all the years I knew her I never heard her say a bad word about anyone. If today’s young girls are seeking a role model to follow through life, they should consider Marjorie. Always happy, always upbeat, and always living life with a kind and loving heart. She was a wonderful person.
Our Aunt Marjorie and Uncle Gordon were special to Pat and I. We would visit them and there would always be tea and cookies. Pat never cared for tea, but he sure liked those ginger cookies.
Jean Munro Murphy
When I was twelve (1938) my father took me to Navy Yard day. Of course I didn’t know at the time that someday I would work at the Navy Yard. I remember that Gordon was there that day, running a milling machine. Years later, during the war, I worked there for about a year and a half. Gordon worked day shift and I worked 2nd shift. At that time Gordon was a lead man and worked up in the director’s shop. As he was leaving for the day he would come by and say hello to me. Later he was a Quarterman and he supervised the tool and die shop. But he started in the machine shop. Gordon could be very meticulous – he liked things just so – and that made him very good in the machine shop.
He built his first sail boat alongside the driveway on what became George Munro’s property. It was a wooden sloop, about 20 or 22 feet long. I remember he and my dad and Jimmy and I sailed up to the dock at Keyport, not far from Euphemia’s home. We got ice cream and sailed home again. Gordon kept that boat for a number of years after he was married. He and my dad and George sailed it to the San Juans.
Gordon’s next boat was also a wooden sailboat, probably 32 feet. He and Jimmy used to sail to the San Juans and as far a Nanaimo. His last boat was fiberglass and 34 or 36 feet long. A very nice boat. He eventually sold it because he thought he was going blind. Then he had cataracts removed and found out how good he could see. He said that if he had known, he never would have sold the boat!
During the war Gordon invented a drill grinding machine. It would grind each drill so that a perfect curl would come off of each side, something you couldn’t do by hand. They had a crew of women running this machine and about a year after it was put into use Gordon (the inventor) stepped up to one woman and tried to give her some advice on its operation. The woman looked at Gordon and said “Young man, I’ve been running this thing for two weeks now and I don’t need any help.” Gordon just walked away.
Gordon always owned a nice car and before he was married he had an Auburn. It was guaranteed to do 115 mph and had a unique sound to the engine. Gordon used to date a girl who lived across the bay [from the home on Bainbridge]. We could tell when he was over there by the sound of that car as it went up the hill. When Gordon and Marjorie were married Gordon had the Auburn at the wedding. These guys stuck a hose up the exhaust pipe and started filling it up with water. In fact I think the water got up into the engine. When it was full, they plugged the exhaust pipe with an apple. When the time came for Gordon and Marjorie to drive off, the car wouldn’t start. One cylinder was full of water and Gordon couldn’t get it to turn over. He kept working at it and working at it and it finally started. Well as they drove away that apple shot out of the exhaust pipe and a two-inch stream of water shot back about 20 feet!
Gordon and my mother were very close and I was named after him. His full name was Donald Gordon Munro.
Donald Gordon Dunn
I remember Marjorie for her always quick smile, for her love of flowers and all her family. She had the ability to always make you feel special when you were with her. We always looked forward to seeing her at the Hilstad picnics. My earliest memory of Marjorie and Gordon goes back to their outdoor wedding at Aunt May and Uncle Ted’s house. I think I was about five years old. We will miss her great smile and always upbeat attitude.
Cousin Harry (Bud) Johnson
Marjorie and Gordon were literally born in the days of steam trains, and they lived through and enjoyed so many extraordinary developments – penicillin, the space age, microwaves, computers – the list is unending. But I’m not sure they ever understood or appreciated email or the internet. A year or two ago, while I was visiting, Marjorie was trying to phone her niece. She tried several times, but the line was busy. Finally, in frustration she said. “OH, they’re on the A-line again. I wish they would get off that A-line.” Marjorie was one of the few people who could understandably confuse the internet with a train route.
My father once told me about Gordon’s job in the tool and die shop at the Bremerton Shipyard. He explained that Gordon had started as an apprentice and risen through the ranks, retiring as second in charge of the shop. My father then said in a soft voice that Gordon had been offered the job as head of the division, but he had turned it down because he and Marjorie had all they really needed and wanted while the next man in line for the job had a young family and needed the money. That was typical of both of these dear people. They were so very happy, content and always thinking of others.
Elizabeth Munro Berry
Marjorie and Gordon used to go to picnics on the beach a lot. When I was a teenager we were at a picnic with them on the beach at cousin Leah’s. Marjorie, my sister Sandy and I were standing on a log eating watermelon, and Gordon was some distance away talking with the gentlemen. While we were standing on that log, Marjorie started a contest to see how far we could spit watermelon seed. She could spit them very far and before we knew it, she took aim and hit Gordon in the back. Gordon turned around and looked right at Marjorie. You could tell by the look in his eye that he knew exactly what had happened.
