Photo provided by the McCracken family

Phil McCracken, Long-time Guemes Resident and Art Legend

Phil McCracken, Long-time Guemes Resident and Art Legend

A difficult period of pandemic isolation is punctuated by the loss of another longtime islander and renowned artist, Philip Trafton McCracken. Phil passed away after a long illness on June 6, 2021, at the age of 92.

 

"Though most will remember Philip primarily as the renowned artist he was, his family and close family friends will hold the memory of a complicated but dearly loved man who adored family gatherings, took a childlike pleasure in small moments, never aged out of playing animals with young children, loved dreamy whimsy and strange little objects as much as he loved esoteric ideas and theoretical paradigms, relished telling humorous stories about the past, had a distinctively wry smile and a memorable high pealing laugh." For the complete tribute and obituary provided by his family, click here.

 

Phil's art lives on in many public venues and in private homes. For a map of Phil's sculptures accessible for public viewing, click here.

 

As a mentor, Phil drew a number of artists to Guemes Island. His legacy of connecting to the mysterious energies of the animal and plant world continues to inspire generations of new artists. Guemes provides a nurturing sanctuary for all the creative arts.

Adam Mimnaugh, What It Means to Be an Islander

Adam Mimnaugh, What It Means to Be an Islander

After years of discussion, many options considered, an architect consulted, bids entertained, grants denied, budgets constrained, and many heads scratched, the Guemes Island Community Center Hall finally has a new front porch and walkway. Wheelchairs and food carts can now reach the front door unimpeded by stairs or detours onto gravel. Only two steps now lead onto the deck to reach the Guemes Library. Soon the walkway near the Church will also be repaired providing a smooth interconnection between facilities.

 

The community is grateful to islander Adam Mimnaugh, Mimnaugh Excavation, and his crew for a job well done. Thanks to workers Dan Raynor, Adam Pahnke, Chris LeBoutillier, and Max Boucher. Several other volunteers also lent their expertise to the project and wish to remain unacknowledged. Mimnaugh is donating the labor costs with the Guemes Island Community Center Association (GICCA) covering the cost of materials. Retired builder and resident, Bill Heft, worked with Adam to develop the plan and elevations. Bill was part of the crew that leveled and finished just over 10 yards of concrete.

Mimnaugh Excavation has been serving the Guemes Island community since 2003. Adam offers professional service for Guemes Island residents that includes general excavation, septic system installation and inspections, utilities, road building, and more. Adam and most of his employees live and work right here on Guemes Island. With their equipment here on the island, Adam has the ability to get whatever is needed to a job site minimizing delays and commute costs.

 

“Being an islander” means sharing your success and giving back to the community. Over the years Adam has employed many islanders and has donated equipment time, labor, and materials to a number of island community projects including the Stage Project at Schoolhouse Park, Kelly’s Point, and now the welcoming new entrance to our 107-year-old Community Center Hall.

 

The GICCA Board and the Guemes community wish to thank Adam and his crew and all the volunteers!

David and Paul on the beautiful bench made for the Dog Woods entry meadow by John Hoenselaar

Paul Beaudet and David Wertheimer

Paul Beaudet and David Wertheimer

Photo and narrative provided by David Wertheimer

 

Paul Beaudet and David Wertheimer have been island residents since 1998 when they visited Guemes after reading Valerie Easton's article "The Secret Gardens of Guemes" in the Seattle Times. Paul and David purchased a home at Kelly's Point where they spent nearly every weekend since, commuting back to Seattle for work on weekdays.  With David's retirement in 2019 and a shift to remote work during the pandemic, they now consider Guemes their permanent year-round home.

 

Paul is the Executive Director of the Wilburforce Foundation, which works to protect and preserve North American wildlands.  David retired after 13 years at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where he served in various roles on the Pacific Northwest team and as Director of Community & Civic Engagement.  Both have been actively involved in island organizations over the years.  Paul served on the Community Center board for 7 years, David served on the board of Friends of Guemes Island, is an occasional speaker at the Guemes Island Church, and both have been involved in various land conservation campaigns, including the efforts to save Guemes Mountain and to permanently protect Kelly's Point.  David has also stepped in to serve as a Commissioner for the Guemes Island Fire Department after the tragic and untimely death of Frank Crawford.

