Keeper of coal-mine history dies hiking near Leavenworth

Steve Grate of Renton

Stephen Grate of Renton, who led hikes in the Renton and Issaquah areas to teach the history of coal mining, died Friday night while hiking with his son Michael near Leavenworth.

The 52-year-old Grate suffered a head injury after falling about 15 feet from a large rock on Asgaard Pass leading to the Enchantment Lakes hiking trails, according to the Wenatchee Daily World.

Services for Grate are 2 p.m. Thursday at St. Peter United Methodist Church, 17222 N.E. Eighth St., Bellevue, where he was a member.

Grate, who was single, was an independent computer consultant, said Erica Maniez, the director of the Issaquah History Museums, where Crate was a volunteer and docent.

She said his son Michael was a recent graduate of Evergreen College.

“I used to tell him he was an Renaissance man,” she said of Grate. “Getting to know him was like peeling an onion.”

Maniez met Grate six or seven years ago when he came to the museum with an idea and a request.

He was interested in the history of coal mining in the region and wanted to look at the museum’s maps. His research extended elsewhere, too. That led to his exploratory hikes and gathering up GPS coordinates of important stops along the way.

Then he came back to the museum, saying he wanted to lead hikes to the coal mines that dot the region. He led hikes to such mines as the Issaquah and Superior Mine on Squak Mountain and the Grand Ridge Mine near the Issaquah Highlands.

Grate would put in extra effort when he led students on hikes, Maniez said.

“He would pull out all the stops for the kids,” she said.

Besides his interest in mines, Grate was the go-to guy when the museum needed help with its computer technology, she said, which included updating the museum’s computers.

As part of the museum’s summer program, he presented a slideshow at the museum of 100 images showing Issaquah landmarks, including the IOOF Hall, Pickering Farm, Memorial Field and the intersection of Front and Sunset.

He told the story of how the Washington State Militia came to settle unrest in Issaquah in the summer of 1891 and explained why buildings at the intersection of Front and Sunset were originally built on an angle.

Grate was active at the annual July 4th Heritage Day at the Issaquah Train Depot, where he worked the laundry station, showing children how to wash clothes on a scrub board, use an old-fashioned wringer and hang the clothes to dry.

Among his awards through his museum volunteer work was the Linda Ruehle Award for fundraising in 2008.

“He was an amazing resource,” said Maniez.

But there was more to Grate than just history and computers.

“I think the capper is the day he brought me a jar a jam,” she said, made with berries he had picked along the trail.

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