Leonard Alson Sawyer

May 18, 1925 – Aug 19, 2015

Leonard Alson Sawyer obituary image 1




May 18, 1925 – August 19, 2015

 “I have had a great life!!!

Leonard Sawyer passed away quietly at his home in Seattle with his loving wife Dawne at his side. Born and raised in Puyallup, WA, Len often said he had the perfect childhood thanks to his exceptional supportive parents Alson and Velma Sawyer.  He forever thought of Puyallup as home no matter where he lived.

Len was predeceased by his parents, sister Myrtice and his twin daughters Connie and Carrie.

He was survived by his wife, Dawne Friesen Sawyer.  He was also survived by five children from his first marriage: Colleen Shields, Cindy Schuur, Carla Opheim, Clark Sawyer, Craig Sawyer and eight grandchildren. Kevin, Katy and McKenzie Shields, Willi & Andee Schuur, Hannah Sawyer (Craig) and Adriana Opheim.

Leonard attended Puyallup public schools through high school.  He was always active in sports.  In high school he was on the varsity basketball team recognized as a special player by his coach and others. He never worried about his small size as he was very fast and highly motivated.  Len was also a neighborhood organizer for sports teams and other activities.  He carried those organizational skills throughout his life.

He graduated in 1943 during WWII, and joined the U.S. Navy. He entered the Navy’s V-12 program at the University of Washington.  He couldn’t totally leave sports behind.  He played basketball at the U.W. and was on the boxing team becoming Welter Weight champion.  He was fortunate to attend several other highly rated colleges such as Cornell. As Ensign Leonard Sawyer, he served primarily in China.

Upon return to Puyallup, Len attended the College of Puget Sound in Tacoma on a basketball scholarship, and was high scorer on a championship team. He graduated with a degree in Economics.  Len was always grateful for the G.I. bill which enabled him to complete college and law school.  He received his law degree from the University of Washington.

Leonard practiced law in Pierce County for over 50 years, first as Deputy Prosecutor for Pierce County practicing criminal law, then in private practice. He and three partners were responsible for development of several large successful land development projects including Lake Tapps in Pierce County and Lake Cushman in Mason County.  He organized state banks in Port Orchard, Hoodsport and Seattle and had a large personal injury practice.

Leonard was elected State Representative from the 25th legislative district at age 29, then the youngest legislator ever elected in Washington.  He served 22 years in the Legislature, twice elected Speaker of the House.  As Speaker, Leonard was the primary force in designing and implementing legislative reforms in Washington State based on making increased and  more accurate information available to legislators to make more informed decisions and make information more available to the public.  The program was nationally recognized.

In retirement, Len and Dawne enjoyed golf and great weather during winter months in Palm Desert for the past ten years.

Anyone who knew Len knew he was never boring or bored. He was always planning for the next project. He was creative, determined and enjoyed the process.  He was clearly one-of-a- kind and loved life.

“A reception in honor of Leonard Sawyer will be held on Wednesday, September 9, 2015, from 2:00 - 4:00pm at Toscano’s Italian Grill at 437- 29th St. NE, in Puyallup, WA.  Website for directions: Toscano’spuyallup.com.  Donations may be made to Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, Tacoma.



Lisa Sawyer
Vancouver, Wa
Sep 17, 2015

I have never met a more generous man then Leonard Sawyer and his "Regal family! He welcomed my children and myself into the family with open arms and a huge heart. He was a wonderful Grampa to Dylan and Keenan, always sure to remember them on holidays and birthdays. We are forever blessed to of been part of his family! I think of him often and always will. I miss his smile.

My thoughts are with you all!

Love always


Beverly warnke
Federal Way, Wa
Sep 5, 2015

So sorry to hear about Len. He and my husband, Senator Frank J Warnke had the same birthday. They were good friends and worked closely in the Legislature. My prayers are for all the family.

Paul Parkhurst
Port Orchard, Wa
Sep 4, 2015

Peace and Goodwill !!

Kelley Kontos Baker
Graham, WA
Sep 4, 2015

Leonard will be sorely missed. Having worked with he and Dawne for years and becoming personal friends, I can say that Leonard was truly one of my favorite people. He had such a fine heart and truly cared for others. I loved his many stories and enjoyed him picking on me. I can still hear his delightful laugh. Dawne, I am so tremendously sorry for your loss. I loved Leonard and I love you.

Franz Wiechers-Gregory
Redmond, WA
Sep 3, 2015

Leonard had a profound impact on so many people. He was the driving force behind legislative reforms that made Washington's Legislature more accessible and he cared deeply about his community, our state, and our country. Above all, he was a terrific man--loyal, engaged, committed, loving. Our sincere condolences and warmest regards.

Steve & Val Offenbecher
Puyallup, WA
Sep 3, 2015

Len truly lived lif to the fullest. We are so sorry for your loss.

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