Eugene Forrest Stensager died in his Central Park home on Sept. 2, 2019. He was 96 years old.
Eugene was born to Hazel and Oscar Stensager on July 21, 1923, in Poulsbo, Washington. When Eugene was 5, he and his family moved to Hoquiam. His mother saw his interest in music very early in life and arranged for him to travel every month to take oboe lessons from a leading musician in the Seattle Symphony. This investment paid off when he was selected to play the oboe in the National Youth Symphony in 1940. He was a phenomenal oboe player.
He graduated from Hoquiam High school in 1941 and enrolled as a music major at Washington State College (WSU). When the war broke out at the end of 1941, he enlisted in the Army. He was about to be deployed to the South Pacific in the infantry when he was asked to join the Army Air Corps band in Spokane. While playing in this band, he joined a choral group, the Serenaders, which performed on a Spokane radio station every week. One of the singers in this choral group was Marianna Hage, who became Eugene’s wife in 1945. Shortly after they were married, he was shipped to Europe to fight as a result of the Battle of the Bulge hostilities. The war ended soon after he arrived in Europe.
After the war, Eugene and Marianna returned to Washington State College where Eugene graduated with bachelor’s degrees in music and education. He was then recruited by Don McCaw to teach music at Miller Junior High. Mr. McCaw was the director of the Grays Harbor Symphony and wanted Eugene to bring his oboe skills to the symphony. After a year at Miller, Eugene became the director of the Aberdeen High School choir. He then began to teach at Grays Harbor Community College where he became the college’s first Director of Music.
In 1953, Eugene founded the Grays Harbor Civic Choir which presented many musicals and classical performances in the community. The Civic Choir continues to perform to this day. He earned his master of arts in music from the University of Washington in 1957. After Eugene retired in 1978, he and his wife, Marianna, continued as prominent music teachers in the Grays Harbor community for many years. Marianna died in 2011.
In 2016, the Polson Museum presented Eugene with a Pioneer Award for his many contributions to the community. A reception was held at Grays Harbor College which allowed many of his students to give testimonials to his outstanding talents as a music teacher. He and his family were touched to see this outpouring of affection and appreciation. In addition to musical talents, Eugene had a host of other skills. He was proud to have purchased and maintained a Model A Ford as a teenager. He built a home for his family in Central Park and lived there for more than 50 years. He loved the water and spent many hours on his boat.
Eugene was a remarkable person of many talents. His musical abilities were exceptional. He had a friendly and easy-going style that people loved. Eugene loved the outdoors. He liked to spend time on his tractor tilling his garden. He continued to cut wood with his chain saw well into his 90s.
His wife Marianna, son Chris, and brother Robert preceded Eugene in death. He is survived by his sons and their wives: Mark (Debbie) and Tim (Lorraine); four grandchildren: Chris, Brian, Steven and Jordan; sister-in-law Carolyn Nunemaker and nieces Kristine Walker and Ingrid Holmland. His immediate and extended family were able to spend a great deal of quality time with him in recent years. He truly enjoyed his family.
The family suggests that those wanting to donate in Eugene’s memory contribute to CARE, an organization fighting poverty and world hunger https://www.care.org. Eugene was a strong supporter of the work of this organization.