Peninsular Thinking

A conversation about Bremerton, Port Orchard, Poulsbo, Silverdale, Bainbridge Island, Kingston, Manchester, Seabeck, Southworth, Suquamish, Belfair, Keyport, Olalla, Bangor, Hansville, Indianola, Port Gamble, Allyn, Port Ludlow, Gig Harbor and every once in a while something about the good folks who don't have the good fortune to live here.
Subscribe to RSS
Back to Peninsular Thinking

Archive for the ‘Peninsular People’ Category

Woman first on scene of Baby Doll crash sells bracelets

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Aily Blaikie, the woman who was first on the scene of a fatal crash on Baby Doll Road Dec. 16, attended today’s memorial.

Family and friends of Rebekah Barrett and Shanaia Bennett gathered on Baby Doll to remember the girls (who were best friends) and to place roadside signs in their memory urging people to drive safely.
Screen shot 2014-03-12 at 7.07.05 PM
On the night of the collision, Blaikie ran down the road after hearing the Toyota Camry Rebekah was driving racing with another car at high speed and the sickening crash that followed. Blaikie arrived at the car, which had collided with a tree, and held the two girls as they faded out of consciousness, saying a prayer for them. A third girl, who was in the back seat, survived.

Blakie, a young woman herself, left in shock after aid arrived. The next morning she was out on the road staring at the scene. The memory of the girls’ last moments haunted Blakie. She had nightmares and sometimes hallucinated, thinking she saw them in her house and carried on conversations with them.
Screen shot 2014-03-12 at 7.07.43 PM
She often walked down to the scarred tree, where someone had set up a makeshift memorial. For hours she would lie on the bench. One day, she said, a man came to the site and they talked for a long time. She later learned he was Rebekah’s father, John Barrett.

Blaikie met the two families and has developed a bond forged through the tragedy. Slowly, she is healing emotionally. But she wanted to do something for the Bennetts and Barretts.

Blakie is selling memorial wristbands with both girls’ names, a music note for Shanaia and a soccer ball for Rebecca. Any money she raises will help the family with expenses they’ve incurred and for memorials like the roadside signs.

The bracelets cost $4 each. To order one, call Blaikie at (360) 551-1614

Walking the Bud Hawk walk

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

The Central Kitsap School Board has not scheduled a conversation on the question of renaming Brownsville Elementary School after John D. “Bud” Hawk. It will likely be on the agenda for the March 26 meeting, but I have heard from a couple of sources that some will be at Wednesday’s meeting this week to air their thoughts. In preparation for that conversation, in an attempt to understand views on both sides of the question I asked the district to see all the responses to the online survey the district conducted about the question, particularly the spaces where people could weigh in with comments.

I should say up front that all three of my children went to Brownsville. One was there a few months, another a year and the other all seven elementary school years. Given that, we do have a sense of gratitude for the work that goes on inside the school. But I get paid to keep my feelings about an issue to myself, so if I had an opinion I wouldn’t tell you what it is. Besides, we don’t live in that area anymore and my youngest goes to Silver Ridge, so I don’t have a dog, or a bear, in that discussion.

So I leave it to the survey respondents to make the arguments. Here are a few samples:

John “Bud” Hawk was a great man who accomplished more in his lifetime than most people I know. He has also been recognized and memorialized in many ways as a tribute of thanks for his many years of service. For me personally, I feel strongly that Brownsville Elementary should remain, and a portion of the school should be named after Bud. Brownsville is a school with a wonderful family vibe and supportive community. Many of our families attended Brownsville as children and now watch their own children roam the halls of a school they love, one that has been called Brownsville for almost 60 years. In a time where everything moves so fast, information is shared so quickly, names and trends come and go at a rate most of us don’t remember them. I feel that offering some consistency, an anchor of sorts to our youth is crucial. Let Brownsville be that constant, that place where our children will look back and smile, that tangible memory that lets them know that not all things disappear … that some, very special places are kept as they are because of the powerful and positive impact they’ve had on so many.


When my family moved here our three grade school sons were among the largest number of students ever to attend Brownsville at one time. Within months Esquire Hills and Cottonwood opened, reducing the head count to one third. Through it all Bud Hawk kept his cool, maintained order, got to know the children and even cooked Thanksgiving turkeys for the Thanksgiving feast. He was phenomenal under tremendous pressure. He dealt with parents, students and teachers in a way each was heard and respected. For all that Bud did before he came to Brownsville and for his exemplary leadership as principal, John “Bud” Hawk deserves to be remembered in a lasting way. Please don’t flub this. Please name the entire school after a man whose shoes can never be filled by another person. Let this be his legacy.


