Edward McClain, ‘The Real Change Guy,’ Dead at 69

Edward McClain, perhaps better known by his alias “the real change guy,” passed away Friday.

If any of you have frequented the Safeway at Brooklyn and 50th (or, the “Un-Safeway” as it is known to some) you’ll likely be familiar with the booming call of McClain: “Real change? Have great day, ma’am, have a great day, sir. Real change?”

Ed made his living from his Real Change spot, squarely in front of the entrance to the Safeway, for the past 18 years. He built up a reputation and a clientele of folks who could count on him to be there day in and day out. He was a living legend in the University district dynamic, and the reason that many people bought a Real Change newspaper—myself included.

He did far more than just sit outside Safeway though: born in Mississippi in 1943, Ed earned a BA in sociology and political science and has over 30 years of baking and cooking experience (which started on his 30 year excursion to Europe, after observing his French girlfriend’s father).

He ultimately moved to Seattle to get in touch with his family, including a grandson who he described as “one of the most important people in his life.”

When Real Change named him vendor of the year in 2009 (after a grocery store client threatened him with a grenade) he left readers and customers with this message:

“You only go around one time in this life. Live it to the fullest. When I die, I don’t want them to say I didn’t do this, I didn’t do that. When I die I want them to say, he didn’t leave a rock unturned. Life is so fragile; you don’t know when it is going to end, so enjoy your life. ‘Cause you won’t go around twice. Once you pass 14 you’ll never see 14 again. I wish for the whole world that they get a chance to enjoy their life. So that when they get to be 60 or 70 years old they can say, well, I did this, I did that, I achieved this, I achieved that. That’s what I’d like to wish my customers: The very best of everything.”

He was 69 years old, and he will be sorely missed. A memorial service will be held Saturday, May 11, at 1 p.m. at University Temple United Methodist, 1415 NE 43rd Street Seattle.

 
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