Macomber Fans Give Rave Reviews to Port Orchard as Cedar Cove

No sooner had Cedar Cove Days, Port Orchard’s celebration of local author Debbie Macomber, ended than her fans began clamoring for an encore.

“They are asking us to provide dates as soon as possible so they can start planning for it,” said Cindy Lucarelli, executive director of the Cedar Cove Association.

Port Orchard put on its party manners for Cedar Cove Days, and visitors noticed, said Lucarelli. Many of the “guests” commented to her and other association members on how friendly and helpful the locals were.

“What a friendly, nice bunch is what I kept hearing over and over again,” Lucarelli said.

Here are some more comments from Macomber’s blog, giving you an idea of how Port Orchard looked to outsiders.

“Greetings from Canada….. although it was a struggle to maneouvre(sp?) Sea-Tac, I wouldn’t have missed Cedar Cove Days for anything. You are such a down to earth and gracious host. Kudos to the army of volunteers who were helpful and friendly. … I am reading 92 Pacific now and I must say that after being in Port Orchard I can visualize the places so much better. My only regret is perhaps not going on the cruise, but with the exchange rate it made it expensive for Canadians. However, in retrospect I did drop more than the cost of the cruise at one of your local jewellry shops!” – bevtremblay

Here’s another one from Canada:
“Cedar Cove Days was awesome, we met some great people.” dsyork, Red Deer, Alberta

“The weather was perfect, the scenery just plain gorgeous, and the people of Cedar Cove (Port Orchard) were the nicest people I think I have ever met (emphasis mine, CTH). We took pictures of all the characters and even managed to get one WITH Mack,the handsome fireman. Thank you people of Port Orchard, and thank you Debbie for giving us adults some warmhearted make-believe fun! I felt like a kid again and those experiences are hard to come by these days.” – michele.kay

Speaking of adults playing make-believe, I got a call this week that suggests Claudia Barber-Martin, the Detroit woman who said she needed a place to stay, may have embellished one part of her story, i.e. that the trip was a complete surprise to her. I have since reviewed the information I got from event organizers, Google searches, blog posters and Barber-Martin herself and concluded that, best as I can determine, she is who she said she was: a 50-something woman in marginal health who was up for an adventure … and who, apparently, had been reading a little too much soft fiction.

If you want to know the details and how I reached my conclusion, see below.

Barber-Martin told me the trip was a gift from her son, Adam Martin of Chicago, and she said she had not known she was coming to Cedar Cove until the night before the event when he surprised her. I have since spoken with Elaine Smith of South Colby, who said she had a number of conversations with a Claudia Barber-Martin in the weeks before Cedar Cove Days about the possibility of her staying at Smith’s home, which Smith was offering for a modest fee. Mrs. Smith told me Barber Martin had been concerned about the distance to town, but Smith had said her housekeeper could drive her in, and her home is on a bus line.

Coreen Haydock Johnson of the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce said Adam had contacted her office and been given a couple of lodging possibilities, none in town. Coreen also forwarded to the Cedar Cove Association an e-mail signed, “Adam Martin,” detailing Barber-Martin’s plight, as well as her overall worthiness. The e-mail indicates mother and son had talked about the event, but Martin twice refers to wanting to “surprise” his mother with the plane ticket and admission to a couple reserved Cedar Cove activities.

On Aug. 20, Ron Johnson of the Cedar Cove Association wrote on this blog that he had tried to check Martin’s story out. He Googled Barber-Martin’s name and found reference to her volunteering in Detroit. He called Adam and learned the tickets had been purchased recently. Johnson also wrote that Barber-Martin knew about the trip.

When Barber-Martin told me her son gave her an envelope on her birthday the night before Cedar Cove Days started, she did not use the word “surprise,” but indicated she hadn’t known about it. “He’s like,’ look over there.’ I’m like, ‘What’s that?’” she said. “There was an envelope on the table. I thought it was a card.”

I thought it odd, given Johnson’s comment, but chalked it up to Martin’s only having been planning in earnest since the beginning of August, as Barber-Martin told me, and the possibility that the uncertainty of the whole thing made his gift, indeed, a surprise.

It’s also possible I read the aspect of surprise into Barber-Martin’s recounting of the birthday dinner. After the story came out, however, she didn’t contradict that version, which for me called into question her entire story. Did she or didn’t she know about the trip until the night before? If she did, why did she let people believe she didn’t? What other parts of her “sob story” as I called it were fabricated?

I left a message with Barber-Martin earlier this week to call me. I wanted to give her a chance to explain the inconsistency. She called Wednesday evening, but when I told her about Mrs. Smith’s call, she said, “My other line is ringing. Can I get back to you in a minute?” I haven’t heard from her since. Surprise, surprise.

So what is the truth? A Google search of her name shows a Claudia Barber-Martin as a 1976 graduate of Benedictine High School in Detroit. That dovetails with her given age, 51. She told me she does a lot of volunteering, and indeed her name is mentioned in a Sept., 2008, newsletter from the Detroit Metro Visitor’s Bureau as having assisted with a Junior Olympics Event.

The worst dirt I could turn up on the woman was a public notice posted in May, 2008, by P.S. Oreangeco, Inc. (formerly Shurgard Storage) of Westland, MI, notifying renters with past-due fees for storage units that their property would be up for sale. Barber-Martin’s property is listed as “50 boxes, two totes, misc. items.” This suggests that the part about her being of limited means is true.

Since Ron Johnson talked to Adam, it appears that her son does at least exist. I got voice mail; the recording sounded like a young man. And the Cedar Cove welcome committee said the tickets Barber-Martin picked up were under his name. All of which suggests he was involved, at least to some degree, in getting her to the event.

Was she really without options for lodging? Staff at the welcome center said they gave her a flyer with a local number and that she was picked up by a man who was known to some of the volunteers, suggesting she did make her arrangements on the fly. Why she would have dismissed Mrs. Smith’s offer (and a subsequent offer by the housekeeper at her home closer to town) is unknown.

As for her medical condition and reported treatment for cancer, she did have a device as for administering medication adhered to her chest that was visible at the edge of her blouse. She told me she was not receiving chemotherapy but an alternate treatment due to complications with her medical history.

My guess is that Barber-Martin is basically who she says she is: a 50-something woman of limited means in marginal health who was up for an adventure, and who maybe had been reading just a little too much women’s fiction.

I posted on this blog days before the event that she needed a room and a number of people stepped forward offering to put her up.

So to Claudia Barber-Martin, all I’d say is, “You had us at, ‘I’m a Debbie Macomber fan who can’t find a hotel room.” Next time leave the fantasy in the books.

One thought on “Macomber Fans Give Rave Reviews to Port Orchard as Cedar Cove

  1. It was so much fun welcoming the Cedar Cove fans to town. Heather Cole and I took one guest from Nevada to the fair on Sunday afternoon after most everyone had gone. We went around the whole place, stopping at all the animal barns and filling out the little Passport. We even sampled flower blossoms. The lovely lady kept saying over and over that she had the best time ever. She is a recent widow (within a year) who had lost two out of her four grown children. It meant a lot to me to show her Kitsap County and its people.

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