Category Archives: General Interest

The Truth About Trader Joe’s

Brynn Grimley writes:

I’m here to set the rumor mill straight: Trader Joe’s is not coming to Kitsap County.

At least not in the next two years, according to Alison Mochizuki, a spokeswoman for the company.

Since arriving at the Kitsap Sun four years ago I think I’ve heard every rumor imaginable that Trader Joe’s is coming to Kitsap — more specifically Silverdale. I’ve also heard varying reasons for why they haven’t located here yet. But it’s all been speculation by people who love the store and really, really, really, really, REALLY want to see the chain open in Kitsap. (Heck they have 14 locations in Western Washington, what’s one more, right?)

The latest rumor came Monday when someone called our newsroom to say an employee of the University District Place Trader Joe’s confirmed the company had signed a lease for a building in Silverdale.

I called Mochizuki at Trader Joe’s corporate office in California leaving a message to see if there was any truth to the rumor that Kitsap might become the latest county to sell “Two-Buck Chuck” (ps it really should be called Three-Buck Chuck since it costs more than $2 in this state, but that’s neither here nor there).

She called me back a few hours later leaving this message on my voicemail: “At this time Kitsap is not in our two-year plan of opening a location.” She went on to say that Silverdale was also not a part of that two-year plan.

For those who have never been to a Trader Joe’s, the best way to describe it is a small grocery store with style. The walls are decorated with cedar planks, the employees wear Hawaiian shirts, and the inventory ranges from everyday ingredients like milk to specialty products that are hard to find anywhere else. Trader Joe’s offered a large organic selection years before organic became popular for the masses.

The company is probably most well known for its “Two-Buck Chuck”, or Charles Shaw wine that it sells for cheap. It’s a decent wine for the price — which you really appreciate when you’re a college student with minimal spending money in your pocket (or a recent college grad looking for a job to support your “Two-Buck Chuck” habit, not that I know from personal experience or anything).

So while I hate to be the bearer of bad news, it seemed only appropriate I set the record straight and let the 806 people who joined the Facebook group “Citizens of Kitsap County, WA Beg For a Trader Joe’s” they’ll have to wait a little longer to see their dreams realized.

Sick Kid, Lost Dog in South Kitsap

Of all the sad, pathetic news coming out of South Kitsap this week, this one really tugged at me. But then, you know I’m a big softie, especially if we’re talking about kids or dogs.

OK, so I get this e-mail from one Alison Dockins regarding a lost dog. What, do I look like the community bulletin board at Safeway? Well, I guess I’m OK with that. If Gardner can post about what fell out of his taco, I guess I can try to help this family get their dog back, especially considering the circumstances.

Alison wrote, “Hello Mr. Henry (Note to self – gotta do something with that byline.) I am writing to see if you can help my family and I. My youngest daughter has a rare genetic disorder called Williams Syndrome, she is doing great and has bypassed so many of her doctors expectations for her and make all of us so proud. But the reason I need your help is our family dog ran away on Monday. Him and my daughter are always together, he is her constant companion and puts up with so much more then most other dogs ever would. He is absolutely irreplaceable and my daughter and the rest of us are heartbroken. She walks around the house asking “where puppy? and just isn’t herself without him. Is there anyway you could run even just a small article with a picture of him…..I know he is around here (Port Orchard) as people have seen him….but he is such a friendly great family dog I’m worried someone might just keep them for their own family. Please help me!

Since I’m not clear on whether Alison’s contact information is for publication, I’m going to say contact me at (360) 792-9219 or

The family lives off Sidney Road, south of Lider Road on Logan (see map below). Here’s what the dog looks like:

The Dockins family of South Kitsap is missing their pet.

Here’s the area where the dog was lost.

John Robbecke Describes the Polar Bear Plunge

Warning: This post contains a word that, while anatomically correct, may be offensive to some.

When I was talking to John Robbecke today about his putting Al’s Grocery on the market after its 50 years in business (story to run tomorrow), we got to talking about the annual Polar Bear Plunge off the bridge above Olalla Lagoon, across from the store.

John and 10 other charter members of the plunge decided in 1984 to ring in the New Year in a totally new and crazy way. A lot of what he said about the experience of jumping into 52 degree water in the middle of winter, I couldn’t put in the paper or on the web version of the story (only partly because of space constraints). With my assistant editor’s permission, and John’s, I bring you the uncensored version.

