Secretary of state, state historian talk living history in Hoquiam

DAN HAMMOCK | GRAYS HARBOR NEWS GROUP State Historian John Hughes and Secretary of State Kim Wyman share a laugh before speaking at the Channel Point Village retirement community in Hoquiam Thursday.

Everyone has a story to tell, and recording those stories is important to preserving the rich history of Grays Harbor County, according to State Historian John Hughes.

“I look at all this experience and wisdom in this room, and there are a lot of stories here that need to be recorded,” said Hughes to the more than 50 people who attended a presentation Thursday afternoon by Hughes and Secretary of State Kim Wyman at the Channel Point Village retirement community in Hoquiam.

Wyman and Hughes, former longtime reporter and editor at The Daily World, talked about the Secretary of State Office’s Legacy Washington Project, which records, preserves and celebrates extraordinary people and stories from the state’s history.

Wyman noted the clock is ticking on preserving some of these stories and gave an example from her own family to illustrate the point.

“I had an uncle who was in Okinawa in World War II,” she said. “He never told the story to my dad, so that story is lost in time.”

Moira Connor, community relations director for Channel Point, told Hughes they had recently started a program to record residents’ stories. Connor called the project “a work in progress” and asked Hughes for advice on collecting the stories.

“Ask open-ended questions,” said Hughes. “And be willing to shut up and listen.”

Open-ended questions allow the story teller to add his or her own unique perspective to the story, said Hughes. Wyman earlier had said, “If you tell a story, people remember it,” while just reciting dates and facts can be easily forgotten.

“We are all oral historians,” said Hughes, who recommended Connor hold special sessions for residents to “tell their own remarkable stories. We need to take the time, to make certain these stories are recorded.”

Local stories

Some of the stories Hughes has collected for the Legacy Washington project come from Grays Harbor County. Arnold Samuels of Ocean Shores helped liberate the concentration camp Dachau with Henry Kissinger in World War II. And the region’s own “Rosie the Riveter,” Regina Tollfeldt, who lived in Aberdeen, helped build airplanes for Boeing during World War II. During the war, there were several Boeing sub-assembly plants in this area, making nose cones for bombers, said Hughes.

Hughes talked about Jim Evans, a Marine and decorated Korean War veteran who lives in Aberdeen. He is one of the “Chosin Few,” the term used for survivors of one of the bloodiest conflicts in U.S. History, the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir in the winter of 1950-51.

Aberdeen’s Moonbeam Kupka fled Korea with her family early in the conflict, married Mike Kupka, a soldier. One of their sons, Jonathan, is now a “full-bird colonel” in the Army Special Forces, said Hughes. Hughes remembers watching young Jonathan Kupka roaming the local hills and neighborhoods with his paintball gun.

The next Legacy Washington project is “Ahead of the Curve,” a study of Washington’s women and how they contributed to the history of the state and the nation. This project comes on the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote; Hughes pointed out the women of Washington State gained the right to vote in 1910.

This project, like the ones before it, will be displayed in the Secretary of State’s Office in Olympia and includes a profile of Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation.

Also in attendance were local leaders including Hoquiam Mayor Jasmine Dickhoff and City Administrator Brian Shay; Grays Harbor Commissioner Randy Ross; Port of Grays Harbor Commissioner Tom Quigg and Port of Grays Harbor Executive Director Gary Nelson.

For more information on the Legacy Washington and to view free online the stories of local and other Washington residents who have made their mark on history visit

DAN HAMMOCK | GRAYS HARBOR NEWS GROUP State Historian John Hughes, right, talks with Channel Point Village Executive Director Maggie Birmingham, foreground, Thursday. Also pictured is Grays Harbor County Commissioner Randy Ross, far left, and Port of Grays Harbor Commissioner Tom Quigg.
DAN HAMMOCK | GRAYS HARBOR NEWS GROUP Secretary of State Kim Wyman talks with a resident of the Channel Point Village retirement community after speaking there Thursday afternoon.

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman to Visit Channel Point Village in Hoquiam

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman

On Thursday, May 2nd at 1:30 pm, Washington Secretary of State, Kim Wyman, is scheduled to speak to the residents of Village Concepts of Hoquiam – Channel Point retirement community, as well as members of the public.

The retirement community hosts a bi-monthly Speaker Series with leaders from the Grays Harbor business and non-profit community. Kim Wyman is also speaking to a community group in Ocean Shores in the morning and will be coming to Hoquiam in the afternoon. According to Maggie Birmingham, Channel Point’s Executive Director, “Our residents are actively involved in their community and follow politics and current events. They enjoy hearing directly from community leaders. It’s a pleasure to be able to host Secretary Wyman from the State level.”

