Bremerton’s first snow this fall blanketed our
peninsulas and all of Western Washington and
Oregon. It closed down many school districts and
undoubtedly led to more than a few snowball fights.
I walked the bridge-to-bridge trail this morning to survey the
scene. Here’s my photos from the trek. Do you have a photo you’d
like to share in your neck of the woods? Send them to me at
A man with deep
roots in the Bremerton community was severely injured last week in
an industrial accident. John North, who grew up in
Bremerton and Belfair and only recently had moved to Puyallup, was
crushed under a lift bucket while at work Friday.
Many here are rallying to help with his recovery. A
page has been set up to help with medical expenses. He remains
in St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma in the ICU, according to his
mother, Mary Hoffman.
Hoffman said he was making a delivery as part of his
job and was removing a bucket life off of a flat bed. As he was
backing it off, it “flipped sideways” and the bucket fell on him,
his mother said. The left side of his body was crushed.
“It was just a freak accident,” she said.
North was working for Pacific-based Noffke’s Towing
Service. The state’s Department of Labor & Industries is
investigating the accident, according to Tim Church, a
He has a young family — seven-month-old baby and
another on the way, with his fiancee, Ashlee — and he’s in for a
long recovery. So far, Hoffman said she’s been amazed at how giving
his friends and family have been in lending a helping hand.
“The generosity has been incredible,” she said.
I will post updates on North’s status as he
A former Army Ranger and private security
contractor who helped defend American lives during the Sept. 11,
2012 Benghazi attack will appear in Bremerton next
Kris “Tanto” Paronto, whose actions that day have
been chronicled in the book “13
hours” by Mitchell Zuckoff and have since
been adapted into a big screen production
and directed by Michael Bay, will speak at the Kitsap Conference
Center Sept. 10.
Janet Christopherson, a Tracyton resident,
spearheaded efforts to bring Paronto to Bremerton after she saw him
in Green Valley, Arizona. She was struck by his harrowing
first-hand account and felt her hometown would be too. Tickets,
which are $55 for lunch and $100 for an opportunity to meet him
personally, have gone fast.
“It has really taken off,” Christopherson said.
The Benghazi attack ignited a political firestorm
that has continued into this year’s presidential
election. Christopherson and fellow members of the
Silverdale-Seabeck Republican Women are supporting the event.
Paronto himself has been critical of Democratic Presidential
Candidate Hillary Clinton. But she hopes that partisan politics
will give way to his riveting recounting of the events.
“You’re listening to this story, what happened that
day from beginning until the end,” she said of his Green Valley
presenation. “At the end you wonder, ‘Is this fiction?’
For tickets or more information, call (360) 509-0606 or email
SSRW2016@gmail.com. Sales will close at the end of the weekend.
Camping Trip tour has officially arrived in Bremerton.
But some fans aren’t waiting for the doors to swing open at 8 p.m.;
the diehards are already in line.
Willow Hudson, 16, and Ashleigh Klemetson, 23, actually started
the journey yesterday. The Seattleites boarded the 12:50 a.m. ferry
to Bremerton and got some shut-eye in their car across the street
from the iconic 1942-built venue. The two, who got in line just
after 6 a.m., have seen several shows along the current eight-stop
tour of small Washington theaters.
“If he’s playing a show in Washington, I’m going,” Hudson said.
“Unless I was dying or something.”
Just down the line from them were three Olympic High School
students. It’s the first concert ever for Lucan Catel, 15. “This
whole tour is super awesome,” Catel said, noting the hip hop artist
also known as Ben Haggerty is a “top three favorite” for him.
He and classmates Ellie Wade and Piper Burke have just one
problem: school starts tomorrow. That did not deter them from the
“We’re gonna have bags under our eyes,” Burke said of Thursday’s
As of the morning, the line was a bit longer than one you might expect at El
Balcon for lunch, but it’s expected to get a whole lot bigger.
The theater holds 999 people, and it appears the line will snake
down Fifth Street toward Park Avenue.
The show is among the most highly anticipated in recent memory
for the theater. Hometown favorites MxPx and
Death Cab for Cutie also played there in recent years, drawing
sell-outs as well.
Other notes about the show:
Tickets: If you were lucky and got them in the
first hour they went on sale, you can pick them up at the box
office. If not, this is about as sold out as a show gets. They can
only be picked up day-of, in an effort by Macklemore and Co. to
offer something special to fans (and not to scalpers).
When to queue? That’s up to you, my friend. It
is all general admission. The doors will open at 8 p.m. First of
two openers is at 8:40 p.m. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are due
somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 and 10:30 p.m., and will play
until about midnight. One thing to know: there’s not a bad seat in
Street closed: Pacific Avenue, between 6th and
5th streets, shut down about 10:30 a.m. and is closed through the
Food and drink: Lots of spots locally but the
theater will have just concessions and drinks (both alcoholic and
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis appearance outside:
Word is the pair will appear in the late afternoon outside the
theater, and sign a limited number of autographs for fans.