“New Year’s Day is kind of amateur drunk day on the couch. If you’re not drinking, what do you do? And if you don’t like sports, you’re pretty out of it. So we said, ‘OK guys, if you have enough testicles, come on down and join us, and we’ll do something different. We thought, at high noon, we’d jump off the bridge.”

John described how “invigorating” it is to feel to icy stab of the water on your various appendages as you jump or cannonball in. “You go, ‘Woah!’ You’re swimming under water before you reach the top. Once you pop out of the surface, you’re like a windmill. Once you get out of the water, you dance around and stand by the bonfire warming your buns and shake out your hair. It’s a fun time.”

Like a class reunion, the event brings together people who only see each other once a year. Some people dress in costumes. John remembers one woman whose marriage had gone sour and who jumped into the salty brine in her wedding gown. Another guy in a business suit set down his briefcase, jumped off the bridge in a businesslike way, calmly swam to shore, picked up his briefcase and drove away without so much as a shiver.

I asked John if anyone ever jumped in the nude. Yes, indeed, he said. However, “They don’t do it again, because if you’re male, and you’re climbing out of that ice cold water, and some woman says, ‘Is that it?’ you ain’t coming back.”

In Kitsap, Affected by Iceland’s Ash Plume?

A report today by the Associated Press details the effects of Iceland’s lingering volcanic ash plume on countries across Europe and Eastern Europe. It’s a mixed bag, with airspace in some countries — Austria, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Denmark, to name the ones that jump out at me — preparing to open some time today. Some other countries are expecting to open Monday. In Iceland, flights to the United Kingdom and mainland Europe are suspended indefinitely, but flights to the United States are operating normally. In Bulgaria, airspace is closed until further notice. In Poland, airspace remains closed Sunday, but overflights are permitted above 20,000 feet (6,100 meters).

Grimley and her husband, Kitsap Sun sports reporter Jeff Graham, were heading to France this weekend. By now, they should have been sipping a good Bordeaux and eating petite fours. I haven’t heard from the Grahams, so I don’t know how the ash plume affected their travel plans. I can only guess it played havoc with a long-awaited trip of the kind that requires far more planning, and saving, than a drive to the coast to watch the waves.

Have your travel plans, for pleasure or business, been affected by the ash plume? Do you have friends or family overseas who are affected? What alternative methods of getting around are available? I can only imagine the trains are booked solid. Does anybody have any creative suggestions for dealing with the mess?

Name that Blog

With the addition of new voices from North Kitsap, Central Kitsap and Bremerton, Speaking of South Kitsap is evolving. Since Bremerton reporter Steve Gardener and Central/North Kitsap reporter Brynn Grimley hopped on board, you’ve heard about a noted civic leader, a transformational moment or two, one town’s no so little victory and more.

On Grimley’s entry about Hank Mann-Sykes, one commenter mistakenly thought I had written the story and the post. It was an understandable error There’s my mug shot, as we call it, tacked on the home page of the blog. It’s probably time to change that, as well as the name of the blog. We’ll be mulling that over for a couple weeks while Grimley’s on vacation, and some time after that likely make the switch.

We’d like your help in re-branding the blog. While the Kitsap Caucus focuses on politics and government, Speaking of South Kitsap has, for the most part, focused on people, events and life in general in Port Orchard and surrounding communities, like Manchester, Olalla, South Colby and Gorst (Gardner and I both claim a stake in that one). Each has its own unique character … and characters. Now we add to that mix Seabeck, Lomolo, Hansville, Rocky Point, and other areas as well as the cities of Poulsbo and Bremerton and unicorporated yet urban Silverdale.

First we need a name. We’ve kicked around a few ideas and will mine our fellow staff members for others. So far we have Kitsap Klatsch and Speaking of Kitsap Communities. I suggested “That’s Kitsap with a ‘K'” but nobody got it. Excuse me while I stop by the store for some krab. … Oh, never mind.

OK, obviously we need a little help here.

We also need to replace my mug with something iconic, representing all that makes Kitsap Kitsapy. We got into a discussion of that over on the post about Hank Mann-Sykes. I asked for scenes that come to mind that represent your community. Kathryn Simpson, of South Kitsap, suggested: a picture taken from the center of the crosswalk at the end of Bay Street in Port Orchard, a picture of the scoreboard at Joe Knowles Stadium at the high school, a picture of the entrance to the older Kitsap County Admin building (the one the courts are still in), a picture of the foot ferry reaching the Port Orchard dock, a picture of the Stokes Auction windmill. If you live in Bremerton, Central or North Kitsap, you can probably think of scenes that conjure up the essence of a place. Maybe for Bremerton, we should have a chicken.