When my son Herman was little, four or five years old, he and I went up to have dinner with Marjorie and Gordon. Gordon and Herman were very close friends. After dinner I was helping Marjorie wash the dishes when we heard noises in the living room and went to see what it was. Gordon and Herman were throwing a paper airplane across the living room to each other, playing and having fun. So Marjorie and I went back to the kitchen. Then we heard a huge noise and we ran back to the living room. Well Gordon had a favorite chair, and he and Herman were always fighting over it. Herman would run for that chair and try to claim it before Gordon. This time Herman and Gordon had both run for the chair and dove into at the same time. The chair went over backward and we found the two of them sprawled together on the floor!
In the spring of 1999, I was told that Uncle Gordon was very anxious to see me. Apparently, he had some question that he simply had to get answered. When I was able to visit (I was a UW student at the time) I found that he had read an article about the year 2000 computer bug (Y2K bug) and wanted to understand why it was such a big deal. Uncle Gordon & I talked for a long time about what the problem was, potential impacts and how it was going to be fixed. At the end of our conversation he seemed very satisfied with the explanation. His interest and curiosity was amazing at the age of 91!
Here are some memories from me, Jean Hilstad Kukulan Reilly (b1920) and my sister, Carol Hilstad Schwabe (b1928). Marjorie was six years older than I and growing up I always looked up to her and saw her as a role model–it is strange now to be the oldest living Hilstad cousin. When Marjorie and Gordon married in 1935 they bought the property bordering ours at Fairview and became our dear neighbors. Our father, Chris Hilstad and Gordon always enjoyed each-others company and shared interest in their gardens, their stock, their oystering and clam digging. Marjorie was a very talented homemaker and cook. Everyone remembers her lovely rolls, clam chowder, baked applesauce and wild blackberry jam. I still have her cookie recipes and Carol used to make cookies with her as a little girl. Marjorie also had a wonderful way with flower arrangements and natural bouquets.
Gordon had a great sense of humor and an amazing laugh I can still hear. I always think of him–really every day, as I “rock the teapot” just as he did to mix the tea properly. I was about 14 when Marjorie and Gordon were courting and I thought their romance was so sweet as Gordon held his straw hat as a screen when he gave sweet Marjorie a kiss. They were a great pair, warm, generous and hospitable and I will always miss them.
Cousins Jean and Carol
When Uncle Gordon launched the sailboat he built, they hid me on board prior to reaching the water. Upon hitting the water and floating free, I appeared and became the first person to be on it.
Aunt Marjorie told this story on herself in the summer of 2002….
She was driving along Tracyton Blvd on her way to see Uncle Gordon one afternoon. She noticed a patrol car behind her with his lights flashing so she slowed down so that he could pass. When he didn’t, she speeded back up again. He was still behind her so she again slowed down and this time pulled off the side of the road so that he could get by. When he didn’t, she again pulled back on the highway. She proceeded through the intersection of Tracyton and Bucklin Hill with the patrol car still behind her. When she got a couple more blocks up the road she heard a voice over a loud speaker saying, “would the person in the white car in front of me please pull over at the bowling alley?” Marjorie then realized that he was talking to her, so this time she pulled over and stopped! Needless to say, the officer was NOT happy with her. She tried to explain that she hadn’t realized that his lights were on for her. The officer was neither amused nor sympathetic. So this is the story how Marjorie received her very first speeding ticket at 87 years old! She did let us know that “she hadn’t told Gordon.”
Becky Munro Huff
Dave and I had just become engaged, and Marjorie invited us to dinner. We had such a lovely dinner. Marjorie and Gordon gave us the typical SWEDISH gift of wooden kitchen tools tied together. After dinner we sat in the living room and listened to a tape of bagpipe music. This was my introduction to life in the Munro family.
We remember a little gal with a giant personality who loved life and all people. We would always get a kick out of her when she would sidle up to you with that enthusiastic like smile and say with sparkling eyes “Have your heard about this or that” or “ Did you know that etc. etc.” She was excited about living. Marjorie and Gordon had 68 years of marriage. They had a loving and caring family, and were always interested and proud of the family’s education and accomplishments. Marjorie taught me the delight of looking into the face of a pansy and seeing a princess sitting on a throne. I was six years old when she spent a summer with us on Bainbridge Island. When Marjorie broke her arm, Gordon built an exercise apparatus to do her physical therapy at home. Later they brought it to our home for Howard’s shoulder replacement therapy. Everyone will agree that Marjorie baked the best rolls, with just a dusting of cinnamon. We’ll miss them.
Rachel & Howard Croker & Family
I think the thing that impresses me most about Uncle Gordon, Aunt Margie, and all their brothers and sisters is what they did to ‘win the war’ The sacrifices they made, the work they did and the energy consumed to beat the Axis and preserve democracy for the world we live in today. As I travel the globe and see a modern and thriving Europe, the growing educational opportunities and freedom in Asia, development and trade with South America and a democratic based government in Russia, I have to credit members of our family for working 24 hours a day to turn back Hitler and Hirohito. Gordon and Margie Munro, and those like them, deserve our thanks and praise.
I remember how much Marjorie and Gordon played a part in the lives of my parents. They did a lot together and shared many of the same loves. My parents always spoke highly of them and I can remember their kindness and how good I felt when they were around.