 

A few notes on Dog Woods:  After years of walking past the wooded parcels on West Shore Road on a regular basis, Paul and David decided in 2020 to acquire 120 acres of woodlands, portions of which had, in the past, been heavily logged.  The land is designated as forest land.  They call the property "Dog Woods," both to honor the Samish history of the island as a place where this First Nation community raised their unique Woolly Dogs, and to celebrate the dogs that populate and enjoy the island today.  Paul and David are working with local naturalists Peter Dunwiddie and Samantha ("Sam") Martin to learn more about the unique features of the Dog Woods environment, and to determine the best ways to nurture the forest lands and restore its full health. Their primary goals in the years ahead are to remove invasive weeds, restore and enhance the native plants, and maintain a trail network to welcome community access.  In time, they plan to donate the land to Skagit Land Trust.  (For additional information, see:  https://guemesisland.info/dog-woods-trail/)

 

David and Paul planting paper birches at Dog Woods, a restoration forest (ARF!)

Photo Credit: Mary Lascelles

 

Dog Woods is truly becoming a community effort.  There are numerous community members involved with Dog Woods that we'd like to acknowledge.  These individuals include, (in no specific order):

  • Jimmie and Lu Lemieux (who are building the Dog Woods trail network)
  • Rick Petrick
  • John Hoenselaar
  • Sam Barr and Eric Licata
  • Manuel, Lynette, Ioanna, Elia and Aiden Mattke
  • Jim, Joanne and Lisa Cieko
  • Dyvon Havens and Jep Burdock
  • Rebecca and Bud Ullman
  • Terri and Joe Gaffney
  • Barbara and Randy Schnabel
  • Jeff Hale and Mary Parker-Hale
  • Robert Olson
  • Marc Beaudet

Remembering the “Old Normal”

Remembering the "Old Normal"

 

Beginning in the second week of March 2020, the world was faced with a growing pandemic that required the shutdown of all public gatherings. Our “new normal” moved meetings to online platforms and restricted social activities to groups of five or less with required social distancing. Smiles were now hidden behind masks. Even hugs became virtual.

 

New island residents and part-timers who have chosen to seek solace on the island for the pandemic duration may not fully realize how fervently we all miss and reminisce about the "old normal." But, have no doubt, the "old normal" will return; a vibrant island-life will ultimately prevail; smiles and hugs will again be prevalent once COVID restrictions are lifted. The Community Center Hall will once more burst at the seams with activity, as it has for so many years.

 

In the "old normal," GICCA would be planning a year filled with activities and events both at the Community Center Hall and at our property at Schoolhouse Park. We would also be working with other community organizations to host events at the campus on Guemes Island Road that includes the Library and the Guemes Community Church. Although it will be a long haul to get through the COVID pandemic, GICCA is confident that we will eventually be gathering and celebrating again as a community.

 

The GICCA Board wants to remind everyone, longtime residents and newcomers, of the “old normal” and the recent activities that were hosted at your community center properties.
• Weekly Yoga and Zumba Classes
• Community Workshops: Luminary Art, Foraging, Cheesemaking, Sourdough, Fermenting, Fry Bread, Pattern Making, Library How-to Classes, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Training
• Monthly GICCA Meetings
• Annual Organization Meetings: GICCA, Guemes Island Planning Advisory Committee (GIPAC), Guemes Ferry Committee, Holiday Hideaway Association
• Public Forums, Skagit County Community Meetings, Precinct Caucuses
• Charity Fundraisers and Community Potlucks
• Weddings, Memorials, Birthday Parties, Family Reunions, Retreats
• Concerts: Chamber Music, Folk Music, Guitar, Autoharp, African Drumming
• Poetry Readings, Nature Talks, Documentary Film Showings
• July 4th Hot Dog Picnic at the Park, Trivia Night, Island Talent Show, The Black & White Dinner, Wine Tasting Fundraisers, Woodchoppers’ Ball, Holiday Community Dinner, Kid’s Halloween Party, Trunk or Treat, Island Kids’ Easter Egg Hunt, Earth Day All-Island Clean Up, Father’s Day Strawberry Sundae Social, Fall Festival and Holiday Bazaar Craft Fairs, Guemes Kids’ Science Camp

 

Until all this can resume and your Community Center Hall comes alive with activity once again, please take advantage
of our virtual offerings listed in the “Social Connections” tab at the top of this page. We also invite you to visit our new Art Initiative website, GuemesIslandArt.org. Be safe, stay healthy, and treasure this caring community that we all share.

 

And, finally, another reminder that adversity can bring us together in times of need. This January 2021 Guemes was hit with a damaging wind storm that left many residents without power or internet for days. While still dealing with pandemic-life, neighbors rallied to remove downed trees, share food, and help with generators. Our Fire Department was called to duty to assist with downed power lines and trees on houses and cars. We are reminded of the kindness of strangers and the nurturing provided by a small community. Thank you to all who make Guemes a uniquely special place.

