Community loses leader in John LaFond

John LaFond, a man of many hats, died unexpectedly Sunday night in Seattle, leaving behind a long legacy of service and a shocked community.

The Island County Economic Development Council board president and former Oak Harbor City Councilman reportedly told his wife, Carole, that he was not feeling well while the couple was in Seattle. He was then hospitalized and died while in the medical facility. Details were not available early this week.

Sharon Hart, EDC executive director, was reeling from the news Monday morning. Working through the grief was no easy task. Remembering John, however, was easy.

“This is a tremendous loss for not only our community but also to us personally,” she said. “The EDC and our board was blessed to have John as our president. He was such a generous and dedicated champion to our organization, and especially to the EDC staff. He treated everyone and every idea with such respect, and represented us and the community well.”

As a professional, LaFond was dedicated. As a friend, he was extraordinary.

“If you were lucky enough to count John as a friend, you knew what an interesting person he was,” Hart said. “Our hearts go out to his wife Carole and his family at this time. He will be greatly missed by all who worked with him.”

Sheilah Crider, Oak Harbor City Councilwoman, worked alongside LaFond when he served on the council. She said he was an integral part of the community and the loss would not be quantified with mere words.

“John was the epitome of a statesman,” said Crider of the 12-year council veteran. “He was just the ombudsman for Oak Harbor. The knowledge he brought was incredible. He was invaluable.”

After retiring from the Navy in 1979, LaFond later went on to teach at Skagit Valley College, retiring in 1999. His time on the City Council and his most recent work for the EDC, along with recreational pursuits, helped keep him out of trouble. Crider said even when he was officially retired, he was retired only in name.

“He didn’t retire from being an active part in our community,” she added.

LaFond’s tenure on the City Council afforded him opportunities to work on virtually every committee. As EDC board president, he was well-equipped to handle the tasks.

“He was tireless in his efforts to put forth the best foot Oak Harbor could,” Crider said. “And he did that when he went to the EDC.”

His life in Oak Harbor also included a stint as chairman of the city’s marina. LaFond was an avid sailor and familiar face at the annual Race Week.

The Navy transferred LaFond and his wife to Whidbey Island in 1974. He became a civil engineer during his time in the service and also earned a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Utah in the 1970s.

The couple’s three children Ron, Mike and Sandy, all graduated from Oak Harbor High School.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, Nov. 24, at 10 a.m. at St. Augustine’s Catholic Church with a reception to follow.

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