Leonard William Schwab

September 17, 1935 — April 14, 2018

Leonard William Schwab

Leonard, “Len” Schwab died peacefully in his sleep Saturday, April 14, 2018 at the Whatcom Hospice House in Bellingham, WA.  Len, the oldest of four children of Leonard J. and Esther E. (Brown) Schwab in Rock Falls, IL, was born on September 17, 1935. Len spent an active childhood along the Rock River always alongside Bob, his inseparable younger brother of 11 months, canoeing, swimming, hiking, biking, running paper routes, as well as being active in school sports such as football, wrestling and track. Len had fond memories of earning his way to the Illinois State Track Meet in the Pole Vault competition. But among all his boyhood activities, Len was most influenced in his formative years by life skills learned from his close affiliation with Troop 90 Boys Scouts of America. After 2 years of military service, Len moved to the West Coast and became employed at Boeing Aircraft as a Milling Machine Programmer.  Through multiple promotions/schooling he became a Lead Engineer. His first significant project was working on the programming of the wings for the first Boeing 747. Earning a secure reputation in the field, he moved on to work for Lockheed where he worked as  lead programmer of the first Space Shuttle tiles and received a plaque from the astronauts thanking him for his contribution. He was honored to travel with his Lockheed colleagues to watch the launch of the first Space Shuttle, Columbia.  Due to his highly sought -after skills as an aerospace industry programmer, Len became an independent contractor which allowed him control over his work schedule.  He used this new found freedom to take off work for long blocks of time to do what he was most passionate about, ocean sailing. The adventures he experienced during this period of his life foreshadowed the atypical lifestyle he led for the rest of his life. From 1973 to 1976, a three-year voyage ensued with enough adventures to fill a novel.  Len set out from California in a Volkswagen van with his three young children, Bruce, Steve, and Chris, ages 13, 12, and 9, respectively.  They traveled across the country with the goal of finding a new boat on the East coast. Len found his boat on Chesapeake Bay, renaming it the “Sara B” after his much admired Grandmother.  He and the boys sailed their way down the Intracoastal Waterway to Florida.  They cruised through the Bahamas and Jamaica spending months at a time working on the boat. After Jamaica, the “Sara B” was quite seaworthy and they successfully passed through the Panama Canal and northwards back to the U.S. Len sold the “Sara B” and made a major move in his life by purchasing  a 42 foot  famous ocean-racing sloop named “Improbable”, a boat designed by Gary Mull in 1970, winner in the 1971 Montego Bay Race , and named in the “100 Greatest Sailing Yachts in North America” by Sailing Magazine.   He lived on the boat, raced “Improbable” in the San Francisco Bay for years and after moving back to Seattle, utilized his skills to retrofit “Improbable” for singlehanded sailing. After full retirement, Len would singlehandedly cruise the San Juan and Vancouver Island for years. His home base became Birch Bay (Blaine), WA where he finally purchased a house not far from “Improbable’s ” berth in the Birch Bay Marina and just across the waterway to the San Juans.  Although he loved all of the San Juan Islands, his favorite spot was Reid Harbor on Stuart Island, one of the San Juan Islands, he would sail and fish the harbor for weeks at a time. He sailed the boat singlehanded right up to his 80th year. Len is survived by his son, Bruce Schwab  and a grandson, Alex Schwab, both of Woolwich, ME, brothers, Bob Schwab of Rock Falls, Il, and Tom Schwab of Sterling, Il, and sister, Sue Alt of Door County, WI. Len is also survived by his former wife and life-long companion and primary caregiver, Dora Zepeda and also his first wife, Anitia Jimenez. Len was preceded in death by his parents and two of his sons, Steve and Chris Schwab. There will be a private family gathering to spread Len’s ashes.  He will be missed.

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