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Originally published Thursday, March 3, 2011 at 7:20 PM

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Obituary: Douglas W. Luna, 67, passionate about the law and helping others

Douglas W. Luna — war veteran, judge, mentor, provider to those in need and problem solver — died last month at age 67.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Douglas W. Luna was a problem solver.

If you were hungry, he would feed you; homeless, he would find you shelter.

Generosity seemed embedded in his DNA, said his family. Mr. Luna's drive to help the poor and underrepresented even shaped his legal career.

He helped create a judicial court for the Tlingit-Haida Tribe in Alaska — Mr. Luna was part Tlingit and part Filipino — and served as an elected judge on that court for nearly 20 years. He later served on the Washington State Minority and Justice Commission, which strove to eradicate racial, cultural and ethnic bias in the state court system.

Mr. Luna died Feb. 23 from complications from a heart condition. He was 67.

Born in Seattle on Jan. 7, 1944, Mr. Luna grew up in the Central Area as an only child, but was surrounded by a large extended family, said his first cousin, Alexandra Liggins.

Even though there was a 17-year age gap between the two of them, he was "an older brother/uncle figure to all of us younger cousins," Liggins said. "He was a mentor in many ways."

Mr. Luna's stepfather was in the Army, which meant that as a young boy, Mr. Luna got to travel the world, Liggins said. He graduated from high school in Frankfurt, Germany, and his family returned to the Pacific Northwest during the early '60s.

By then, the Vietnam War was escalating, and Mr. Luna decided to join the Air Force. He served honorably and with distinction in Da Nang in Vietnam until the late '60s, said his family.

But the law was his passion. He graduated from the University of Oregon's law school in 1973 and later served as an administrative law judge for the state Employment Security Department and as a review judge for the state Department of Social and Health Services.

Mr. Luna got married in 1987, and four years later, he and his then-wife, Deni, had a daughter, Mercedes.

As Mr. Luna strove to rectify life's inequities, he discovered fatherhood to be his most important role. He wanted his daughter to realize that no goal was off-limits.

When Mercedes was a child, for instance, he took her to the Northwest Intertribal Court System, where she would sit quietly with a juice box while court was in session.

As she grew up, Mr. Luna was strict with her — but for a reason, said Mercedes Luna, 19.

"He had strong ideas about morals and what he wanted me to learn," she said. When it came to making decisions, she said, her dad always told her to ask herself, "Is this something I would be proud of later or would I regret it?"

It was Mr. Luna's way of giving his daughter the skills to navigate her way in the world. A passionate foodie, Mr. Luna also exposed her to his love of global cuisine and urged her try everything.

A few years ago, Mr. Luna's health started to decline after he suffered a heart attack, she said.

His doctors told him to take it easy, but that was hard medicine for Mr. Luna to swallow. He continued to work and volunteer, picking up food donations from businesses to drop off to families in need.

On the morning of Feb. 19, Mr. Luna's heart defibrillator went off and he was taken to the University of Washington Medical Center, Mercedes Luna said.

Lying in bed days later, he made his daughter promise that she'd stay in school. Then he told her where the emergency keys were and about his estate plan. "Why are you being so morbid?" she said. He died soon after.

In his will, she said, he had planned all the details for his funeral, even the menu.

Mr. Luna is survived by his daughter and dozens of aunts, uncles and cousins.

Recitation of the rosary will be held at the Columbia Funeral Home, 4567 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle, at 7 p.m. on Friday. A funeral Mass is scheduled at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at St. Matthew's Church, 1240 N.E., 127th St., Seattle.

Sonia Krishnan: 206-515-5546 or

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