David James Haakenson

January 3, 1942 - July 14, 2019


David James Haakenson, born at home January 3, 1942 in Maxbass, North Dakota to Esther (Krantz) and Melvin Haakenson. He died July 14, 2019 with his wife Kathleen Kler at his side in the home they built together in Quilcene, WA.

A gifted wood craftsman, he began at age six in his father’s shop on the farm where he fashioned his own tools and matched imagination with innate skill. Up in the Northern Minnesota lake country, he began the creative woodwork that he so enjoyed that he declined to call it “work.” His crafted wooden plates were commissioned by fashion designer Henri Bendel, and he received a patent for his Idealids , wooden covers that enabled recycling and reuse with functional beauty. The book club and craft friends around Kabekona remain some of his dearest friends; poets, writers, and philosophers welcomed his original mind. A divorce (Ann Quam), shop fire and then healing at Hazelden Treatment Center opened an opportunity to refocus, move out west and live a life of joy-filled sobriety until he died.

His life of words included the ubiquitous English degree, master’s level study of linguistics, editing the Harvard Divinity School newspaper while teaching freshman English, taking philosophy and divinity classes “in the Yard,” serving in the Army during Vietnam by teaching typewriting(!!!), selling Oxford press college textbooks, co-owning, writing and editing the Maxbass Mini, a local newspaper that predated the Prairie Home Companion for its humor and neighborhood story-telling. His mentor, lifelong friend and advisor, Dr. Al Anderson, named David one of the most creative minds he had ever encountered, and one of the last of the great letter writers in America, often sending 8 page single spaced musings to friends. His introductory letter of self to Kathleen got him in the door and into her life until death did its parting after 33 years of a dynamic, creative marriage.

A favorite of architects on Bainbridge Island because of his precision and problem solving, David’s successful cabinetry business allowed Kathleen to take a sabbatical from nursing to explore her emerging artwork. Their home, shop and studio, known as Phoenix House, became a hospitality center for their combined family of three sons and friends, and many international visitors, especially after hosting Shinichi Hata, another “son” and several other Japanese students who spread the word of good rice and fun.

During the holidays, he and Kathleen designed and gifted friends and family with original wooden ornaments beginning in 1987. When he traveled David would spontaneously gift an ornament to bus drivers, servers, maids, children.Thousands of pieces of David’s woodwork remain throughout the world.

Simplicity and aging motivated a move to Quilcene where David’s shop produced cabinets, cutting boards and his favorite creation, the Haakler Hook . He was proud to be part of the Port Townsend Gallery and the annual Woodworkers’ show; the artists rallied round to keep him and his work in the gallery, even as Alzheimer’s Disease compromised his excellent mind.

Those who will miss his twinkling eyes, laughter, love and generosity include son and family Haakon, Katharine and Bryn Barrett-Haakenson (Everett,WA); stepsons and families Nathan, Morgan, Henry, George and Theodore Comsia (Ft. Wayne, IN); and Aaron, Yuuki and Juna Comsia (Tokyo, Japan); siblings Ethel (Larry) Thompson, Robert (Michael Ann) Haakenson, John Haakenson, Mary Haakenson, Dan (the Buzzard) Haakenson; in-laws Julian and Nadine Kler; Karl (Deneice) Kler; Kristine (Gregg) Ferrill; Karen (Jim) Schneider; and many nieces and nephews who adored him. David’s parents and brothers Teddy and Phil predeceased him.

We thank the community for their cards, prayers and generous support, including the many tributes on Caringbridge during these past months. A special note of thanks to Dsr. Tinker, Mattern, Lock; Elizabeth Olinger, FNP, Merrily Mount, ARNP, Tess Taft, MSW; the nurses and staff of Hospice of Jefferson County; Dr. Domoto-Reilly and Elizabeth Lindley, ARNP of Harborview Memory and Brain Wellness Center. Sara Steele and Alex Taft provided 24 hour loving support of Kathleen’s vigil during David’s last days.

David had a simple burial, wrapped in his mother’s quilt and laid in a hand dug grave on July 15 in the Quilcene Cemetery.

A Celebration of Transformation will be held late summer for the community to gather and remember the light David shared. Memorials can be made to Count Me in for Quilcene (501c3), P.O. Box 141, Quilcene WA 98376, to fund the community woodshop that was David’s unfinished dream.


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