He was an eyewitness to some of the most horrible things man can do his fellow man. And his reaction to that was to embrace the nurturing of children. He was motivated to make education his career because he knew it was important to help children., that the key to a peaceful world was happy children. His understanding of what was really important in life and his insight into how to change the world is at the heart of knowledge. And the heart of knowledge in any school is the library. I think the library should be named after him.


I attended Brownsville Elementary in the 1970s and remember Mr. Hawk fondly. Of all my school principals, he is the one I remember the most. What he did for our country in WWII is certainly deserving of renaming the elementary school where he dedicated many years of his professional life in his honor.

Nearly everyone supported naming at least a part of the school after Hawk, so it seems clear there is large support for honoring Hawk somehow.

Now, allow me to put on my best pinstriped suit to play advocate for the devil.

Many who opposed renaming the school spoke of how it could harm Brownsville’s “storied history” and “legacy.” Those are kind of big words to attach to an elementary school. What historic moment happened at Brownsville? What legacy at Brownsville is so unique that it couldn’t be found at other schools?

I was especially struck by the people who said renaming the school would be harmful to the memories of people who went there, to which I ask, “Why?” Would your memories be any less beautiful if the school you once attended wasn’t called Brownsville anymore? Did new people move into the house you grew up in? Did that make you sad? Did you get over it? How do the people who went to East High School feel about their old campus being turned into something else? How do Seabeck and Tracyton alums feel today? If they change the name of your school, it doesn’t change your memories.

On the flipside, let me still represent the devil in arguing the other case. A few brought up that the school is actually in Gilberton, some saying that calling it “Brownsville” was a compromise to appease people who really did live in Brownsville and were disappointed the school was not located there. I haven’t verified that. Despite all that, even though Brownsville Elementary School is in Gilberton, that argument ended a long time ago. The school has been there for years with that name, and renaming it Hawk isn’t going to right an old wrong.

Let me tell you a little of my history. Forty years ago I graduated from an elementary school named after a street. That much I knew then. What I didn’t know was the street was named after a former whiskey maker and rancher who helped settle the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California. That’s something I found out about an hour ago, thanks to Wikipedia. The school’s website didn’t have any info on it. Nor did the high school named after John A. Rowland. I still don’t know who my junior high school was named after. This request is coming at a time when the emotions about and the memories of Bud Hawk are fresh. Years from now as more people pass through the class-picture-lined halls of the school there is the threat that the passion to remember the school’s namesake will diminish.

Naming a school after a hero is the most a school district can do, but it’s not nearly enough for what John D. “Bud” Hawk did. There have been principals, few of them maybe, who can match his impact on students. But as CK’s Superintendent Hazel Bauman said at a previous board meeting, there are not that many principals who were previous Congressional Medal of Honor recipients. When I read Hawk’s World War II story I was legitimately flabbergasted. Ed Friedrich, explained Hawk’s wartime exploits well in the story he wrote when Hawk died.

“On Aug. 20, 1944, German tanks and infantry attacked Hawk’s position near Chamois, France. He fought off the foot soldiers with his light machine gun before an artillery shell destroyed it and wounded him in the right thigh. He found a bazooka and, with another man, stalked the tanks and forced them to retreat into the woods. He regrouped two machine gun squads and made one working gun out of two damaged ones.

“Hawk’s group was joined by two tank destroyers, but they couldn’t see where to shoot. So he climbed to the top of a knoll with bullets flying around him to show them where to aim. The destroyer crews couldn’t hear his directions, so he ran back and forth several times to correct their range until two of the tanks were knocked out and a third was driven off. He continued to direct the destroyers against the enemy in the woods until the Germans, 500 strong, surrendered. He would receive four Purple Hearts.”

Then he came home and became a teacher and a principal. Or as the survey respondent quoted above said, “He was an eyewitness to some of the most horrible things man can do his fellow man. And his reaction to that was to embrace the nurturing of children.”

