Pre-vacation reflections on a very busy island
By HOWARD SCHONBERGER
Journal of the San Juans Columnist
May 13, 2008 · Updated 11:33 AM
Viva Zapata amigos! I’m back from a wedding in México.
Helen and I always like to celebrate weddings in our respective families, so we went to Puerto Vallarta May 3-9 for the festivities as my wife’s cousin’s daughter, Allison Crawford, wed Duncan McDonald.
Having rushed to get away, I decided to do a three-dot column à la Herb Caen or Emmett Watson, to note a few things I thought about writing on before goofing off in the sun ... we needed the break. Here goes:
The Women’s Study Club, established in 1914 on San Juan Island, demonstrated its existence of life after near expiration by having the first of its annual spring luncheons at the Grange Hall in late March.
Members and guests sat at a big circle of tables by the fireplace as guests Fay Shane, director of the Skagit Valley College Foundation, and Dr. Denise King, director of San Juan Valley College San Juan Center, reported on the awards and earnings of the $40,000-plus fund the club donated to the foundation.
The club also had a program featuring the popular whale watch captain, Jim Maya, lifelong naturalist and retired teacher, as speaker. Maya, who is captain of the “Peregrine,” gave a spendid program according to Kathryn Chadwick, Virginia Van Camp, Terri Pratt and Susie Hendrix, who organized the well-attended luncheon/reunion of the club.
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I got to thinking about the talents, both hidden and known, we are blessed with on these islands of ours. Like Ramsay Milne, a brilliant journalist who made you feel proud of our profession.
Milne was correspondent in South Africa during the struggles to overthrow apartheid. He passed away suddenly April 29.
And Andy Hengesteg, a Boeing exec, whom we also lost as he joined his wife, Judy, who died just a year ago. Both of them were stalwarts of the community ...
And Ken Meier, genial commodore of the San Juan Island Yacht Club about the time I joined in ’82. Our deepest sympathy goes to his wife Mabel ...
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Then on April 29 at the Lions Club, as we paused to celebrate his 95th birthday with a cake, Roy Matsumoto showed me a letter he received from a retired professor in Japan. The professor is including in a book Matsumoto’s World War II exploits as a member of Merrill’s Maurauders.
The professor — who was a boy when infantryman Matsumoto saved his unit by infiltrating and interpreting enemy plans, and Milne was serving on troop ships delivering the men to that theater — came to realize that the allies, and particularly the U.S., deserved eternal gratitude of the Japanese people for leading them to the fruits of democratic life and left them with a constitution which forbids military buildups as in the past.
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April 30, my wife insisted I attend the First Mates Club program at the San Juan Island Yacht Club. Knowing they were featuring three kinds of prize chili recipes (and that Helen is a chili addict), I acquiesced.
Lo and behold, we had dinner with the speaker, Dr. Barbara Fry. What a wonderful treat to meet this delightful islander ... witty, vigorous and of the same vintage as yours truly, perhaps a few years younger.
She was speaking on the “Northwest Passage.” It was more than a speech. It was a guided tour going back to the original explorations whereby Spanish and Portuguese explorers tried to keep the Dutch and English from cutting in on “their” territory. She showed the Arctic with a slide projector as she told how Magellan took a 94-day trip around the Horn to cross the Pacific without seeing an island until he reached the Indies. The English decided to go over the top, along with the Dutch.
“They loved challenges,” Fry said.
The Dutch finally settled on the Northeast Passage and established the Hudson Bay Company.
Twenty years ago last week, Fry decided to spend a retirement voyage to Antarctica on the MV Explorer, the little red ship of the Lindblad lines which sank last year when it struck a renegade iceberg. You could have heard a pin drop as Fry transported us to the wild perils she has survived in her repeated trips on the Northwest, Northeast and Inland passages.
We can’t repeat the great program here, we just want to emphasize the great opportunities we have on these islands to live among such visionary, courageous and astounding human beings. Thank goodness we have people like Sue Corenman, First Mates president this year, to recognize these neighbors and persuade them to share with the rest of us. It makes a difference getting to know your neighbors on this little island.Contact Journal of the San Juans Columnist Howard Schonberger at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-378-5696.