GIHS News, Notes, and Hopes


Luminary by Chris Skinner, photo by Tom Deach
Soleil says …
‘and the sun will come out tomorrow’


Now that we are all cozied up awaiting new news concerning the COVID-19 virus, I thought I would take the opportunity to update you on the Guemes Island Historical Society’s status. As you have surmised, the GIHS is on what is, hopefully, a brief hiatus of our activities. Meetings, presentations, and activities have been postponed.

We will be resuming these programs when it becomes safe to do so. We encourage our community to be safe by utilizing social distancing and following protocols as directed by our health care professionals.

That being said, there is a way to support the GIHS in general, along with future generations of historians to come. No, we’re not asking for money. Instead, I’d like to ask you to document how the COVID-19 Virus is affecting you. Please write down how the corona outbreak has affected your life. What things are you finding difficult? What do you miss the most? Are your pets acting differently? Anything you find pertinent is acceptable.

Though often we tend to dwell on the negatives in times like these, I’d also like to hear about any positive aspects as well: perhaps the kindness of neighbors, friends, or those you don’t know; new interests to pass the time, etc. What advice can you give those that follow us?

You can record your thoughts, actions, and feelings by emailing them to The email entries collected will become part of a journal of “living” history which will eventually be made public. By choosing to accept this invitation, you will be authorizing future use of the information in any form the GIHS chooses to present it. I hope that, with your help, we can document Guemes Island life during this stressful time. If you have any questions or concerns please call Tom at 360-708-2582 or email This is an ongoing project, so feel free
to email as many times as you want.

Guemes is a special place where care for others has always been a priority. Let’s continue that legacy. Please be safe. Wishing you the best in the days ahead. Tom Deach

The Pelletts – A Lifetime Of Commitment

The Pelletts - A Lifetime Of Commitment

Carol and Howard Pellett know the meaning of commitment through 60 years of marriage and 25 years of community involvement on Guemes Island. Both, now 80 years old, are stepping back from most of their island leadership roles.


Stepping away from leadership roles does not mean the Pelletts will sit back and rest on their laurels. They plan to remain strong supporters of island organizations, projects, and personal causes. There will be more cherished time with family while enjoying their ocean view from North Shore. More time to knit, to walk the dog, and to watch the birds on the beach.


Carol was born in Washington DC and her family moved to southern California when she was a child. Carol and Howard met as teenagers while attending rival high schools in the Los Angeles area. Howard still speaks fondly of seeing the young blue-eyed beauty in the blue dress and Carol remembers his black convertible automobile, the dream of every southern California teen at the time. The couple found their soul mates in each other and married at age 20. Their family grew as they moved from California to Washington state with a brief stint in Alaska. Carol and Howard’s five boys still live in Washington, all east of Lake Washington.


Carol fell in love with Guemes Island in the late ’70s and she convinced Howard that they should purchase property on North Shore in 1979. After a career in administration at Evergreen Hospital, Carol was the first to retire and she moved to their new home on the island. Howard’s retirement followed in 1999 when he ended his long career as a senior agent with the IRS. The Pelletts wasted no time getting involved in the community and making many new friends. Howard credits Carol with setting the stage for their many years of service to the island.


The Guemes Island Property Owners Association (GIPOA) was an established island organization in need of new leadership. The Pelletts stepped in and have carried forward GIPOA’s work as a 501(c)(4) non-profit for over 20 years. GIPOA oversees the Betty Crookes Guemes Gold Scholarship Program that was formerly sponsored by the Guemes Women’s Club. Guemes students are recognized for their scholastic achievement and awarded scholarships that are funded by donations from individuals and organizations. Proceeds from the Fall Festival also help to fund this worthwhile program. Howard and Carol will hopefully pass the torch to new leaders as they step down from GIPOA this summer.


Shortly after Carol’s arrival on Guemes she saw the need for a library on the island. The ferry runs ended in the early evening and residents longed for access to a local library. Carol and Howard took on the challenge and helped raise the $40,000 it took to build a library addition onto the Community Hall. The Guemes Library is now brimming with books and resources and dreaming of future expansion. This 501(c)(3) library is run by a nine-member library board of which Carol is the president and Howard, treasurer. These positions are also being vacated, leaving big shoes to be filled.