Whatever decision the district makes, this conversation should spark one commitment out of anyone interested in the question. No matter what decision is made about the renaming of the school, the students who go to school there should know well the story of what John D. “Bud” Hawk did in war, and then what he did in peace. For all the distinction and symbolism there is in naming a school or a part within the school after a hero, the greatest way to honor someone is to emulate someone. Whatever the district decides to do, the decision should be made answering the question that as students walk the halls Bud Hawk walked, what decision will more influence them to walk the life he walked, too.

An ‘Elise and Joey’ fundraiser update

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

On Sunday night dozens of Elise Fulton’s closest friends met at a South Kitsap church to raise funds for Elise and her son Joey to get a trip to Disneyland. The event was sparked by Elise’s wish that before she died that she and Joey, who is 2, would get some time together in the Magic Kingdom.

Elise, as we wrote in a story last week, has leukemia and doctors had recently told her she had no more than a few months left. Her final wish, in fact, was that Joey get to go to Disneyland and additionally to gather with relatives he’d yet to meet.

Phil Daubenspeck, associate pastor of the South Kitsap Family Worship Center said Sunday night’s event raised $18,500, more than enough to get Joey and his accompanying family to Southern California and to Montana for the chance to meet relatives.

Elise’s mother, Linda Fulton, said Elise in recent weeks became aware that she might not be around long enough to make the trip with Joey, but she wanted to make sure he got to go.

Elise was too ill to make it to Sunday’s event. She and her mom witnessed it via Skype. On Monday afternoon Linda Fulton said Elise was hanging in there. Cancer, and chemotherapy, has a way of making someone fragile, less able to battle off infections and the like.

For anyone still wishing to contribute, donations can be made at the Family Worship Center website at!elise–joey-miracle-fund/c1o7c, or to the “Elise & Joey Miracle Fund” at any Wells Fargo Bank. Account No.: 3773077320.

Satirical news surge: Meet the man behind ‘The Kitsap Report’

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Josh Farley writes:

The recipe for cooking up fake news stories in Kitsap County is simple, Calvin Courter says. Look for a trending topic on the Internet, find a way to give it a local twist, and sit back and watch it spread around the Internet like wildfire.

“We just wanted to provide a funny source of news,” said Courter, a 29-year-old Poulsbo resident who founded The Kitsap Report, a satirical news web site. “We wanted to lighten the mood around here.”

The Report, which boasts itself as being “Kitsap’s #1 source for news” has produced such eyeball-grabbing headlines as “Naughty Drive-through Marijuana Store Opening in Gorst,” “Bridge from Bainbridge to West Seattle Approved,” and “Walking Dead Season 5 to be Filmed in West Bremerton,” in its initial weeks of publication. (Blogger’s note: not all content posted on the site is family friendly.)

Because this is the Internet, where all content is accurate until proven phony, here is your official SPOILER ALERT: None of those stories are true. (No, really. They’re not.)

Courter said he’s not surprised that readers have mistaken his headlines for the real thing (he’s even heard from a Seattle-based reporter who thought they were legit). He said he hadn’t meant to trick people, but rather to spice things up.

“I like living here, but it’s a little boring,” he said.

He goes by Tom Tickles on the web site, a Kitsap lifelong resident “born in a pool of gasoline and raised by a pack of rabid raccoons in the woods outside of a small farming village.”

Courter and the Kitsap Sun have crossed paths before. He worked as an advertising account executive here in 2012. Today, he counts mortgage lending as his day job.

The site took off faster than he expected. After its launch Jan. 2, he went out to the Portside Pub in Poulsbo. By the time he returned home, the site’s first article, “Twerking: Serious Problem at Kitsap School,” had accumulated 6,000 page views.

The article today is up to almost 70,000 views.

Not bad for someone who’s never taken a journalism class (he adds that he failed junior year English). But this is a guy who knows his news: he’s been reading the Kitsap Sun since he was a kid and grew up watching Almost Live! He is and will always be a news junkie, he said.

Courter got tired of the barrage of posts he’d see on social media sites containing falsehoods, and so he decided to create some falsehoods for himself. But don’t go calling the Kitsap Report a local version of The Onion.

“I think the future of satirical news is local,” he said, adding later: “You’ll never see a Kitsap article on the Onion.”

He welcomes contributions, and he’s looking to expand into the video medium.

“We’ll see where it goes,” he said. “But people of Kitsap can look forward to more and more news from us.”