T-shirts: The Camping Trip tour includes
individualized t-shirts for each town they’re visiting, including
Bremerton. They’ll sell for $30, more than the $20 tickets for the
show, and while we all know you’ll get a better deal at a
thrift shop, these are once-in-a-lifetime mementos.
History was made this weekend at Bremerton National
Airport this weekend. Almost 700 aircraft were joined by
1,000 cars and 4,000 people for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots
Association‘s Bremerton fly-in Friday and Saturday.
“I thought it was awesome,” Fred Salisbury, the
airport’s director, was quoted as
saying on AOPA’s web site. “That back runway probably hasn’t
seen aircraft for fifty years and it was packed with parked
airplanes all the way down.”
I spent some time Saturday morning just perusing the planes. It
was like a massive vintage car show except all the vehicles had
wings and took to the skies with great frequency. I found aircraft
made all over the world, to include everything from classic
biplanes to modern private jets.
Sun Reporter Tad Sooter wrote
recently of the economic impacts the fly-in, one of four the
AOPA holds each year around the nation, would have on Bremerton and
Kitsap County. Seems likely those expectations were eclipsed.
I don’t need to tell you that we live in a
community surrounded by water. Our geography sometimes
makes us neighbors not only with those next door, but to others
across an inlet perhaps, or a passage, or even a narrows.
Anne Stamper and Joe Campbell are two such neighbors.
Campbell lives on Marine Drive while Stamper’s on Madrona Point.
They live 11 minutes by car from each other, but live just across
the mouth of Oyster Bay from each other — a five minute kayak
Their proximity across Puget Sound had life-saving
implications early Tuesday.
As Campbell and friend Mitch Watland wound down their
Fourth of July celebration with some Rainier beer on the beach by
his home, they looked across Oyster Bay. From the distance, it
appeared like a fireball was growing in an area near Stamper’s
house on Madrona Point.
“I thought ‘that’s an awfully big flame,’” Campbell
Reality sank in. The pair decided to act fast.
Watland hopped in a kayak. Campbell started calling neighbors he
knew. He got one one on the phone; Watland began yelling for help
as he got to the other side.
Campbell hopped in another kayak and headed to help,
too. Watland got hold of a neighbor’s hose and started to spray the
flames. By the time firefighters and police responded, the flames
“If we had hesitated another two or three minutes,
the whole house would have been engulfed,” Campbell said.
It appears as though the fire may have started due to
fireworks. The Kitsap County Fire Marshal’s Office is
Stamper, who was sleeping, was grateful. She recalled
Campbell as a teenager, coming over to help with landscaping at
their home. Her husband, Larry, who has passed away, even once told
Campbell that he needed to “take care” of his wife when he was
gone. Stamper said Campbell’s held up to that promise.
“I think what they did was heroic,” she said.
Campbell said he was just being a good neighbor, but
he also wanted to keep his word to Stamper’s husband.
“I gotta live up to the promise,” he said. “We made
sure she was alright.”
If you happened to watch the Today Show last Monday, you may
have noticed there was a “Nice Bremerton Couple” in the
The sign East Bremerton residents Bud and Linda Witte made — a
repurposing of the NBC acronym — not only made the show but its
Instagram account. It was a simple goal of the couple, who are both
lifelong area residents.
“It was just fun to see them in person,” Linda Witte said. “And
shake Al Roker’s hand.”
They had to wake up and get down to Rockefeller Plaza early in
the morning — some had even been there since 4 a.m. — to get a good
enough spot behind the show’s studio.
Part of their motivation was to bring back memories for some
students of PineCrest Elementary, where their daughter Kim teaches
and where the retired couple both volunteer.
As for the “Nice Bremerton Couple” sign itself, Linda Witte said
it just made a good fit. There was one point on their trip where
the seed may have been planted, however. The Wittes dined at
Ellen’s Stardust Diner on Broadway, a place where the waitstaff not
only brings food to your table, but also sings while they do
They were both impressed with the kindness of New Yorkers and
felt our area, too, is one known for its nice people. They ended up
chatting with one employee at Ellen’s for some time.
The employee could tell they were out-of-towners. But before he
left their table, he complemented them.
Lent, 71, had felt a few years ago that the 2013
election would be her last. But as she hits the midpoint of her
term, she’s realized there’s just too many projects left to pursue.
Several downtown development projects, the
passenger-only ferry to Seattle, establishment of a Bus Rapid
Transit system and bringing business to Puget Sound Industrial
Center-Bremerton are a few of her top goals.
“I have a to-do list that will take me another term
of office to complete,” said Lent, who was also a Kitsap County
commissioner earlier in the 2000s.