One of the programs that Secretary Wyman oversees is Legacy Washington, which profiles extraordinary Washingtonians, several from Grays Harbor County. Legacy Washington was an inspiration for a program recently started at Channel Point to record residents’ life stories, along with The Polson Museum’s oral history recording project, “My Harbor Story.”

Founded in 1975, Village Concepts owns and operates residential and assisted living communities throughout Washington State, such as Village Concepts of Hoquiam – Channel Point, and provides property management and consulting services for owners of assisted living communities. Village Concepts is a third-generation family-owned business, drawing upon 40 years of experience and a proud tradition of providing personalized care to more than 1,400 residents in 17 senior living communities throughout Puget Sound, the Olympic Peninsula and Central Washington. Each community encourages residents to “create a village that feels like family” by fostering new relationships and encouraging independence. A leader in the senior living industry, Village Concepts sets itself apart with individually tailored care plans, on-site programming, and certified and licensed staff on-hand 24 hours per day. For more information, visit

Tim’s View: She was just a cute soda clerk

Blanche Whittaker

When Blanche Patterson was a teen girl in Seattle, in the 40’s and she saw something she liked, she put her passion and personality into achieving it. Her first job was cleaning holly leaves for a lady in Seattle who made Christmas wreaths. At 19, her next job was serving customers at the soda fountain at Paradise Lodge in Mt. Rainier National Park.

In the halcyon days of the early 50’s our prideful nation was growing. The war was over; the world looked to America for leadership in all things.

Two young men had begun leading climbers up and down Mt. Rainier. Those two were the Whittaker twins of West Seattle. The twins frequented the lodge in their off hours. Jim and Lou Whittaker, tall and handsome, were well known and respected at the park. Lou, married and Jim, single, may have found the large stone fireplace inside the lodge to be a comfort but it was likely the thick vanilla milkshakes served to Jim by Blanche that kept him coming back. Blanche had learned one secret to getting Jim’s attention – he liked vanilla milkshakes as thick as the snow on Mt.Rainier. It helped that she was tall and pretty.

It seemed to have an impact as Jim and Blanche were married a year or so later. Jim was building a reputation as a mountaineer while Blanche was raising their three children on Capitol Hill. Jim continued to lead climbers at the mountain. Blanche climbed too, reaching the summit of Rainier and was very fond of hiking and rock climbing in those years.

Autographed photo of Robert Kennedy

Jack Kennedy was elected President in November of 1959. Jim (30) was helping run REI, the now famous mountain sports co-op. Blanche was twenty-six. They lived on the shores of Lake Sammamish. Jim’s interests went well beyond running REI. Jim and Lou were still guiding trips up Mt. Rainier when they were asked to join a team to be the first American(s) to summit Mt. Everest in Nepal. Lou dropped out but Jim accepted the challenge. In May of 1963, Jim and a team of Sherpa aides and American climbers summited the highest point on earth, becoming instant celebrities. President Kennedy presented Jim, with his wife Blanche at his side, and the Everest expedition climbers, the Hubbard Medal for distinction and discovery. She toured the White House, the Rose Garden and met with Jackie Kennedy. For Blanche, this meeting was the beginning of a budding friendship with Jackie and later with Ethel Kennedy.

Blanche remembers Jack Kennedy with reddish brown hair and always thought he’d be taller but as is often the case with idols, they appear to be on pedestals.

When Jack was killed in Dallas a few months later, Jim and Blanche offered condolences to the family. A year passed. Some officials in Canada, to honor President Kennedy, selected a peak in the Canadian Rockies and named it Mt. Kennedy. It was December of 1964 when the Acting Attorney General and the President’s brother, Robert Kennedy, made a phone call to the Whittaker’s Lake Sammamish home. ” The Canadians have named a mountain peak after Jack,” Robert explained as the purpose of the call. “I want to climb it and I need you to take me up,” Robert added. Robert Kennedy said that President Kennedy had admired Jim’s efforts at summiting Mt. Everest so Robert felt it was appropriate to ask Jim.

Blanche met Ethel Kennedy three weeks later in their trip out to Seattle for some preliminary work before the actual climb by Robert and Jim. Jim and Robert and a team summited Mt. Kennedy in March of 1965, cementing a friendship that would include political campaigning for Robert’s presidential run in 1968.

In the 1968 campaign, Jim worked the soap box in Seattle and the state while Blanche traveled with the “Mother Ship” on flights around the country. By the summer of 1968, Blanche was with Ethel at the Ambassador Hotel for the California primary. Later that evening, after Robert’s victory speech, security had plans to exit the ballroom through the kitchen. Blanche was holding the elevator door for the troupe of dignitaries to assemble for the trip down to waiting limo rides to the airport. The sound of gunfire and pandemonium ensued with Blanche still holding the elevator doors open. Robert “Bobby” Kennedy was on the kitchen floor with a mortal wound.