Making little of Christmas

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Some people go for Christmas in a big way. In the case of this Shelton couple you might say they make little of Christmas … big time.

Here’s a story written by our freelance reporter Arla Shepard for our North Mason publication about Steve and Roxie Martinell, who create a miniature wonderland in their home, and open it to the public during the holidays. The couple is shooting for a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

You can visit the Martinells’ amazing collection for yourself and take in another miniature display at the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island (details below).

Christmas is everyone’s favorite holiday in the Martinell household.
For about 30 days, from Halloween to Thanksgiving, Steve and Roxie Martinell work hard at transforming their Shelton home into a winter wonderland.
This year, they’re planning to enter their annual Christmas village, a miniature display of the holiday season, into the Guinness Book of World Records.
The display includes between 250 and 300 miniature homes, as well as post offices, railroad stations and movie theaters. There are also miniature people, a forest, the North Pole and a carnival.
The display totals about 2,500 pieces in all.
Screen shot 2013-12-10 at 11.06.37 AM
“My favorite part is seeing the kids’ eyes light up when they see it for the first time,” said Roxie Martinell, who collects and sets up the pieces each year. “We like doing it for the kids.”
The couple of 38 years have three sons and 14 grandchildren, but they also open up their home to the public during the month of December, offering hot chocolate and cookies to people who want to stop by and marvel at the village.
The tradition started many years ago, as a simple display beneath the Christmas tree, Roxie Martinell recalled.
As the years passed, the display grew larger, soon outgrowing a table display that the couple put up every year for their family.
In 1990, the couple decided to open up the Christmas village to the public for the first time, and since then the collection has increased in size and popularity.
“The table just got bigger and bigger,” said Steve Martinell, who now spends two to three days building a platform each year for the display. “People saw what we had and started to give us some more. We’ve got a lot of houses we can’t put up because we have too many.”
This year, Steve Martinell strung up between 28,000 to 30,000 lights outside their home, about 3,000 more lights than he put up last year.
Roxie Martinell enlisted the help of her son, Jeremy Martinell, and her grandchildren to set up the indoor miniature wonderland.
“It can be scary because there’s pieces out here that can’t be replaced, but it’s mostly fun,” Roxie Martinell said. “It’s a family thing that we can all do together.”
The family matriarch can remember nearly every piece that she owns, so there are no duplicates on display.
When she does receive an extra collectible, she often gives it to a friend.
Screen shot 2013-12-10 at 11.06.19 AM
About 500 people visit the home in December to see the lights and the display. Some are friends, and many are regulars that come back every year, Steve Martinell said.
The couple would like to set the record for largest miniature Christmas Village display. They can’t find an existing record and are working with a representative from the Guinness Book of World Records to have it verified.
The process can take up to six weeks, Steve Martinell said.
While their children have asked when they’ll start charging people, Steve Martinell said the couple has no plans to put a price on the Christmas display.
“It brings us happiness and joy,” he said.

The Christmas Village is open from 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday throughout December. The address is East 161 Johns Creek Drive in Shelton.

Bloedel Reserve Miniature Display
What: “Intricately designed, hand-made buildings and whimsical trains create holiday memories for years to come. With the Visitor’s Center decked to the nines, and cider simmering, it becomes an experience for the senses.”
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily (except Mondays) through Jan. 5
Cost: Included with admission to the Reserve; adults, $13; seniors/military, $9; students 13 and older, $5. Children 12 and younger are free.

Musical Guests:
Dec. 14 from 1 to 2 p.m., The IslandWood Forest Chorus will carol in the Visitor’s Center. The chorus is an informal group of IslandWood staff, graduate students and docents.
Dec. 15 from noon to 1 p.m., singers from Grace Church will carol in the Visitor’s Center.

Kitsap likes its fundraisers outdoors, active

Friday, December 6th, 2013

Bake sales are all well and good, but here in Kitsapland (and it’s safe to say the Northwest in general), we like to get double duty out of raising money for a worthy cause.

Upcoming are two events where you can get vigorous exercise in the fresh air while doing good. The first is the Jingle Bell Run, raising funds to combat juvenile arthritis, on Saturday in Port Orchard; the second on Dec. 14, is NewLife Kitsap’s Walk for Water, raising money to build wells in Africa, to be held on waterfronts in Port Orchard, Gig Harbor, Silverdale, Bainbridge Island and the Theler Wetlands in Belfair. Both require registration, and pre-registering is preferred. But you can jump on board with both events the morning of.

