An electrical engineer turned politician, Paul Kraabel was known for advocating for civil rights, as well as developing plans for development and transportation in Seattle.
The daughter of Paul Kraabel, a former state legislator and Seattle City Council member, said she’ll never forget the moment as a child when her father pulled her aside and told her:
“All people are equal, no matter what your skin is.”
Caroline Kraabel recalled his saying that amid the country’s struggle with racial segregation.
To those closest to Mr. Kraabel, a father of four, he emphasized that message of equality not only in his parenting, but in his long career in politics.
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Mr. Kraabel, a trained electrical engineer turned politician, died at Swedish Medical Center on Friday, Aug. 12, due to a subdural hematoma, said his widow, Ludmila Kraabel. He was 83.
Born in Seattle, Mr. Kraabel attended Queen Anne High School and the University of Washington before working for 15 years as an electrical engineer with Boeing. He continued there while serving four years at the state Capitol, representing the 46th Legislative District beginning in the early 1970s. He also served in the Air Force.
A Republican, Mr. Kraabel served 16 years on the Seattle City Council beginning in 1975, a career marked by his passion for civil rights, development and transportation planning. Among other policy issues, he also defended regulations for houseboat rentals.
Current council President Bruce Harrell recalled, as an intern, helping with the houseboat issue, saying Mr. Kraabel was very thoughtful with his work and used his background as an engineer to draw solutions.
“Paul was very smart, and I think that he wasn’t the kind of guy to yell at the top of his lungs on any subject,” Harrell said. “I saw him as always trying to figure out a balance.”
Of Mr. Kraabel’s work ethic, Caroline Kraabel echoed that sentiment, saying her father’s background greatly influenced his work with mass transit and development.
“He wanted to keep Seattle livable,” she said.
Allynn Ruth, 63, worked as Mr. Kraabel’s administrative assistant in the late 1970s until he offered her the position as his legislative assistant, which focuses on committee work. The new title seemed daunting as a black woman during “a very different time in Seattle,” she said, when very few black women held such professional jobs.
“He not only encouraged me and mentored me,” Ruth said of Mr. Kraabel. “I don’t think I would be in the same position I am now” without his help.
He gained support from the black community for his emphasis on equality, and people viewed him as progressive, she said.
Mr. Kraabel served as City Council president twice and on numerous committees, until his retirement in 1991, the same year his second wife, Laurie McCutcheon, died. He briefly returned to the council five years later to fill a vacated seat.
Mr. Kraabel met his first wife, from Paris, while on a skiing trip; they shared a love for mountains, Caroline Kraabel said. She moved to Seattle and together they had four children, she said.
Mr. Kraabel met Ludmila in 1999, while living on a houseboat on Seattle’s Lake Union. The two married shortly after and remained in the home.
“He had an amazing sense of humor; even having dementia, he was sharp until the end,” she said.
Beyond skiing, Mr. Kraabel was an avid hiker and climbed Mount Rainier several times. He continued hiking into his 80s. Besides the outdoors, his passions included poetry, writing and classical music.
After the death of his second wife, Mr. Kraabel endowed a scholarship in her memory at Seattle Central College, where they served on the board.
In addition to Caroline and Ludmila Kraabel, Mr. Kraabel is survived by his first wife and two children, as well as six grandchildren. A memorial will be Sunday at Seattle Central College’s Broadway Performance Hall at 2 p.m.
Donations can be made to the college through the Seattle Central College Foundation.