I was hoping we could have a rotating picture box with scenes from all over the county. But our Web editor says even our tech guru isn’t up to that one.

Our fall back idea is a group picture of Gardner, Grimley and me, as they have on the Wild World of Kitsap Sports blog. Not that we aren’t an attractive bunch, but I think we could do better.

So put on your thinking caps and sing out. This is a brainstorming session. Nothing is off the table, as they say. Again we need a new name and iconic picture or graphic for the blog soon to be known as The Blog Formerly Known as Speaking of South Kitsap.

Thank you.

Chris Henry, South Kitsap/government reporter

Mourning, Healing and Remembering

Steven Gardner writes:

Sunday was one of those days you really hope you never have to face, but for a day like that it couldn’t have been any better.

Michael Pitcher’s death last week affected a lot of people I’m close with. People who are genuinely part of communities have the benefit of having others to hold on to when the things that happen seem to make no sense. There’s been a lot of holding on to each other since last Monday.

Michael and I were more acquaintances than friends. We had each been in the other’s home, but I can’t say I really knew him. I can say I admired him, mostly for what you see in the picture here. Despite our passing and brief relationship, it saddens me to know that I won’t see him again. Not around here, anyway.

On Sunday I went to church and it was a service in which many people who knew Mike well were able to stand up and share stories about him, about how he influenced them.

His father, Frank Pitcher, spoke. I would guess Frank has had multiple opportunities to try to provide comfort to people who are grieving, and is among those grieving now. As one who has seen it and been through it before himself, he understands it. Understanding does little to comfort, though. It hurts.

Then there is Michelle, who came along into Michael’s life at a time when he was experiencing the very same thing she is now. Michael’s first wife lost her life suddenly. The one person who could probably help us, and especially Michelle, the most, the one who could extend his arm around us and offer comfort like no one else could, the one who could say, “I’ve been there” is the one who can’t be here to do that at all.

And yet a legacy goes on.

Last Monday I stayed home from work during the day because my wife was ill and needed to rest. I did go to work that night to cover chicken decriminalization and to make cops calls. Before I went in Josh Farley called me and asked that I follow up on an accident in CK, where a man fell from a tree and died. Later that night I read the press release, which included no name. I wrote a brief piece for the paper and went home as quickly as I could.

I stayed home the next day as well, except to taxi the children while my wife continued to rest. As I was putting shoes on my youngest, Diana came to the door and asked if I’d heard about Michael Pitcher. I hadn’t, I said. He died, she told me. That was the first moment it occurred to me that the man I’d written about the night before could be Michael.

Seeing someone just 30, so full of hope and goals and dreams, pass from this life to the next so quickly and unexpectedly has been transformational. I want to be a better father. I’ve always wanted to be a great dad, but something about Micheal’s passing spurred me to renew my commitment to my children and to Diana. I want there to be more pictures of me and my kids the way Michael is seen here, not because I want to be remembered that way, but because I want to be that way.

We made a start last week. The one benefit of Diana being sick and me staying home is my youngest and I bonded like we seldom had before. We played. We went on rides. We read together. It is clear the difference it has made on him. It’s more clear to me what it’s done for me. I thought of Michael a lot while it was happening. I wish he was here so I could tell him, but I have faith that he knows.

The Advice Less Traveled

While in Silverdale for a discussion on health care, I stopped by Safeway. The store sells used books for a local charity. On the shelf I saw six copies of the book “Don’t Set Goals.”

The author was Wade Cook.

I’m sure I’m not the first one to see the irony in that title. I can think of a few goals Mr. Cook would have been well served to make. Staying out of prison would have been one.

It’s probably a decent book, though.

More License Plate Pride

A few folks, two of whom are named Cheryl, responded to my story which ran Saturday about special license plates. Here are their comments and answers to a few questions:

Hi Chris,

I got my plate when they came out about 3 years ago, I got number NP00575.
I looked thru all of them and found the one that I liked the best and it matched the truck I had then, lucky for me it matches the car I have now! But most important it supports our National Parks.
I do not mind the extra $$, it is worth it. I have a pretty common car and adding the plate has made it more noticeable and yes people do comment on it. I hike alot and so we see a lot of cars at the trailheads with National Park, State Park, and bike plates. I’m not sure how often the State changes our plates, but I remember when it was 10 years and longer, then the State got the newer ones with Mt Rainier and since then I swear they change it every 3 years? You should find that out! But I got really fed up with changing the plates and then trying to remember the new plate numbers! I think for an extra $$ you can keep your old plates EXCEPT if they are not the newer reflective ones. You should find that out too! I am from Gig Harbor.
Good luck with the story.