Wheeler, who Tuesday secured a new four year term in
district four while running unopposed, said he’s “definitely
contemplating a run.”
The 56-year-old Navy veteran recently retired from
the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard’s engineering department. He, like
Lent, is heavily involved in the community.
“I’d love the chance to be mayor,” he told me.
Neither will formally declare their campaigns for
some time but knowing the other is likely to run will no doubt
shape these next two years politically in Bremerton. Already, the
two publicly disagreed over whether
Bremerton should exit the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council,
a group of local governments that band together for planning and
grant money. Wheeler was for it; Lent against it.
And who knows? Perhaps there are others who could
join in the race eventually. Last time around, Todd Best filed to
run against Lent on
the last day before filing week closed. In 2017, it appears
there’s already two candidates lined up.
Today marks my 10 year anniversary at the
Kitsap Sun. It’s a milestone that I’ve been thinking
about a lot lately. I’ve witnessed a dramatic transformation
in journalism this past decade. Not all has been positive: the
newsroom staff is half the size it was when I got here, reflecting
an era of massive media consolidation. (That’s
the nice way to put it). But I am also part of a new
era, where the most creative and industrious minds will prevail in
an age where anyone can publish a story.
I wanted to take you back through this decade, for a
trip through the stories that fascinated me most. Many of
these, you will notice, are from my first seven years on the job,
when I was the Sun’s crime and justice reporter. But Bremerton, as
home to the Sun and those I’ve covered, has always played an
1. After 62 years, death comes six hours
Amazing stories that are told on the obituary page
nearly everyday. So I was especially curious when my editor, Kim
Rubenstein, came to me with a rather unique one: A couple whose
obituary ran together, in the same article.
I phoned the family, wondering if they would be
interested in telling their parents’ story. It’s a phone call that
never gets easier, having to call someone coming to terms with
death, but it’s a call I feel is a newspaper’s obligation. In doing
so, I’ve always tried to explain I’d like to give the community a
chance to know the person they were in life, and if not, they were
free to hang up on me. Everyone grieves differently but some people
view the opportunity as cathartic.
In this case, the family was thrilled and invited me
to their home in Kingston.
I learned of a
very special love story — a couple through 62 years of marriage
did everything together. Everything. Even getting the mail.
It’s a story that not only touched me emotionally, but
apparently others as well. Few stories I’ve ever done attracted
broader attention. I got calls, emails and letters from all over
the country, and was even interviewed by the Seattle P-I about
2. The CIA is doing what in Washington
Undercover police officers have their identities
concealed for a reason: they are often conducting sensitive, and
sometimes high risk, investigations that warrant it.
But what about when police chiefs, who use their
government issued vehicles mainly for the purpose of driving to and
from work, start using those undercover license plates?
But nothing could prepare me, months after the
initial story, for a call from Austin Jenkins, NPR reporter in
Olympia, who’d been hearing testimony in the State Legislature
about these license plates and changes to the program.
Later, the DOL would backpedal and say that they had
no authority to release information about those “federal agencies”
that have the licenses. But it was a fascinating discovery, an
amazing story to work on and I am glad
we were able to help bring the program to transparency.
3. The Pentagon’s calling, and they’re not
Ever wonder what it’s like to have The Pentagon angry
with a story you did? Well, let me tell you.
Through a public records request, I got hold of a
Navy document that reported he’d received an honorable
discharge from the Navy — something a former Navy JAG told me was
unheard of following a sex crime conviction.
We ran the story.
The following Monday, The Pentagon called.
“Your story is wrong,” I was told repeatedly. “Are
you going to correct it?”
“How is it wrong?” I asked.
I couldn’t get an answer because those records were
private, I was told.
“So how can I correct it?” I wondered.
Round and round we went, for what felt like an
eternity. Newsroom meetings were held. I freely admit it does not
feel good when the Pentagon is not happy with you.
Eventually, others at The Pentagon and the local base
released information that showed the man had received an “other
than honorable” discharge. To this day, I am uncertain why I
saw reports that contradicted each other.
4. Burglary victim becomes the
Imagine coming home from a trip to find your home has
been burglarized, and yet
you’re the one getting hauled off to jail. That was the
situation Luke Groves faced in 2009. A felon, he’d broken into a
school in Shelton at 18, and now, at 37, police found his wife’s
guns in their Hewitt Avenue home.
Prosecutors, who charged him with felon in possession
of a firearm, had offered him no jail time in exchange for his
guilty plea. But Groves took the case to trial,
was convicted, and could’ve faced years in prison over it.
The case was one that former Kitsap County Prosecutor
Russ Hauge and I had butted heads about. He felt we’d cast the
prosecutor’s office as the bad guy in a case which they could not
just “look the other way” on a weapons charge.
I followed the trial from start to finish, including
Hauge himself handling the sentencing — something I can’t
recall on an other occasion in my seven years covering the court
system here. Hauge told the judge that Groves should ultimately get
credit for time served for the crime, and Groves was released.
