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Remembering Lester Gruner

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Photo courtesy of friends of Lester Gruner
Photo courtesy of friends of Lester Gruner

Lester Gruner
July 22, 1947—March 9, 2022

We celebrate the life of Les Gruner in gratitude for the light and joy he brought to so many of us. Above all, Les was an entertainer, whether working in theater, teaching an IT class, hosting a party in his backyard, or spinning tales around a campfire.

His journey began while growing up in the suburbs of St. Louis, later graduating from Webster Grove School and Webster College before doing graduate work at Purdue University.

When the Midwest grew too slow for him, Les moved to the faster beat of New York City, the lights of Broadway, and the pulsating sound of discos. He loved dancing under the spinning lights of the disco ball. For several years, Les enjoyed the work he did on many Broadway and off-Broadway shows.

After driving across the country with three friends in 1982, Les settled into a house on Capitol Hill in Seattle, where his sense of humor and sharp wit won him numerous friends. Those of us who coaxed the city boy into taking his first back-country camping trip still recall the naivete and awe Les had when learning to carry a heavy backpack or to set up a tent. Years later, he even tested his Northwest skills whitewater rafting on the Methow River and regaling us with tales of narrow escapes around the campfire at night.

In Seattle, Les launched a new career in marketing, working for GNA, GE Capital, and Washington Mutual. From 2010 until his retirement in 2021, Les worked for the University of Washington Medical Center in information technology education, serving as clinical information educator, EPIC project manager, and supervisor of curriculum design.

During this time, he also volunteered with the Pride Foundation as part of a team that screens and selects scholarship applicants. Retirement gave Les time to spend with his pets — always two cats and one Great Dane.

Les is preceded in death by his mother in St. Louis, his father in Georgia, his life partner Mike Welter, and several friends lost during the AIDS pandemic. Les's friends recall the beautiful friendship and love he and Mike shared, whether relaxing at home or hiking on Mt Rainier.

Numerous friends in Seattle, Portland, New York, and St. Louis already miss his presence: his laughter, and the ways in which he taught and entertained us.

Donations in memory of Lester Gruner can be made to the Pride Foundation, Youth Care, or the Dane Rescue Program.