Kenneth Selby, School Official, Known For Breadth Of Interests

Kenneth E. Selby, former assistant superintendent of Seattle’s schools during the 1940s, was always into something, his family said.

Mr. Selby died on July 21 in an Everett nursing home of pneumonia. He was 92 years old.

Tree farming, jewelry making, ceramic making, and book writing were just some of the hobbies Mr. Selby tackled after he retired at age 66.

But even then, crafts and horticulture could not distract him from his first love – children.

It was not unusual for the former elementary school principal to have busloads of school kids visit his tree farm for a lesson in raising trees or the history of plants, said his son-in-law Stephen Clark.

Mr. Selby’s tree farm was a family retreat as well as an educational laboratory, said Joan Clark, his daughter.

Picnics, games, camping, and swimming in the lake Mr. Selby made by building a dam across one of the waterways of the farm were among Mrs. Clark’s favorite wilderness activities.

The farm is on Wood’s Creek, about 10 miles east of Everett near Machias.

Mr. Selby was also instrumental in developing the 120-acre Cleveland Memorial Forest near Issaquah, which is owned by Seattle Public Schools.

The land was originally purchased and dedicated to World War II veterans by a senior class at Cleveland High School where Mr. Selby was principal, Stephen Clark said.

“He could do no wrong, everybody loved him,” said Joan Clark.

Mr. Selby also had a flair for poetry and sometimes challenged his students to a battle of verse.

“He could recite poetry by the hour and he used to say he could recite more poems than all of them put together, and he always did,” said Stephen Clark.

Mr. Selby’s habit of memorizing poems became a family tradition when his grandchildren started emulating him at fireside gatherings, Joan Clark said.

Mr. Selby was born Nov. 12, 1899, in St. Paul, Minn., and later moved to Bellingham. He spent the latter part of his life in Seattle.

He received his bachelor’s degree in education from Western Washington University and his master’s degree from the University of Washington.

Mr. Selby remained a strong family man and rarely thought of himself, even after the death of his wife 20 years ago.

A family outing on a rented houseboat was Mr. Selby’s first planned activity after his wife’s funeral.

“You couldn’t find a better father anywhere,” said Joan Clark, who reminisced about the times her father would rock and sing to her whenever she had a cold.

“He had quite a repertoire of songs,” she said.

Mr. Selby is survived by his daughter, four grandsons and seven great-grandchildren.

Memorial services will be Friday, July 31, at 10 a.m. at Purdy & Walters at Floral Hills Funeral Home, 409 Filbert Road, Lynnwood.

Penelope M. Carrington

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