The story started with a scanner call for a DOA (dead
on arrival) near the road in Olhava. I inquired with the police
sergeant, who told me that the death was actually a pretty
interesting story — certainly not something I expected to hear. I
headed north, parked, and followed a little trail into the woods
where I found “The Shiloh,” Christensen’s home among Western Red
It was a “meticulously organized world,” I wrote. “A
campsite with finely raked dirt, a sturdy green shed and a tent
filled with bins of scrupulously folded clean laundry and cases of
Steel Reserve beer.”
In the subsequent days, I learned all about his quiet
penned this story. Most satisfying to me was that Christensen’s
family had lost touch with him. Without the story, which thanks to
the Internet made its way across the country, his family would’ve
never found him. He got the dignified burial he deserved.
6. Heroin’s ugly grip on Kitsap, the
I’ve probably put more energy into covering the
opiate epidemic than any other single topic in my decade at the
I’ve received a lot of “jail mail” over the years,
and while there’s usually an interesting story, it is, shall we
say, not always one I would pursue in print.
When the letters started coming from Robert “Doug”
Pierce in 2010, I was skeptical. He was convinced that Kitsap
County had miscalculated his “good time” or time off for good
behavior, and that he was serving too long a sentence from his
current cell, at Coyote Ridge in Connell.
Now I will tell you I am a journalist and not a
mathematician. But the basic gist was that jail officials here were
calculating his good time by simply dividing his time served by
three, rather than tacking on an additional to his overall
sentence. The result was he would serve 35 extra days.
A criminal past can often haunts someone for the rest
of his or her life. That was certainly true for Ed Gonda, a man who
moved his family to Bainbridge Island and had heard it was a “laid
back, forgiving kind of place.”
His crime was a sexual relationship with a
15-year-old girl. He admitted to it, did time for it, paid more
than $10,000 in treatment for it — and had lived a clean life for
15 years, to include starting his own family.
But under Washington state law, he had to register as
a sex offender, though he was not a pedophile. And somehow, after
making friends at a local church and at his daughter’s school, word
“The news traveled fast, and people who they thought
they knew well acted swiftly,”
I wrote. “His daughter could no longer play with friends down
the street, he said. The church pews around them were vacant on
Sundays. They more or less stopped going out anywhere on the
“We’re treated like we’re diseased,” his wife told
It was the start of a
three part series I knew would be controversial, but I felt was
important. We want to protect all people in society, especially
children. But is there ever a point when we’ve gone too far and it
has infringed on the rights of those who have already done their
Let’s face it: Bremerton has a gotten a bad rap over
the years, following the demise in the 1980s of its retail downtown
core. An increasing violent crime rate followed, and in many ways
the reputation was earned.
When I was hired in 2005, the city had the highest
per capita violent crime rate. During my interview, which was just
weeks after two murders blocks from the Kitsap Sun’s office, I was
asked how I would take on the story. Aggressively, I said.
If you live in Bremerton, you know that each time we
do have a tragic, violent episode — even if far outside city limits
— it reinforces the stereotype.
But followers of this blog know better. There are
many positive signs of a community improving: Increasing ferry
traffic. Volunteers embracing parks. Home improvements being made.
We’ll see how long it takes for the rest of the world
10. Walking the story in
Any reporter will tell you that we spend a lot more
time with the story than what ends up in the paper. But what about
those people who want to know more, who
are curious for every last detail?
Michelle Baxter Patton’s decision to take her
popular flea market at Uptown Mercantile &
Marketplace on Pacific Avenue from Sundays to
Saturdays boils down to two simple reasons.
“God and the Seahawks,” she said. “I can’t compete
with them. Nor would I want to.”
As fall approached, she felt Saturdays made more
sense for “The
Merc” at 816 Pacific Avenue, noting there’s more happening in
Bremerton that day that might spur people to stop by the
There’s good reason: she’s got pre-loved vintage
items for sale from as many as 40 vendors between the store and its
flea market space, a gymnasium-sized showroom that once was a
Pontiac dealership (see photo).
Among the goodies for sale right now: a 19th century
bed frame that was reportedly where the sheriff who arrested Billy
the Kid laid his head, she said. The price: $350.
The flea market’s new day kicks off this Saturday,
Sept. 26, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with loads of festivities all day
long. A “vintage” car show will complement the market and Aaron
McFadden and the Whiskey Jackets will also be playing. Two food
carts — the Tiki Truck and Ray’s Dogs — will also be on hand.
It’s obvious Baxter Patton has a passion for her
business. The former hair dresser, raised in the family who started
and continues to run Bremerton Bottling Company, has
entrepreneurship in her blood. She
took over the Mercantile in February from Amber Breske. Since
then, she’s loved just about every minute.