Security, including Olympian Rafer Johnson and NFL player Roosevelt Grier, helped get Bobby onto a stretcher and into the elevator. Ethel and Blanche, terrified at the glaring lights and screaming voices, huddled in the the elevator. A highly agitated man was screaming inside the elevator as it descended, adding further panic to an already panicky, stuffy elevator. Bobby sat up momentarily, tried to speak before falling back. Blanche noticed Ethel was in shock and agitated by the screaming man. Blanche reacted with a slap to his cheek, though she remembers it as more of a “pat”. It worked as the elevator ride ended more calmly. Security began loading Bobby into the ambulance. Blanche and Ethel followed behind to the hospital. Jim was notified and arrived early the next morning. He, Ethel and Blanche were at Bobby’s bedside that evening when doctors advised that life support should be disconnected. “Robert’s skin faded when the oxygen was removed,” Blanche noted. He was gone.

For Ethel (pregnant) it was a return to her 10 children in Massachusetts. For Blanche it was the continuance of a bond created by Robert’s run for the presidency. Ethel and Blanche remain friends today.

For Blanche and Jim the world had changed. A divorce in the early 70’s was devastating to Blanche. She moved to Hawaii. She remarried and lost a fine man who passed away too young. She married again, this time to an inveterate golfer with a vacation home in Palm Desert. He passed away too. At 60 she had taken up golf. She approached the game with that same passion that has served her well. She won a tournament. She played often. She was also away from her family. Her son Bob, namesake of Robert Kennedy, encouraged her to return to the mainland.

She came home and found peace and quiet in the town of Republic, north of Spokane, up near the Canadian border.

Her farm and acreage on the Kettle River was pretty distant for convenient trips by relatives. Blanche opted to move to Chewelah, just north of Spokane but two separate kitchen fire incidents prompted son Bob to assist her in a recent move back to the Seattle area. Bob and Blanche found the senior apartments at Village Concepts/El Dorado in Burien to be a nice spot. She’s made many friends in the few short months there but regularly drives to also visit friends in West Seattle. Staff at El Dorado say Blanche lights up the room with her personality. Blanche says that’s the way she is but she misses being on the golf course.

When the shoulders and the knees let her know it was time to give up her passion for the game, she did so reluctantly but keeps a set of golf clubs at her apartment just in case she feels good and wants to get around the course again. Not bad for a cute soda jerk.

Ethel Kennedy with her 7 children visiting with Blanche and Jim and their children at Seattle Tennis Club in 1965

Couple married 74 years renews vows on Valentine’s Day

BURIEN, Wash. — A local couple who has been married 74 years made this Valentine’s Day extra special.

Earling “Bud” and Eva Lauritz celebrated their years together by renewing their vows Thursday at El Dorado West assisted living home in Burien. Both are 98 years old.

“We couldn’t have had it any better,” Bud told Q13 News.

They were married Oct. 27, 1944 in Alabama and have three children.

Seniors to the Rescue! Residents of El Dorado West Village Concepts visit Seattle’s waterfront to show support for local businesses

Seniors to the Rescue! Residents of El Dorado West Village Concepts visit Seattle’s waterfront to show support for local businesses

On January 23, assisted living residents of the Village Concepts of Burien and Issaquah, gathered at Ivar’s on Seattle’s waterfront to show their support for local businesses impacted by the viaduct closure. Many residents in attendance had grown up in and around the Seattle area, with many memories of the waterfront area and Ivar’s, and wanted to do their part to help.

One such resident, Phyllis Soldano, used to work at Ivar’s in the late 50’s and early 60’s, and remembers the area fondly. When asked about the viaduct and its impact on the waterfront she responded, “The waterfront is for the people. Not for cars and pollution.”

“People should be able to come down and enjoy it,” Solando said.

Another resident, Gloria McNeely, remembers when Ivar’s was built. She was a young woman then, working downtown. Now 99 years old, she says she remembers it being “the thing” when it first opened. She always makes a point to go to Ivar’s when she can and was delighted to join her community in support of all the local waterfront businesses.

Tracy Willis, Director of Corporate Development at Village Concepts, said they hope to do more of these trips with their other communities. “It’s important to show support when we can, we hope to do this frequently,” she said.

Village Concepts of Chehalis to Open Memory Care and Assisted Living Building

The newly-constructed common room in the Village Concepts of Chehalis’ memory care facility is seen Monday afternoon in Chehalis. Katie Hayes/

CAPACITY: County Needs More Options for Assisted Living, Director Says

Village Concepts of Chehalis – Woodland Village is about to complete its new $7.1 million building, which will house memory care and assisted living. 

Previously, Village Concepts of Chehalis only offered independent living. However, the memory care and assisted living space will be available for residents sometime in March of this year. Village Concepts of Chehalis Executive Director Mark Clendon said he has seen a huge need in the area for both memory care and assisted living.