Both events raise awareness of of things most of us (I think it’s safe to say) take for granted.

Walk for Water
When it’s raining buckets here in the Northwest, like on July 4th, most of us probably don’t think, “Dang, I wish we had some more water around here.” Kitsap, which relies solely on rainfall to replenish its reservoirs and aquifers each year, has faced seasons where water conservation is encouraged. But we’re always able to turn on the tap for a drink of potable water or a bottle of water at the convenience store.

In contrast, many people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to clean water. The average African walks 5 miles a day for water, according to people at New Life who are organizing the Walk for Water. The journey is dangerous and most of the water gathered is unclean, causing illness and sometimes death, especially among young children.

Walk in the Light, a charity supported by NewLife in the Walk for Water, collects money to build wells and bring other forms of water purification to towns in Burkina Faso. Last year, reporter Josh Farley wrote about the organization, founded by Tom and Katy Cornell, who are also involved with NewLife. The couple, while attending Northwestern University in Kirkland, got to know a man from Burkina Faso, and so learned about the needs of people there.

In 2012, 80 people took part in the first Walk for Water in Kitsap County, treking 2 1/2 miles along the Silverdale waterfront with empty five-gallon jugs and other containers.
Screen shot 2013-12-06 at 9.21.07 AM
They filled them and lugged them back, getting a taste of what people (most women and children) must do each day. Lack of a clean water source is not only inconvenient and unhealthy, it robs people of the time to work, get an education and have a life, as the saying goes here in the U.S. The event has been expanded this year to several waterfront locations.

When: December 14; registration a 9:30 a.m.; walk starts at 10 a.m.
Where: Gig Harbor waterfront; Bainbridge waterfront Park; Silverdale waterfront; Port Orchard Westbay Center; Theler Community Center.
What: The length of the walk is 5 miles. Each person will be given a 5-gallon container to carry on the walk or bring your own.
Cost: $20 registration fee to receive a T-shirt and five-gallon container (fee waived if you skip the T-shirt and bring your own container); recommended donation of $100 to walk. Online registration through Dec. 12.

Jingle Bell Run
I ran into Sheila Cline the other day at MoonDogs (when I was covering that outrageous tip the restaurant received). Cline was busy preparing for the third annual Jingle Bell Run, an event she has captained since 2011, in support of her daughter Kinsey, who has juvenile arthritis. The 5K run/walk is part ofPort Orchard’s Festival of Chimes & Lights.

The Jingle Bell run is the signature event of the Arthritis Foundation. To get the organization on board with allowing the run in Port Orchard, Cline had to guarantee a minimum level of participation. No worries there; the run has exceeded expectations each year, involving more than 1,000 runners (some real serious types) and raising more than $50,000 annually for the organization.

Kinsey Cline has struggled with arthritis since she was 8. Now 13, she’s having a good year and able to regularly attend John Sedgwick Junior High School. That wasn’t always so. Last year, she missed a lot of school and experienced a lot of discomfort. Now on a new medication regime, Kinsey’s arthritis is well controlled.

As those with the disease know, it’s an ongoing battle to stay mobile. Something those participating in this year’s run/walk might consider as they trot (or clip) along Bay Street and Beach Drive.

Kinsey was the honoree at the first Jingle Bell Run. This year’s honoree is Linda Banks of Port Orchard who was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis two years ago. Now 48, Banks was and is an athlete, and she finds that exercising and staying active helps reduce her arthritis symptoms.

A member of the Kitsap Tri-Babes, Banks has participated in many triathlons, and on her birthday in 2012, Banks completed an Ironman triathlon in Cour d’Alene, swimming in the choppy 58 degree lake, bicycling, and then running. Doctor’s have advised against her running for the time being, but Banks will participate by walking the 5K on Saturday.

