Seattle Cartoonist McCausland Dies

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Bob McCausland, an illustrator and cartoonist at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for more than 30 years, has died after a trip from his Olympia home to see humorist Garrison Keillor at the Chateau St. Michelle Winery, his wife said Saturday.

He was 90.

McCausland, best known for his “Hairbreadth Husky” sports cartoons, died after sitting down to rest as he and his wife, Ruth, walked to the concert stage Friday at the height of the recent heat wave, with temperatures in the 90s.

Ruth McCausland said she went to ask a security guard for directions and when she returned, she found her husband lying down on the grass with two passersby trying to help. Medics were unable to revive him.

“We’ve had so many emergencies with Bob,” she said Saturday. “Every time he’s just come out of it smiling. The difference is, this time he didn’t.”

The McCauslands recently celebrated their 65th anniversary and had just moved from the remote Willapa Bay community of Tokeland – which he jokingly refered to as “the center of the universe” – to Olympia, where their son Gary had a house built for them next to his own.

McCausland had a 33-year career at the Post-Intelligencer, where his Hairbreadth Husky – with a bandaged nose and fedora – chronicled the ups and downs of University of Washington football from 1960 to 1982. He later compiled the cartoons into a book, also titled “Hairbreadth Husky.”

In the foreword, ex-Huskies coach Don James wrote, “There are many rich traditions in Husky football, and Bob McCausland’s Hairbreadth Husky rates among the most remembered.”

In 1982, he retired with Ruth to Tokeland, where he drew weekly editorial cartoons for The Daily World for more than 20 years. They were sometimes global, reflecting his concern for the environment or his distaste for the war in Iraq, but also tracked the local scene, skewering politicians or just reminding readers of an upcoming event.

He had the observant eye of a caricaturist and sometimes – with nothing more than a description over the phone – he could come eerily close to a likeness. “Does he have two eyebrows or just one that goes all the way across?” McCausland would ask.

He’d had bouts with cancer, problems with his heart and, more recently, a stroke. But it didn’t slow him down much, his wife said.

“He had just been to the doctor on Monday and he was pretty good,” Ruth McCausland said. “But his heart wasn’t good. It was just too much for him.”

In addition to his newspaper work, McCausland was a muralist, an oil painter, a water-colorist and a carver, with works as varied as the sturdy figurehead for the Grays Harbor-based tall ship Lady Washington to almost impossibly delicate shorebirds for Ruth.

His love of history was reflected in his murals, and in 2004, the Aberdeen Museum of History named the couple Historians of the Year. In 1999, the McCauslands were Daily World Citizens of the Year, and this year, the Westport Maritime Museum renamed its lecture hall for them.

“Where one was, the other was. They were such a team,” Dann Sears of the Aberdeen Museum said Saturday. “I’m just thankful I had the time to enjoy him,” Sears added.

McCausland grew up in Seattle and graduated from Lincoln High School in 1934. He and Ruth met in a vocational-school art class in 1937. They married in 1941 and had two sons, Paul, now living in Snohomish, and Gary, who lives in Olympia.

McCausland worked as a commercial artist and sign painter until the war, when he enlisted in the Army Transportation Corps, mostly serving on tugs in Alaska. He went to work at the Post-Intelligencer art department after the war, retouching photos and sketching everything from illustrations for the women’s page to editorial cartoons.


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