“With the Baby Boomer generation coming through, it’s a huge need in the area,” Clendon said. “… The capacity here now isn’t what it should be in the county. It really is just needed.”

Village Concepts of Chehalis will host an open house from 4-6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 24 for its new assisted living and memory care building.

“We are super excited to just offer this to the public,” said Tanya Laeger, Woodland Village community relations director. “We are having personal tours that day. We are going to be having hor ‘doerves, and beverages, and door prizes and just want to love this community well.”

Previously, Village Concepts of Chehalis had an independent living facility with 50 apartments, 41 cottages and six townhomes. Last year, however, Village Concepts of Chehalis began construction on the new two-story building. Clendon expects to hire about 15 more people to work in the new building.

“Village Concepts came in three years ago and really are a community-based company that just look out for seniors,” Clendon said. “They basically put it to me that they wanted to create a place where they would be happy to bring their parents and feel comfortable with — and that’s just kind of the feeling throughout the whole company. Everybody really cares a lot and wants to do what’s best for seniors.”

The first floor of the new building will house memory care. Memory care has 19 bedrooms, most of which are private studios. The second floor will house assisted living, which has 24 rooms. Out of the 24 rooms in assisted living, there are five one-bedroom apartments and the rest are studios.

“It’s just a beautifully-designed building with a staff that is just absolutely phenomenal,” Laeger said.

Laeger said she expects the memory care rooms to reach full capacity, before residents move in around March. She expects the assisted living facility to fill up shortly after it opens.

“It’s just such a limited resource, especially to have something that is brand new,” Laeger said. “Village Concepts is family owned for three generations, so they have done this for over 30 years. They are just known for their quality — their intentionality of just designing spaces for the needs of our senior population.”

New storytime program bridges generations

NIOC Whidbey Island Sailors Spread Holiday Cheer Amidst Island Wide Power Blackout

WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. (NNS) — Navy Information Operations Command (NIOC) Whidbey Island Sailors participated in the second annual caroling event at multiple in-home living centers in the local island community Dec. 20.

For the second year in a row NIOC Whidbey Island Sailors led by Information Technician 3rd Class Christopher Cubero participated in the annual caroling event, which is well on its way to becoming a tradition amongst NIOC Whidbey Island Sailors and the local community. Over 10 Sailors volunteered their time and voices to spread holiday cheer.

“One of the great things about a smaller younger group like this, is the positive reactions we see in our residents”, said Sheena Taylor, resident care director, Village Concepts Harbor Tower Village. “Getting the chance to see a younger generation dedicated to reaching out gives our residents and staff a sense of hope in people and in the future of our younger generations.”

For the Sailors participating in this event it is a time to appreciate being home for the holidays and connect with those who may not have many visitors during the holiday season. Along with caroling, Sailors spend time getting to know the local senior citizens and hearing their stories. This year the caroling event was able to reach out to over 30 members in the community.

“This is a tradition I had with my family as a child. I consider myself fortunate to lead this group in something I hold close to my heart. I am thankful to have the chance to expand that tradition to the extended family I have found in my shipmates here at NIOC Whidbey Island,” Cubero.

This year’s event will go down in the records for NIOC Whidbey Island, whose Sailors banded together in song to bring light to the community during an island wide power blackout that left thousands without power due to a severe wind storm.

NIOC Whidbey Island executes analysis, certification, planning, and direct support augmentation to naval air and surface forces engaged in operations worldwide as a subordinate to U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/U.S. 10th Fleet (FCC/C10F).

Since its establishment, FCC/C10F has grown into an operational force composed of more than 14,000 Active and Reserve Sailors and civilians organized into 28 active commands, 40 Cyber Mission Force units, and 26 reserve commands around the globe. FCC serves as the Navy component command to U.S. Strategic Command and U.S. Cyber Command, and the Navy’s Service Cryptologic Component commander under the National Security Agency/Central Security Service. C10F, the operational arm of FCC, executes its mission through a task force structure similar to other warfare commanders. In this role, C10F provides support of Navy and joint missions in cyber/networks, cryptologic/signals intelligence and space.

For news and information from Commander, U.S. Fleet Cyber Command / U.S. 10th Fleet, visit or follow us on twitter @USFLEETCYBERCOM.

Preschoolers sing Christmas carols to seniors in Issaquah

ISSAQUAH, Wash. — Seniors in Issaquah got a special surprise Friday from preschoolers at Evergreen Academy.

The students stopped by to sing carols, read stories and enjoy hot chocolate with residents at the Spiritwood at Pine Lake retirement community.

In hosting this, the school wants to teach kids starting at a young age, the importance of helping people in the community.

It’s about creating connections between generations — and when kids that adorable come walking through the door, it provides plenty of inspiration.