A costume contest is at 12:30 p.m.; kids’ 1K at 1 p.m.,; 5K at 1:30 p.m.
Where: Port Orchard City Hall, 216 Prospect Street, Port Orchard
When: Dec. 7, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Cost: Free – $30

Poulsbo man ready to roll after beating cancer

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Posted by reporter Ed Friedrich:

Dan Ackerson’s blood saved Mike Myers’ life.
Doctors told Myers he had a 5 percent chance to live after three types of chemotherapy barely fazed his acute myeloid leukemia, diagnosed Nov. 11, 2010. The cancer is characterized by the rapid growth of abnormal white blood cells that accumulate in the bone marrow and interfere with the production of normal blood cells.
Myers never flinched.
“I told them that doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “That’s just a percentage. That means I’ve got a 5 percent chance of living, and I’m going to be in that 5 percent. They believed me. Now they believe me a lot.”
Bone marrow transplants are a last gasp. A patient undergoes chemotherapy and radiation to destroy the bad cells. In a healthy body, bone marrow makes young cells called stem cells. A donor’s are injected into the patient’s blood stream and grow and develop in the bone marrow. From the transplanted cells, the body resumes producing blood cells and develops an immune system.
It generally takes several months to find a good donor.
“They were hoping I’d make it into October so I could actually get the bone marrow transplant. I was really weak,” said Myers, who had dwindled from 190 to 130 pounds.
Myers, of Poulsbo, entered Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s unrelated donor search program. Ackerson, a Navy doctor, had signed up years earlier for the Department of Defense bone marrow registry. Within five weeks, they were matched.
“Typically this is a last-resort type thing,” said Ackerson, who flew from an assignment in Germany to the East Coast for the procedure.
“He probably would not be alive if he had not found a match, not that I’m the only match.”
Myers got the transplant on Oct. 7, 2011. He continued to receive “chemo lite” until a few weeks ago. Healthy cells replaced cancerous ones. He slowly began to gain weight. In October 2012, doctors declared him clear of his disease. Formerly with O-positive blood, he now was fully flowing Ackerson’s A-plus type. Six weeks ago, a biopsy showed no sign of disease and he was taken off chemotherapy. On Nov. 14 he enjoyed his first normal blood test in three years, and was released to go places other than a hospital or clinic.
The men have never met. They’re not allowed to exchange contacts until a year after the transplant. There are similarities. Myers, 54, served 21 1/2 years in the Navy, all but one of them in the Kitsap area. He was a fire control technician on submarines. Ackerson, 50, is a Navy family practice doctor, now in Jacksonville, Fla. Both are family men. Myers has a wife Debbie and two grown children.
They look forward to getting together, though Myers can’t travel long distances yet. They keep in touch by phone and computer.
“He’s got a very positive outlook and sounds like he’s doing quite well,” Ackerson said. “If he’s doing as well as he says he is, I think he’ll be just fine.”
Myers is grateful, and told his donor that at Thanksgiving.
“He is basically trusting me with his DNA,” he said. “My blood is his. It’s identical to his blood.”
Myers wants to stay close with Ackerson and spend some time together.
Ackerson urges others to get registered. He had to go in for a few shots to stimulate the marrow to create more stem cells, then wait eight hours while it’s filtered.
“A lot of people should do this,” he said. “The larger the number of people you have in the program, the higher likelihood you’ll find a match for somebody who needs it. I just think it’s a good thing to help our fellow man.”
Myers, up to 162 pounds, wants to return soon to his job with Electric Boat as a configuration manager for Trident submarines.

Scandinavian star-crossed lovers’ tale gets legs in self-published book

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Who among us hasn’t thought about writing a book? OK, you in the back; you can put your hand down now.
Port Orchard writer Rosie Atkinson, author of the historical romance “Albin’s Letters,” is living proof that self-publishing has democratized the world of books.