Carol worked for 16 years as the secretary for the Guemes Island Fire Department. Howard again helped with fundraising that paid for the solar panels on both the Fire Hall and the Guemes Church. In past years they both served on the boards of the Guemes Island Environmental Trust (GIET) and the Guemes Island Community Center Association (GICCA). Carol can be found at the Church on most Wednesdays with a quilting group that stitches handmade quilts for donation to charities. She is seldom without her knitting and it is a lucky person who has a pair of her handknitted socks.


The Pelletts will continue their involvement with the Guemes Chamber Music Series. Carol serves on the board as treasurer. Howard helped facilitate gaining 501(c)(3) status for this organization and he also serves as a current board member.


With Carol’s love and support, Howard was able to overcome some personal challenges in his life. This led him to his volunteer work as a group facilitator with SMART Recovery, a self-management and recovery training program for alcoholics. For many years Howard traveled weekly to the Monroe Correctional Complex in Monroe, WA and the Criminal Justice Center in Everett where he counseled inmates. Howard no longer travels for this work but he continues facilitating SMART Recovery at a weekly meeting in Anacortes. He feels that helping people find their own path to recovery can be a lasting solution.


The Guemes community thanks Carol and Howard for their many years of dedicated service and for setting a high bar for community involvement.

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This month the Guemes Island Community Center Association (GICCA) wants to feature YOU, the members of the Guemes community. Your generous response to our Fall fundraising campaign has brought in $12,545 as of January 16. Without your continued support, we would not be able to maintain our facilities or to provide the services that we all enjoy.


Donations of money are not the only way you can support GICCA. Time is a priceless commodity and we welcome volunteers for a variety of activities and events. If you have a skill or talent that you can share with others, let us know. Can you teach a workshop, help with maintenance tasks, do light gardening chores or help write grants? GICCA needs you.


Please send an email to and let us know how you would like to be involved. Thanks again for your support.

Guemes Island Celebrates Güemes, Spain

Guemes Island Celebrates Güemes, Spain

Many of us fondly remember a special visit to Guemes Island in April 2018 from a very special group of travelers ( In a recent note, Father Ernesto says, “It was an honor to visit the beautiful island of Guemes and share rich experiences with people of the island - a trip filled with unforgettable days that are remembered with great affection and gratitude.”


The 4 “pilgrims to America” (Ernesto, Francisco, Miguel, and Marina) from Güemes, Spain were led by Father Ernesto Bustio, who “keeps a young spirit” and still works as a priest in the town of Güemes, where he was born some 80 years ago.


Ernesto says, “I’ve spent all my life trying to create links between people, especially international bottom-up ties among cultures, races, beliefs, and nations.” Being actively engaged in the daily management of a pilgrim’s shelter (La Cabaña del Abuelo Peuto) on the North Camino de Santiago allows Ernesto and his team of volunteers to connect with people from hundreds of countries, to create a platform for social & cultural exchange, and to share their love of humanity while embracing the richness of the diversity of all who pass through. Ernesto’s shelter has become known as one of the best on the Camino.


In his recent note, Ernesto shared that his pilgrim’s shelter recently celebrated a significant milestone - hosting its 100,000th pilgrim! This was a major news story in the area and included recognition by the Minister of Education and Tourism. During a ceremony to celebrate the milestone, which also included the mayor and a senator amongst other guests and neighbors, the Minister noted that Ernesto’s pilgrim’s shelter was “more than a meeting place for pilgrims; it was valued above all for its hospitality, love, and solidarity." He congratulated the “extended family” that, for 20 years, has been making its operation possible. Ernesto and his team of volunteers were given “special recognition.”


The honored pilgrim, 28-year-old Marianne Drews, is from a small town near Frankfurt, Germany. Drews decided to make the journey on the Camino after finishing her master's degree in Graphic Design with the intention of “taking stock of what I’ve done so far and reflecting on what I want to do in the future.” Drews says, “Every day on the road is a surprise.” She was, indeed, very surprised by all of the celebration and honor surrounding her visit to Ernesto’s shelter – perhaps the most unexpected and biggest surprise of all!


We celebrate you, Ernesto, and your extended family of volunteers and also the pilgrim, Marianne Drews! We wish you all continued success. May your inclusive, loving, and adventurous spirit live on!