Be Water Wise

Be Water Wise

 

The Guemes Island Planning Advisory Committee (GIPAC) has for years been the champion of water issues on Guemes Island. A new brochure is now available that contains valuable information about water conservation and the Guemes aquifer. Brochures will be available in the Guemes Ferry terminal on the Anacortes side or you can view the brochure here. To obtain the water conservation cards referred to in the brochure, please contact Patty Rose at pattyrose.pr@gmail.com.

 

In 1997, the Environmental Protection Agency designated Guemes Island as being served by a sole source aquifer. This means that Guemes aquifers are the main source of potable water; they are recharged only by rainwater. Recharging an aquifer is a gradual process that takes many years. During the wet season, with its overabundance of rain, plants and trees soak up water for nourishment. Some of the excess water sinks into the aquifer and some runs into the sea.

 

Groundwater studies have shown that the water in the island aquifers “floats” on seawater. Excessive pumping from island wells causes the boundary between fresh and saltwater to rise. This can cause seawater intrusion into wells and renders the water unsafe to drink. Failed wells have already impacted more than 64 households on Guemes Island, causing residents to find sometimes very expensive alternatives for potable drinking water.

 

During the dry season, we are tempted to increase water usage by watering lawns, washing cars and boats, and entertaining visitors who are not familiar with the need to conserve water. Conserving water year-round will help protect our groundwater.

 

GIPAC reminds islanders of the many ways to conserve and use water wisely. Whether you are watering your garden, remodeling or building a house, or hosting guests or renters, there are simple tips for saving water.

 

Be a good neighbor. “Be an islander … conserve water.”

Rural Heritage Digitization Project

Rural Heritage Digitization Project

Unidentified Children in the Strickland Barnyard, circa 1926.  Photo Credit: Buchholz collection

 

The Guemes Island Historical Society (GIHS) and the Guemes Island Library (GIL) are collaborating on an exciting new project. GIL president, Morna McEachern, applied for and received a grant from the Washington State Library's (WSL) Rural Digitization Project. The grant funds the purchase of a designated computer, a sophisticated scanner, and associated support for digitization of the GIHS photos and documents in our files. These items will be uploaded to the Washington State Library's Rural Digitization Project. They will be accessible to all interested parties through the Washington Rural Heritage site.

 

The grant has two goals: first to digitize a minimum of 100 items—from the GIHS collection and second to share the process with our community. We originally planned to have three community meetings to share the process and a final slide show. The pandemic has interrupted the second goal—so this article will be a substitute for the first meeting.

 

At present there are four individuals working on the project: Morna McEachern, GIL's new president and catalyst for the project, is responsible for the project's administration, reporting and technical aspects. Klaudia Englund, who has invaluable experience as a professional library archivist, helps organize collections, saves them in archival quality materials, and selects items for scanning. Sue O'Donnell, GIHS secretary, is a third-generation islander who shares her knowledge and family photo collection while keeping a record of our progress. Tom Deach, president of the GIHS, fills out the roster and supports the project—he helped with the grant proposal, has created a workspace for the project, and has contacted, borrowed, and is collecting the required data for each item from several island families’ historical collections.

Eventually, protocol for the digitization will be in place to accept and train more volunteers for this project, but with limited space available, the COVID19 protocols demand that we keep our staff to a minimum at present.

 

If you have photos or documents you would like to have included in the digitization project or would like to volunteer to help, please feel free to contact us. We can be reached by email: guemeshistory@gmail.com or call Tom Deach 360-708-2582.

Guemes, The Island We Love

Guemes, The Island We Love

Islanders may look back on the past twelve months as the “lost year.” We reminisce about activities postponed and remember people who have passed without the opportunity to celebrate their lives. We may feel a sense of grief for what we’ve lost. Yet the act of remembering those beloved people and cherished activities helps to keep the memories alive and gives us hope for better times ahead. We can also learn from history.

 

A century ago, another pandemic ravaged the world. According to the CDC, it’s estimated that about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus over a two-year period. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States. Vaccines and even antibiotics were not available then. History tells us that interventions such as isolation, quarantine, good personal hygiene, use of disinfectants, and limitations on public gatherings were helpful but practiced inconsistently. Those interventions still apply today as we navigate through the current COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to advancements in science, we now have vaccines that give us hope.

