Arturo Pacis, Boeing Engineer And A Gentleman-Farmer

Arturo Pacis couldn't serve in the military during World War II, but he supported the United States' war effort as an employee at Seattle's Boeing Defense Plant.

It didn't come easy. Mr. Pacis first obtained a letter from the U.S. secretary of war clearing him and other Philippine Americans to work at defense plants despite post-Pearl Harbor uneasiness about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

And as a principled father and gentleman-farmer in Edmonds, he broke ground in the literal sense, keeping family and friends supplied with vegetables and advice.

"To the best gardener in the world," reads one letter from a granddaughter in Ireland. "Grandpa, the seeds you planted are doing well."

"She meant that in a double way, in the garden sense and in the people sense," said Mr. Pacis' wife of 46 years, Connie Pacis. "He liked to give advice, like not to smoke. He loved to read, and loved words. He died a happy man."

Mr. Pacis died of leukemia Friday (May 15) at age 90.

A native of Ilocos Sur in the Philippines, he came to Seattle to study engineering at the University of Washington. He studied languages first because his $40-a-month salary as a domestic helper wouldn't pay the engineering lab fees.

When World War II broke out, he tried to join the Army but was rejected for having flat feet. He applied for work at Boeing's defense plant in Seattle, but was turned down.

Fearing he wasn't hired because he was Filipino, Mr. Pacis wrote the secretary of war (now secretary of defense), who wrote back that Filipinos could work in defense plants. Mr. Pacis took the letter to Boeing, and got a job as a tooling engineer.

"It amazes me he was that aggressive, because when I knew him he was so quiet and shy," said his daughter Laurie Piper of Edmonds. "But he paved the way for other minorities and disabled people."

Mr. Pacis earned his engineering degree at the UW while working at Boeing in the 1940s; he advocated better treatment of minorities at Boeing. He retired in 1972.

Mr. Pacis, for a time, wore an old raincoat over his white shirt at work, fearing some blue-collar workers at the plant would be jealous of his white-collar job.

One day, someone questioned why he didn't go home to the Philippines and fight instead of taking "American" jobs. Mr. Pacis finally broke down and cried.

"But his supervisor (who was German) came up to him," said his wife. "He said, `Don't worry. They do the same to me.' "

Other survivors include his children, Gloria Pacis and Caesar Pacis of Seattle; his sister, Ellis Pascual of Seattle, and other siblings in the Philippines; and six grandchildren.

A memorial gathering is at 3 p.m. Saturday at the family home. Remembrances may go to the Filipino American Christian Fellowship, 4521 188th St. S.W., Edmonds, WA 98037.

Carole Beers: 206-464-2391. E-mail: