As a high-school counselor in the mid-1960s, Frank Inslee knew the name of nearly every student at Chief Sealth High School.
“You always got a straight answer, and a firm handshake, and you knew he was sincere — that was the part we all liked about him,” said Gene Sharratt, who graduated from the school in 1965.
Mr. Inslee, 88, father of Gov. Jay Inslee and a resident of Lopez Island, died Monday after an illness.
He was a fourth-generation Washingtonian, a veteran, a biology teacher, high-school coach, counselor and the Seattle Public Schools athletic director.
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In 1977, he was named state athletic director of the year.
“My brothers and I loved our father for his boundless dedication to our mother, Adele, his love of saltwater and big mountains, and every boating and knot-tying lesson he ever taught us,” Jay Inslee said in a statement.
Inslee said his father “was thrilled by taking unranked high-school basketball teams into the state tournament. But he was truly proud of having helped his students build confidence and ambition. Today, wherever we go, my brothers and I get to meet those now 60-year-olds who tell us tales of how our dad inspired them.”
Mr. Inslee served in the Navy during World War II. He began his teaching career in Tenino, Thurston County, and worked nights cleaning tanks at the Olympia Brewery.
Later, he taught biology at Garfield High School in Seattle, where he served as assistant basketball coach. In 1957, he moved to Chief Sealth, where he was the basketball and track coach.
Sharratt, the executive director of Washington Student Achievement Council, said Mr. Inslee was “a tough-love kind of guy” who made it a point to get to know students who struggled academically.
“His door was never closed,” Sharratt said. “He’d always remember your name, and greet you at the door.”
In 1965, Mr. Inslee became athletic director of Seattle Public Schools, where, the Governor’s Office said, he embraced implementation of federal Title IX — the law that expanded women’s athletics in public schools.
After he retired from the district, he sold artificial turf and was active, with his wife, in the Student Conservation Association. They led trips to Mount Rainier to do conservation work on trails and wilderness areas.
His wife, Adele Inslee, died in 2007.
He is survived by three sons, Jay, Frank Jr. and Todd; seven grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Plans for a memorial service are pending.