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Zeller Chapel of the Roses

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Portland, OR 97232
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“I'm happy to have been a part of your life J. Rest and be free, Love, Cindy ”
1 of 1 | Posted by: Cindy Ballard - Spokane, WA


J.Lee Gawf, self-made man, loving husband, devoted father and grandfather, passed away at his home on August 17,2010, at the age of 88, surrounded by his family.

Born in Salida, Colorado in 1922, J Lee overcame a childhood made particularly difficult by the absence of his father. He and his three younger siblings were raised by his mother, Helen Gertrude Bondurant, who prevailed against enormous obstacles to acquire teaching credentials and obtained employment at the local elementary school.

His big break came when he was selected by his state senator for an appointment to the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md., from which he graduated with the class of 1946. On a post-war tour around South America on the USS Little Rock, he met his future wife, Mary Elizabeth Laflin, in Peru.

He served in the Navy and in the reserves, achieving the rank of Lieutenant Commander. After leaving the Navy, he worked briefly as an electrical engineer for Bechtel in San Francisco, where he continued his courtship of Elizabeth, who was by then attending Lone Mountain University. They married in 1950.

In 1954 he was accepted into the Foreign Service and moved with his wife and two children to his first post, Guadalajara, Mexico. Taking his growing family with him, he went on from Mexico to serve in Genoa, Italy; Caracas, Venezuela; Ottawa, Canada; Washington DC; Naples, Italy; Belize City, British Honduras; and Rome, Italy. In Belize he headed the American Consulate as Consul General, and in Rome Italy, his last overseas post, he attained the rank of Minister Counselor for Political Affairs. While in Rome he was awarded the medal of Meritorious Honor for his involvement with US emergency relief services to his beloved former post, Naples, following the 1980 earthquake. He retired in 1988, and moved with his wife to Portland, Oregon.

His dedication to his career was surpassed only by his commitment to his family. He read his kids bedtime stories, taught them soccer, helped them with homework, took them camping, skiing, ice skating, and fishing, played music to them and taught them songs, provided lessons in swimming and music, sent them to good schools and raised them to be multi-lingual and multi-cultural. In short, he did everything he could to fulfill his childhood promise to one day be an excellent husband and father.

Thank you Pop, for everything you gave us, especially your irrepressible sense of humor.

He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Elizabeth Laflin Gawf, and his six children, Mary Anne Lara, Kate Gawf, Matilda Gawf, Tony Gawf, Margo Alexander, and John Alan Gawf; and five grandchildren, Marbella Lara, José Lara, Rosalba Lara, Margaret Karshner, and Katie Karshner.

A memorial service will be held at Zeller's Chapel of the Roses at 11:00 AM on Friday, August 27, after which he will be buried at Riverview Cemetery. Remembrances in his name can be made to the Alzheimer's Association, 1650 NW Naito Parkway, Suite 190, Portland, Oregon, 97209.