Submitted by Fallon Taylor
Friday Harbor High School
For my community project, I chose to work with the residents of the Village at the Harbour. One of my goals for my project was to interview two residents at the Village and share their stories with you. Here are the stories of the two amazing women I was privileged enough to meet and interview. They both are truly inspiring!
Eleanor (Ellie) Parnes was born in January 1931 in New York City.
She spent most of her life there with her mother and father. During World War II, Eleanor was a girl scout. To help out, her troop made scarves and sent them out to soldiers overseas. To her delight and surprise, Eleanor got a letter back from the soldier she sent her scarf to.
Growing up with very artistic parents, Eleanor found a love for art as well. Specifically, needlepoint pattern design. Soon she found herself making needlepoint kits for friends and family. Little did she know it would be her career.
After meeting her husband and having two little girls, Eleanor and her family soon moved to California. One day, while Eleanor’s mother was working at I. Magnin — a luxury department store — and doing Eleanor’s needlepoint kits, people kept commenting on how beautiful the piece was and asking where could they get one. Luckily for Eleanor, Imagnin was just about to open up a needlepoint department.
After working for I. Magnin for a little bit producing her designs and kits, Eleanor happened to meet Betsy Bloomingdale. Betsy loved Eleanor’s designs and recommended her to a company in New York. They were so delighted with Eleanor’s designs they placed a huge order. This was the start of a thriving business. From then on, the business grew for Eleanor.
Her needlepoint design company was thriving. Her designs consisted of almost anything you can imagine, from beautiful flowers in a field to animals in the zoo. After she retired, Eleanor decided to move up to the island in 2008 to be with her family. Today, Eleanor resides in the Village at the Harbour, where she has met many amazing people and is still very artistic.
Some of my favorite quotes from her are these:
“The whole idea of life is that you’re nervous but you do it anyway.”
“Life is harder as you go because you lose people you love and you can’t get them back. So you have to tell everyone you love them while you can.”
Jean Thomas was born in Bellingham in the year 1926; shortly after she and her family moved to Seattle. During the time she was growing up, the Great Depression and World War II were taking place, which impacted her teenage experience.
After high school, Jean went to Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. Eventually, Jean met her husband and together they lived all over Washington. Next, they moved to Whidbey Island where they continued their path of journalism. There, Jean wrote a gossip column for Coupeville.
After living in Washington for most of her life, Jean and her husband decided to pack up and move to California to live in a motel that her in-laws had started. There she raised her four kids for the first 12 years of their lives.
Jean had been fond of San Juan Island since she was little and in 1967 she decided to move her family up to San Juan Island. Since moving to the island, Jean has done so many incredible things. When she first moved up, she and her husband continued in journalism and ran the Friday Harbor Journal for many years.
She also participated in the first animal shelter on the island, in a little chicken coop just off of Wold Road. In between all her years of working and caring for her family, Jean also found the time to travel all across Europe, and even get her pilot’s license. Now, Jean resides at the Village at the Harbour with her cat and is so happy to be able to spend the rest of her life on our beautiful island. She is currently still writing and is working on an article following the history of her family for many generations back.