A number of Guemes islanders have recently visited Ernesto's shelter in Güemes and can attest to the love and hospitality extended. To read more:

Ernesto also gifted a couple of books to the Guemes Island Library with beautiful pictures of Güemes, Spain as well as photos of some of the many places Ernesto has traveled:

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GICCA Welcomes New 2020 Board Members

GICCA Welcomes New 2020 Board Members



At the GICCA annual meeting on Thursday, November 21, 2019, the community elected 2 new Board members - Kathy Whitman (pictured here) and Mary Hale (not pictured).  Kathy and Mary join returning Board members Rob Schroder, Loalynda Bird, Carol Deach, Libby Boucher, and Barb Ohms as your 2020 GICCA Board.


Kathy Whitman first came to Guemes in 1973 when she and her sister purchased a tiny cabin in Holiday Hideaway. Her two kids and husband loved the shared cabin, enjoying many hours on the beach. After Kathy’s husband died, she had to develop a new plan for her life and in 2018 made the choice to make Guemes Island her full-time home. She enjoys outside activities including volunteering as a steward for the San Juan Preservation Trust at the Peach Preserve. Kathy shares her love and talent for art by hosting Guemes Casual Art groups at her home. Both of her sisters now have their own homes or cabins on the island.


Kathy earned two degrees from UW in Art and in Recreation plus continued education in financial management, art skills, diversity, risk management, and organization. Her background in grant award review, grant writing, fundraising, and creative marketing will be valuable assets to the GICCA Board and our future work for the Guemes community.


Mary Hale and her husband Jeff are life-long Washingtonians who moved to Guemes Island in 2017 after raising their two children and retiring. Drawn to Guemes’ beauty and sense of community, they readily embraced island life as full-time residents. Besides giving back to the community, Mary hopes to share her experience from having worked 28 years at the University of Washington. Her work there involved, among other things, administering multiple budgets, coordinating numerous events, and authoring a  web site. Mary says she especially enjoyed the challenge of crunching numbers, staying organized, and paying close attention to details.


Mary views the Community Center as a positive gathering place for recreational, educational, and social activities—all of which foster a sense of belonging here—and, to that end, she sees the GICCA Board member’s role as striving to be a good steward of this valuable asset.


When Mary isn’t on a walkabout in nature, she enjoys volunteering at the Library, attending Historical Society events, supporting the Skagit Land Trust, and being involved in fun activities such as the Dog Island Dog Show, Luminary Parade, and Fourth of July Parade.


We welcome Kathy and Mary as the newest members of the 2020 GICCA Board.

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Guemes Land & Sea Stewards

Guemes Land & Sea Stewards

Place is powerful and can transform humanity as much as humanity has the power to transform place. A sense of place allows us to be grounded in something larger than ourselves; something real that provides context and meaning in our lives.


This month we celebrate the “human-place connection,” specifically, the devotion to place demonstrated by the land and sea stewards on Guemes Island. These dedicated volunteers work tirelessly and commit countless hours to help maintain and protect the environment around us to ensure we can all continue to enjoy and take pride in this place we call home.


Our fast-paced, consumer-based, productivity-oriented culture can foster a disconnect from nature and from people/community. Our personal well-being is strengthened when we allow ourselves to slow down and connect with nature and those around us. Being purposeful about investing in and caring for the environment is an aspect of investing in and caring for people, as well as place. A uniquely purposeful investment is to become part of a stewardship program.


“To steward” is to care for, protect, and guide. Several local organizations offer stewardship opportunities. Their missions vary but a common theme is to connect people to nature and to each other in order to protect and preserve our environment. The following is a list of Guemes Islanders currently aligned with stewardship programs, either formally or informally.


Skagit Land Trust (Guemes properties: Anderson property, Kelly’s Point, Guemes Mountain & Valley)

- see also last month’s Featured Neighbor article

Volunteers listed below live on Guemes unless noted otherwise

  • Ian Woofenden
  • John Strathman
  • Tony Allison
  • Karen Lamphere
  • Tim Alaniz
  • Ralph Mendershausen
  • Dave Rogers
  • Phil Fenner
  • Ed Gastellum - Anacortes
  • Elaina Thompson – Vendovi Island
  • Thyatira Thompson – Vendovi Island


San Juan Preservation Trust (Guemes properties: Peach Preserve, Guemes Mountain)

  • Randy and Barbara Schnabel
  • Kathy Whitman


Skagit Marine Resources (Salish Sea Stewards)

  • Phyllis Bravinder
  • Darla Gay Smith
  • Anne Casperson
  • Dixon Elder


We can all be stewards by respecting the integrity of nature and doing our part to care for the environment. Respecting and caring for our natural world ultimately serves to strengthen all elements of society. When humanity assimilates this perspective and lives accordingly, both place and people (and all living things) will thrive at their highest potential.