 

We can remember Guemes Island’s past by reading archived issues of The Evening Star and The Guemes Tide. Ten years ago, in the “Looking Back” section of the February 2011 issue of the Tide, we learned that islander R.E. Woodburn and his sister, Ruby Myrtle Woodburn Kack, “succumbed in the ravishes of Spanish Influenza” in 1920. That issue also reminded us that it “rained cats and dogs” for record-setting rainfall that January, but thanks to the raising of Edens Road by 12 inches the previous summer, the valley was still passable. That was before beavers moved into the valley. Does any of this sound familiar?

 

History reminds us that we’ve been there before and we can once again get through the difficult times.

John Strathman, Adventure During A Pandemic

John Strathman, Adventure During A Pandemic

John Strathman is no stranger to memorable moments on the water. He’s been kayaking in the Pacific Northwest for years. Since moving to Guemes Island in 2014, John has kayaked in the 2015 inaugural  R2AK “Race to Alaska” (Port Townsend, WA to Ketchikan, AK), rowed in two “SEVENTY48s,” (Tacoma to Port Townsend), and completed a solo kayak adventure from Ketchikan to Guemes. His most recent leisurely trip around the San Juans with his friend, Tim, was memorable in its own way.

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NOTE: The stalwart Odyssey has been repaired “good as new” and is safely tucked away, awaiting next year’s “moments.”

Tom Sternberg, GICCA Board Member

Tom Sternberg, GICCA Board Member

The GICCA Board welcomes its newest Board member, Tom Sternberg, who was recently appointed to fill the vacant Trustee position. Like many of us, Tom and his partner Virginia’s visits to Guemes grew into a desire for a peaceful, rural place to make their full-time home. The pandemic changed their work situations and working from home became the required option. A small tight-knit rural community with an active community center was just the place they were looking for.

 

Tom quickly made friends with neighbors and fellow ferry passengers. Community involvement is important to Tom and he was interested to learn more about our island organizations and activities. A recent opening on the GICCA Board provided him with the opportunity to bring his work and hobby experience to the Community Center Association. He answered the call and submitted a letter of interest. The GICCA Board voted unanimously to appoint Tom to the Board.

 

Currently a high-end web and software developer, Tom has also worked in the restaurant industry in both staff and management positions. He started his own commercial landscape business overseeing five condominium complexes. Acting as the general contractor, Tom built two homes and remodeled three in the Seattle area. These varied and useful skills will be invaluable to the Association and to our island community. Tom’s enthusiasm and willingness to be involved are his greatest assets. He has already hit the ground running and is helping to design GICCA’s new “sister” website that will feature the many artists of Guemes Island.

 

We welcome Tom and Virginia and their sweet dog, Trigger, to our community

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You – An Encore Performance

You - An Encore Performance

This month we are, once again, featuring YOU because you deserve an encore!  YOU are a neighbor. YOU are a part of what makes us a community.

In the recent CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) Newsletter, Public Health Matters, we are reminded that “the word community can mean different things." It can describe a geographic area, a group of people with shared interests, or a feeling of teamwork and fellowship.” At the core is YOU.

 

The Center for Preparedness and Response (CPR) is a part of the CDC and they outline ways that YOU can create community where you live. The following are excerpts and links from the CPR’s “create community” newsletter.

 

Care for Each OtherTake care of yourself and others.

The greatest strengths of a community might be its people and their relationships with each other. People who are personally prepared, invested, and socially connected are often better able to protect themselves and more willing and ready to help others through adversity.

 

Improve AccessSupport the needs of the whole community.

Community health preparedness and resilience is not achieved until everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as prepared as possible. It is the shared responsibility of the whole community to find ways to make preparedness more inclusive, available, and achievable for everyone.

 

Lead by ExampleInspire others’ healthy behaviors.

Get in the habit of being a preparedness role model for your family and in your community. Modeling healthy behaviors, attitudes, and habits, like getting a seasonal flu vaccine and frequent handwashing, can inspire others to do the same.

 

Get InvolvedTake action to help improve everyone’s health and resilience.

People who are resilient and ready to care for their neighbors can have positive and even life-saving impacts on their neighbors and in their communities at large. Response training and exercises, donations, and volunteerism are just a few of the many ways that you can help yourself and others prepare for, respond to, and recover from an emergency.

 

The Guemes Island Community Center Association has recently posted, on our website and on island bulletin boards, a list of our Top Ten Volunteer Opportunities. YOU can help to “create community.” There are many ways, even during a pandemic, to safely connect with or inspire others, to become more resilient, and to become more involved. Whether it is just neighbor helping neighbor or through greater involvement with island organizations, your efforts will build “community.”

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