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Saturday, April 27, 1991 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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John Haydon, Ex-Commissioner Of Port, Dedicated Life To The Sea

John M. Haydon was always enamored with the sea and wended his way through Seattle Port Commission meetings to the governor's mansion in American Samoa to the Makah Indian Reservation of Neah Bay to prove it.

Mr. Haydon, 71, died April 18 in Providence Medical Center after losing a long battle with cancer. Private services were held.

He was an author, an advertising salesman, a politician and entrepreneur. He used all his skills to work on projects that led him from Elliott Bay to Pago Pago to Neah Bay.

When he was named Maritime Man of the Year in 1970, the presenter Marin Erickson, summed up Mr. Haydon's commitment:

"John Haydon has dedicated his entire life to the sea and to the waterfront. He has always done so with an enthusiasm which tends to leave breathless most of those who try to keep up."

Mr. Haydon was born on Jan. 27, 1920, in Billings, Mont., and moved with his family to Seattle as a child. He graduated from Seattle's old Broadway High School in 1937 and was honored 50 years later as a distinguished alumni. He also attended the University of Washington.

In 1939 he made his first visit to the South Pacific as a seaman on a Dutch merchant ship.

He married his wife, Jean, of Seattle, in 1941.

After leaving the university, Mr. Haydon took a job with an advertising agency in San Francisco. During World War II he was as a navigator with the Army Air Forces. He eventually was discharged as a first lieutenant.

In 1949, Mr. Haydon was appointed as the Port of Seattle's first public-relations director and helped coordinate the initial Japanese Trade Fair here in 1951.

In 1956, he bought the Marine Digest, a local magazine he had written for during college. He was publisher for almost 30 years.

Mr. Haydon won a seat on the Port Commission in 1960 and was known as its hard-driving and sometimes feisty leader for the next nine years.

He was also the first chairman of the state Oceanographic Commission and spearheaded a series of civic drives, served on numerous boards and won many honors.

He wrote, early in his commission days, an illustrated book called, "Offbeat Guide to the Waterfronts." The book listed an assortment of facts from the many shipwrecks of Elliott Bay to the latest goings-on in waterfront dives.

In 1969, President Richard Nixon appointed Haydon governor of American Samoa and its 30,000 people. He and his family lived in an ornate governor's house overlooking Pago Pago Bay.

He helped found the first community college there but found himself amid controversy when he attempted to expel the managing editor of The Samoa News and was later accused of interfering in local elections. He was cleared of those allegations.

He and his wife returned to West Seattle in 1974 and started a plant shop and an art gallery. When asked if he could bear to slow down, Mr. Haydon replied, "The Samoans have a saying, `I have gone into the forest to sit and watch the pigeons fly in."

But in early 1983 Mr. Haydon was hired by the Makah Indian Tribe as a business consultant. He stayed on the reservation two years before moving to Bainbridge Island. During those years he did everything from sitting on several business boards to helping fishermen acquire financing for their boats.

"For a guy who had been a territorial governor to come in here and work for us was very refreshing," said tribal Chairman Don Johnson. "He served with both humor and a practical view. He helped us in so many ways. He left a lot of friends in Neah Bay."

Mr. Haydon lived the past six years on Bainbridge Island.

He is survived by his wife of Bainbridge Island; a brother, Robert, of Oakland, Calif.; three daughters, Marti Knoche of Olympia and Rusty Nicholson and Molly Kramer, both of Orville, Okanogan County; a son, John R. Haydon of Seattle; and three grandchildren.

Memorials may be made to the Hospice of Kitsap County in Bremerton. The family has built a bench and planted a tree in his memory.

Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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