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‘Three birthday cakes and lots of celebration’: 150 attend 95th birthday party for Mildred Sandwith

Top photo: Finn Sandwith pretends he has a halo for his great-grandmother, Mildred Sandwith, at her 95th birthday party May 2 in the Grange Hall. Bottom photo: Mildred Sandwith cuts her cake. About 150 people attended the celebration. - Contributed / Marlis Sandwith
Top photo: Finn Sandwith pretends he has a halo for his great-grandmother, Mildred Sandwith, at her 95th birthday party May 2 in the Grange Hall. Bottom photo: Mildred Sandwith cuts her cake. About 150 people attended the celebration.
— image credit: Contributed / Marlis Sandwith

Mrs. Perry J. Sandwith — also known as Mrs. Mildred Louise Sandwith — had a marvelous 95th birthday celebration at the Grange Hall on May 2, from 1-3 p.m.

About 150 people attended, some from as far away as Roche Harbor and Bellingham. Lots of hometown families were there, including but not limited to Sandwith, King, Guard, Wilson, Lawson, Wade, Buchanan and Jordan.

Three giant birthday cakes and lots of celebration food and punch were served by a hearty staff under daughter-in-law Sharon’s direction.

A brief review of Mildred’s history was shared, and some told special stories of appreciation for her valiant, loyal, vocal and vociferous support of Friday Harbor sports, academics, idealism and politics.

Johnny Wade told of her intense cheering (she was once charged with a technical foul for “deserved criticism of blind referees”) and coaching of all sports, but especially basketball. Rick King reinforce Wade’s story of how “Aunty Mildred” stepped in to coach any and all tennis matches when our Friday Harbor coach was in need.

Coach Ed Hannah and renowned players like Vaughn Mason knew Mildred as a talented tennis player and helpful tennis coach at home and away of the women’s and men’s teams.

Joannie King told of Aunt Mildred’s “super participation” in challenging family fun and sports, such as swimming to Brown’s Island, plus her relentless driving, chaperoning, watching and supporting all Friday Harbor team sports.

Mildred’s real, handy, helpful and important “boyfriends” were all in attendance, except for her favorite, the late EMS Chief Frank Wilson. He saved her life once by discovering impending spontaneous combustion in her home probably seconds before certain and decimating combustion. Gene Wilson, Frank Buchanan and Bronk Starr were all dependably there in force.

Mildred’s advice to the young is “play, participate in or watch sports.” This advice comes from her being a critic and honorary vocal referee of tennis, basketball, baseball, football and, since the 2010 Olympics, hockey. She watches and really knows her sports and players by name.

Her advice to “older people” is, “Obey your doctor.” From this advice, she has recovered from critical lung and heart conditions in every local rest home, convalescent center and hospital. She knows, loves and obeys her doctors. As a result, she has been able to remain at home — and mow most of her lawn with her riding lawn mower.

Mildred was born to Lyle and Agnes King on May 14, 1915, in the old Sam Bridges house on Guard Street. Her oldest son, Colin, and daughter, Patsy, were born down the street at the corner in the old Laural and Jean Hooke house.

Mildred’s mother was a recognized pianist who played spontaneous music to enhance the silent movies and she also delivered teletype messages for Western Union in Seattle. Her dad, Lyle, was a trolley driver in the steep hills of Seattle, then a Friday Harbor mail carrier, livestock rancher, butcher, and grocer. He established King’s Market, where a plaque is displayed today on the exterior wall.

It is believed by some that when Mildred was born the Black Ball ferry, which took from 2.5 to 3 hours per trip to Anacortes, was powered by 100 oarsmen and docked in Friday Harbor with zero or only a few cars at a time just outboard of what is now Downrigger restaurant.

Pat (Perry) Sandwith and Mildred Louise King were married in 1936, a few years after the death of his father, Dr. Colin J. Sandwith (veterinarian and first meat inspector in San Juan Co.) and the passing of several close relatives. The Pat Sandwiths farmed the Sandwith Homestead and raised at different times dairy cattle, beef cattle, sheep, pigs and turkeys, with riding horses and work horses for farming power.

Five children later — Colin, Patsy, Mike, Roger and Perry — the Sandwiths evolved into a giant family of hard-working humans. Pat, in addition to farming, worked for Mildred’s father as foreman, for the Friday Harbor cannery as foreman, and operated his cordwood, backhoe and gravel business for decades.

Mildred worked for Sam Buck Attorney, for the fish cannery, and then for San Juan County Engineers and Contractors as an accountant/bookkeeper. Pat and Mildred produced five children, 12 grandchildren, and 14 great-grandchildren.

Mildred got to attend the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, thanks to her oldest grandson, Scott; son, Colin; son, Roger, and daughter-in-law, Sharon: and granddaughter, Kara, and family.

From her seat close to the ice and near the goal, she watched the U.S. hockey team defeat the Swiss team.

She enjoyed a fun-filled and scenic Sky Train ride back to the family car and then back to the U.S.

The adventure was capped with a prized, official and often-worn and exhibited Olympic jacket, courtesy of her great-grandson, Leo.

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