Hilda Sjostedt, a comely Swedish girl with one blue eye and one brown eye, has fallen in love.
John, her strict and bigoted older brother (and guardian), is one of the most powerful men in Helsinki, and he heartily disapproves of Albin Putkonen, the Finn who has won Hilda’s heart.
Albin is from Saamiland in the far north of Scandinavia, or “Lapland” as John calls it.
Those people, says John, are “inferior … flower picking trash.”
Albin and Hilda share a forbidden tryst and hatch a desperate plan that starts with a long separation. Will the Scandinavian star-crossed lovers be reunited? Or will fate — and Hilda’s brother — conspire to keep them apart?
So begins “Albin’s Letters,” a novella by Rosie Atkinson and the true story of her grandparents’ journey to North America.
Albins' Letters
The book, published this year on, has racked up a number of favorable reviews.
“I found myself rooting for Albin and hoping that the truth would come to light for Hilda,” wrote Laurel Johnson of Southworth. “This was an easy read, written in a lilting style that left me very curious about Albin and Hilda’s progeny. I hope Ms. Atkinson will tell us more.”
Atkinson, 83 of Port Orchard, has had a lifelong career as a writer, starting with writing poetry as a young homemaker. She spent many years in the newspaper business, first as a columnist for the Port Orchard Independent, then as women’s editor for the Bremerton Sun (now the Kitsap Sun).
Formerly an avid boater — with her husband Charlie and their six children — Atkinson has written numerous articles for Nor’westing, Sea and other boating magazines. She also wrote a column for a weekly Kitsap County publication, Wednesday Magazine.
After Atkinson left the Sun in 1979, her focus turned to fiction writing. She joined the Peninsula Chapter of Romance Writers of America and got up to speed on the latest technology.
“One of the first things I wanted to do was get a home computer,” Atkinson wrote in her blog. “Charlie found one for sale by a fellow employee at Boeing. He brought it home, plunked it onto a table and said, ‘There, now go ahead and write your heart out.’”
Atkinson watched other writing club members clamber their way into the publishing world. Fellow member Debbie Macomber, also of Port Orchard, is now a regular on the New York Times Bestseller list.
Similar success eluded Atkinson, even though she wrote almost every day.
“I never stopped writing, but I lost the incentive to do anything about publishing my work,” Atkinson wrote in her blog. “For one thing, it seemed so daunting and I knew nothing about publishing books.”
Then in 2013, Atkinson joined the legions of writers who have found self-publishing a viable option for getting their book out in the world.
As the Internet has exploded, so have online self-publishing programs and resources. Publishers World, in a recent article, announced a service of Bloomsbury Publishing that helps writers sift through the myriad DIY options. The Writers & Artists Self Publishing Comparison requires registration and completion of a questionnaire, information from which may be shared with service providers.
Atkinson was fortunate to have her daughter, Phyllis Counts of Seattle, help her sift through the options. Counts, a graphic designer, made the cover art for “Albin’s Letters” and hooked Atkinson up with people to read and critique the manuscript. A librarian who is a friend of Count’s fact-checked the book.
“It takes a village,” said Atkinson, who advises anyone interested in self-publishing to have their book professionally edited and the cover professionally designed.
Kitsap Sun reporter Steven Gardner, who in 2012 self-published “Spill Your Guts’ Guts,” seconded the recommendation for a professional editor.
“If you are thinking of skipping the editor part, let me shake some sense into you,” Gardner said. “If you don’t have anyone to edit your book, I guarantee you will find things in your finished copy that you will regret. Your book will look self-published, which I guarantee will lose you sales.”
Gardner’s book is an adaptation of stories from his Field of Steve podcast. If I had written the book jacket blurb, I would have called “Guts” a humorous, unaffected tribute to human longings, foibles and follies.
Spill Your Guts' Guts
Gardner assembled the project with two Amazon self-publishing programs Create Space, for the print edition, and Kindle Direct Publishing for the eBook.
Gardener’s overall cost for the two programs was about $100. Self-published authors should expect to pay an editor several hundred dollars on top of that, he said.
For future projects, Gardner plans to be more aggressive about marketing, wrangling book clubs about a month before publication, scouring online for interview opportunities and working with local bookstores to do readings.
Atkinson, too has “a few more books in the mill,” including a sequel to “Albin’s Letters” in which we learn more about Hilda’s feisty spirit or “sisu,” the Finnish expression for determination, the will to finish the job at any cost.
Speaking of which, Atkinson advises anyone with the itch to write a book not to give up.
“Everybody has a book inside them, if they can just get it out and write it,” she said. “
Besides the Albin-Hilda sequel, Atkinson has in the hopper a hot romance about a newspaper reporter in Seattle and a couple of half-written “creative non-fiction” projects. Some days, she gets overwhelmed thinking of all there is to write.
“But hell, I’ll probably live ’til I’m 115, so there’s still time,” she said.

Albin’s Letters on Kindle or paperback copies may be ordered from or by calling Barnes & Noble Booksellers, 360-698-0945.

Officers, others aid woman forced out of her home by stuff

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

It began with a call for a welfare check from Adult Protective Services. Someone had reported to APS that there was an older woman living in her car, and the Port Orchard Police Department responded.