“The greatest threat to our environment is the belief that someone else will take care of it.” – Unknown

A HUGE thank-you to the Guemes Island stewards (past, present, formal and informal) who demonstrate their devotion to place, providing an example of how we can all help the environment (and each other) thrive!

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SLT, Guemes Community Partner

SLT, Guemes Community Partner

Three visionary leaders and 31 Charter Members founded the Skagit Land Trust (SLT) in 1992. Their mission is to conserve wildlife habitat, agricultural and forest lands, scenic open space, wetlands, and shorelines for the benefit of our community and as a legacy for future generations. The staff, many active volunteers, and over 1,700 family and business members work to protect the most important and beloved places in Skagit County.


In 2007, 70 acres in private ownership atop Guemes Mountain were put up for sale. Guemes community leaders rallied island residents and conservation organizations for the Save the Mountain campaign. In 2009, the money was raised and the property was purchased by the SLT. Including the surrounding conservation easement held by the San Juan Preservation Trust, 580 acres of private and public land is now protected on Guemes Mountain.


In 2015, with continued support from generous families, individuals, and foundations, the SLT’s Guemes Forever campaign reached its fundraising goal for the purchase of an additional 9.5 acres adjacent to the Guemes Mountain property. Raised funds also go toward outreach to Guemes landowners who own properties with high conservation value.


The Guemes Forever campaign’s efforts continue toward the final goal of funding stewardship needs and trail work on the SLT’s protected land on our island.


In 2018, more than 425 families, organizations, and businesses donated funds that made possible SLT’s purchase of 27 acres and 3,000 feet of shoreline that comprise the Kelly’s Point Conservation Area. This treasured beach and wildlife area is now protected for all to enjoy.


These achievements are a testament to our community’s love of place and what can be accomplished when we work together as partners toward a common goal.

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Neighborly Wisdom For Stressful Times

Neighborly Wisdom For Stressful Times


Contributed by Sally Balmer

“Lead a listening life. Order your outward life so that nothing drowns out the listening.”  —Thomas Kelly


There’s a shift these days of ‘stay-at-home.’ “That’s right, this is a long haul” feeling arises. My guess is most of us haven’t a clue what to make of it: how it will feel, what it will look like in some weeks. Likely impatience. Sorrow. Tenderness. Prayers and goodwill.


The heightening wave of urgency from the news can be hard on the soul. So can all the words— whether read online or from meaningful loved ones— offering an overflow of ‘how to.’ I’ve sensed this often, with some of it resulting in that odd tiredness that can come in a new culture. So much of this is new.


Decades ago, Quaker Thomas Kelly articulated something slowing, and simple. The ‘listening life.’ For me, it’s (finally) meant no checking online news until…later. Allowing time itself to breathe. To hear, then, with an ease: of calls to make, or an email, or a walk among trees, or something new like sending a postcard to ‘a special someone’ in a care center. The listening is a part of doing, being…a kindly Holy Pause.


Contributed by Jon Prescott

Hello daily newscast. I welcome you into my home because I want to know what’s happening. But all these pandemic predictions just make me want to rush to Costco and buy 200 rolls of toilet paper!
Instead, I’ll turn off the TV and breathe.
All around the world, people are ill and afraid, unable to breathe freely. Someday, I too may have this experience.
But now, in this wonderful moment, right here on this couch, I breathe in peace.

Across the vineyards of Bordeaux, the plazas of Rome, and the meditation halls of Zen monasteries, bells ring out and recall us to ourselves. These bells of mindfulness remind us to stop whatever we’re doing in order to pay attention to what is beautiful, nourishing, and healing.
Could COVID-19 also be a bell of mindfulness? Can this pandemic remind us to stop and touch the preciousness of our fleeting lives? Our island community, our fresh air, the budding spring flowers and returning Robins are easy to overlook without bells of mindfulness.

