Born on the early Dust Bowl prairie of Ludden, ND, with “Sisu” Finnish-American grit in his blood, former Evergreen School District coach and administrator, Eugene “Hap” Hapala, died Feb. 3 after a rich life devoted to his family; framed by his Christian faith; and inspired by his commitment to teaching and sports. He was 85.
A “call me Hap” kind of guy, Hapala was known locally as a P.E teacher, football coach and athletic director during his 1959-1989 career. In turn, Hap called each of his students by name. Equally important to him: Boosters; coaches; staff; officials, bus drivers, student/athletes and their parents who were his “school family.”
A Battle Ground High School, Clark College and Pacific Lutheran College graduate, Hap played baseball for all three schools. He was also a catcher during his stint in the U.S. Army and on a Legion Ball team.
In his final year at PLC (now Pacific Lutheran University), Hap met Marlene. The couple married in 1959, and then started their teaching careers and family in Vancouver, WA.
Hap went on to coach hundreds of Covington and Cascade junior high boys. Later, as Evergreen School District’s athletic director, he helped open Mountain View High School, and introduced new sports programs and girls’ teams to local schools and leagues. His impact: thousands of student/athletes over four decades. Hap’s proudest professional accomplishment: promoting equality in local girls’ sports by what he called “creating opportunities for young women to ‘sweat’ in athletics, become leaders and reach their potential.”
He was honored as Southwest Washington District Athletic Director of the Year and was later named to the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association Athletic Directors Hall of Fame.
During retirement, Hap and Marlene devoted 1995-96 to teaching in Slovakia. In 2008, Hap spent a volunteer stint teaching American football to Finnish teens in Helsinki. Before Lewy Body disease compromised his memory, Hap shared love for his heritage with relatives and friends during Finnish social and language groups.
Hap cherished his family, and is survived by wife, Marlene; children, Suzanne Monson (Dori) of Lake Forest Park, WA, Beth of Vancouver and Rex (Cindy) of Woodland, WA; granddaughters, Kelsey, Haley and Keegan Monson, all of Seattle, WA and Emily and Grace Hapala of Woodland, WA; two brothers-in-law, and numerous cousins, nephews and nieces.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Hap Hapala Fund for student athletics and activities through the Evergreen School District Foundation, 13215 C-8 S.E. Mill Plain Blvd., PMB 252, Vancouver, WA 98684 or http://evergreenschooldistrictfoundation.com. Please note “Hapala Fund” on memo line or drop-down menu.
Please sign his Guest Book at www.columbian.com/obits.