Sgt. Donna Main was one of the officers who found the woman and learned why she was apparently homeless. The woman was parked in front of a nice, older home her family has owned since 1946. She had cared for her mother in that home before the mother died. There were so many memories … and so much stuff.

The entire property showed signs of neglect. Both the front and back yards were overgrown with brush.
“You couldn’t see the house from the street, because it’s all overgrown,” Main said. “You can open the door … sort of.”

Inside are piles of stuff to the point one would have to crawl over the stuff to get in.

“She said she was trying to clean up a bit,” said Main. But clearly the task had become overwhelming. So the woman, who is 73, moved into her car.

“When I found her in the car, she had food; she was warm,” Main said. “She wasn’t asking for help. She wasn’t asking for assistance. She wasn’t asking for handouts. She’s a very strong woman.”

It was a police matter, but it wasn’t. The woman was not in danger, and she wasn’t a danger to anyone else. Main could have written her report and called it a day.

“I just couldn’t personally go home to my warm bed knowing this 73-year-old woman was sleeping in her car,” Main said.

Officer Bill Shaibly also took an interest in the woman’s plight.

The woman had all the symptoms of having a hoarding disorder, defined by the American Psychiatric Association as excessive saving of “items that others may view as worthless and have persistent difficulty getting rid of or parting with possessions, leading to clutter that disrupts their ability to use their living or work spaces.”

Often, hoarding is associated with other types of psychiatric disorders, but this woman appeared to be thinking clearly, Main said. And she was open to help in getting rid of the excess stuff.

“She knows she needs to make some changes,” Main said. “She knows she needs to let some stuff go if she wants to get back in her house.”

Main and Schaibley recruited friends and workers from Naval Base Kitsap to clear the front yard a couple of weeks ago. Last weekend, a group from the community tackled the backyard, with help and donations of supplies like bags and gloves from Port Orchard Walmart. Main emphasized that the help wasn’t directly connected to the police department. It was simply people responding to a neighbor in need.

Main and others have arranged for the woman to receive pro bono counseling and dental work.

In upcoming weeks, they will tackle the inside of the house.

“It’s an enormous job,” main said. “I don’t know if this can be done. But if we don’t try, we’ll never know.”

Port Orchard native represents in singing competition

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Jessica Barry sings in the shower; she sings in the car. Now, she’s singing in a American Idol-style vocal competition hosted by McDonald’s. And you thought they just made fast food.

Barry, 19, is a graduate of South Kitsap schools, including Hidden Creek Elementary, Marcus Whitman Junior High School and South Kitsap High. She works at McDonalds, and is studying business and marketing at the University of Washington’s Tacoma campus. This summer, while working at the Mile Hill McDonald’s, Barry hear of the 2014 Voice of McDonald’s (VOM) Worldwide Singing Competition and decided to try out, said the company’s regional spokeswoman Hope Lash.
In September, Barry learned that judges had selected her as one of the Top 25 U.S. semi-finalists to represent the McDonald’s Northwest Region, which includes Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.

She flew down to Los Angeles, worked with a voice coach and recorded her music video for the on-line competition web site, where she is among 25 vocalists representing the United States’ various regions. The four worldwide categories are Asia-Pacific/ Middle East Africa, Europe and Canada. I’m not sure what happened to Central and South America.

This handy map I found on Wikipedia shows when McDonald’s restaurants were established around the world. The U.S. and Canada were the earliest adopters (no surprise there), with most restaurants established between 1940 and 1969. Many countries in Africa and the Middle East do not have McDonald’s. Iran and Boliva used to have McDonald’s but no longer do. McDonalds started trickling into South and Central America in 1975, with Brazil taking the lead, so as I said, I’m not sure why there are no singers from these regions. Nothing political mind you; just a question/ observation.

But I’ve taken quite a bird walk here. Back to the real story.

If Jessica is chosen as one of the top three United States favorites in this vote-driven competition, she will perform live at the McDonald’s 2014 Worldwide Convention in Orlando against 15 other global finalists. The winner will receive $25,000 plus opportunities to connect with top music industry producers and performers.

Voting opened Monday and continues through Dec. 2. And to paraphrase Barack Obama’s promotion of the Affordable Care Act 800-number, here once again is the McDonald’s vocal contest website, Click on United States, then Jessica Barry.

Super Bowl XLIX