COVID-19, I hear you. Thank you for reminding me to stop. Thank you for reminding me to notice this precious life.


Contributed by David Wertheimer

As I have adopted the need for "social distancing" during the current times, I have increased the amount of walking I am doing on the island as my primary exercise. Whether on the roads, or in the woods, or on the beach, I have come to appreciate that, if we must be more physically isolated from the larger world, Guemes is a pretty magical place to have to do this. In addition, I have consistently enjoyed interacting (at a safe distance!) with the other Island folk I have encountered on my walks, and the sweet, gentle nature of our ways with each other that reinforce the specialness of our life on the island. May we appreciate one another even more in the present crisis, and share our appreciation for each other and this unique island, even as we are called to remember and assist those in other places that may face greater challenges than we face here in our own spectacular isolation from the world.


Contributed by Sarah (Sibley) Banning

At some point, we all shared the dream of living on this island (save for those who were lucky to be born here). We craved the open space, the connection to water, the surroundings of nature. We yearned to leave the busy, crowded city. Now, here we are. We’ve manifested and created the life we wanted. We got what we asked for! We are living the dream.


Perhaps now we are being given the opportunity to dig even deeper into our island lives. Simplify. Forage. Explore. Slow down. That’s what island living is all about. We (most of us) can’t go to work. So, that leaves us time to just be, here, on our island. We can appreciate this life we wanted. We can appreciate all that surrounds us. We can breathe in (cautiously allergy sufferers) all the green, lusciousness of the forests and the saltiness of the sea air, and breathe out the stress of life on the other side of the channel. We’ve got all we need right here. Our loved ones, our community, our animals. We can cultivate whatever situation we want in our lives. Right now.


Contributed by Deb Strathman

Recently, while walking the Tommy Thompson Trail, I discovered a plaque that had been placed along the shore on Samish lands as a memorial to the 7 who lost their lives in the Tesoro Refinery accident of 2010. The title on the plaque was, “Communities Heal Together.”


The plaque revealed that the Samish people believe the cedar tree to be a source of healing as well as a symbol of community. The story on the plaque told how cedar trees rarely survive alone in Nature; each individual relies on its neighbors for strength and survival. Seven cedars were planted near the plaque to honor the 7 lives lost and to provide a special place for reflection and community healing.


This touching memorial gave me pause as I realized how relevant its message is to the challenges we face today. It prompted me to reflect on the wisdom of the Samish people as well as the lessons we can learn from Nature about how to be there for each other. It reminded me, also, that Nature is there for us - to share her beauty, to lift our spirits, and to help us thrive. Ultimately, I believe I was guided to this special place of reflection to be reminded of how fortunate I am to be part of a “community of cedars” on Guemes, where neighbors support each other and help each other stay strong and continue to thrive, especially in challenging times.


Contributed by Barb Ohms from the Holstee Reflections

Support each other. In difficult times, it’s easy to think we are alone, especially with the currently prescribed “social distancing.” Reach out to those you care about — but instead of just trading fears and anxieties, try bringing a positive element to the conversation. Let your loved ones know you are thinking about them and tell them something you appreciate about them. Spreading the love is a great way to feel the love. Support others and you will feel supported.

Flamingo Phil Says

Flamingo Phil Says ...

To succeed in life you need three things, a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.

GICCA Stage Project Update, Jan ’20

GICCA Stage Project Update, Jan '20


Work is progressing at the stage, although safety concerns prohibit the crew from working in wet and slippery conditions. The final perimeter vertical logs are now in place on the east side of the foundation. Three remaining vertical logs are stripped, dressed, and ready for placement on the west side after the roof purlins are raised. The crew is working on stripping the seven 33 foot long purlin logs. When the weather permits and the logs are ready, they will be raised atop the main vertical logs and work can begin on the support structure for the roof.

Thanks to Gerry Bosworth for helping to develop an electrical plan and completing the preliminary rough-in for receptacles. Rick Norrie, Tom Fouts, John Strathman, and Jep Burdock round out the crew as we move gradually along toward completion of this long-awaited project.

Thank you to the many community members who donated to the Stage Project and other GICCA funds during our recent fundraising campaign.