Cheryl, Gig Harbor
Cheryl –
According to a History of Vehicle Licensing (see below) posted on the Washington State Dept. of Licensing’s Web site, license plates representing Washington’s centennial were issued in 1987. These plates had a blue color scheme on a white background with “Washington” and “Centennial Celebration” in red. A rendition of Mount Rainier is in the background.

In 1990, Legislature passed a bill giving DOL the “sole discretion” to determine whether or not to create, design, or issue a special plate. The line “Centennial Celebration” was dropped from the license plate; otherwise, the license plates remained the same. I took a look outside the Kitsap Sun, and all the cars within view (none of which had specialty plates) had Mt. Rainier on them.

Also from the DOL Web site: You must replace your license plates every 7 years when you renew your vehicle tabs, because the reflective coating on the plates only has a 5-year guarantee. This coating helps law enforcement officers easily identify vehicles in poor weather conditions. Proper care of plates won’t prevent this coating from breaking down over time. … You may ask to keep your current license plate number on your replacement plates when you renew your tabs. Because this requires us to custom manufacture the license plate, there is an additional $20 fee to keep your current plate number.

Chris Henry, reporter


Hello Chris!

Our vehicles have the LEM plates because I am a surviving child of a police officer killed in the line of duty. My father was killed in Arizona, but I have lived in Washington since 1991, and I am very involved in local non-profits that provide support and service to police survivors, including both the state chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) and the Behind the Badge Foundation. As you likely are aware, Behind the Badge Foundation is a merger organization of the Washington State Law Enforcement
Memorial Foundation (which is the benefactor of LEM license plate proceeds) and the 10-99 Foundation.
I do think of my plates often, especially when I see other LEM plates. I am very proud to support our law enforcement.
I live in Bremerton!
Thank you.
Cheryl, Bremerton


Cheryl – My condolences of the loss of your father. The Law Enforcement Memorial is one of the top three most popular plates in Kitsap County.

Chris Henry, reporter


I got my elk plate first when they came out.. I have a 3 digit number so I got them very early. Elk hunting has been a huge part of our family since I was very little, The first time I went to elk camp I was 4, and my sister was 2. We never bought beef, the only red meat in our house was elk and venison. I still have never bought beef in the store. I got my plates 1: to support WDFW, 2: support a sport/ animal that we love and respect, 3: they didn’t have a steelhead one.
We got my wife’s plate about 4 years ago after we upgraded vehicles. We enjoy the outdoors, and wanted to support the National Parks.

Ryan Morse, Silverdale


History of License Plates in Washington State, courtesy Washington DOL
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Haiti Support: Give Wisely, Do Your Research, Red Cross Official Says

Tomorrow, Robin Vergara, a South Kitsap resident, will board a plane bound for the Dominican Republic. There, Vergara, an emergency room nurse at Tacoma General Hospital, will meet with other Tacoma General doctors and nurses who have teamed up to provide medical care in Haiti. The group, which Robin said will operate under the umbrella of Destiny World Outreach of Texas, will spend a week in the earthquake-stricken country. According to Robin, Destiny World Outreach has been working in Haiti and so is able to provide her group with local contacts and transportation. She said the organization is helping teams like hers make week-long stints, which, back-to-back, will provide ongoing support without unduly taxing volunteers, who must take time out from their jobs and families.

I hope to catch up with Vergara after her week in Haiti. (Today she is running around taking care of last minute details.)

As we continue to report on Kitsap County residents and organizations involved in relief to Haiti, it bears repeating that potential donors should be fully informed about where they send their charitable dollars.

“I tell people to do their research online to find out how long the organization has existed and what they have been doing in the area,” said Janet Heath, Westsound director of the American Red Cross.

Web sites like, which Heath recommended, offer guidelines for choosing a charity. According to information on the Web site, the American Institute of Philanthropy provides a watchdog service to help donors understand how well their dollars are being spent. The AIP gives letter grades to nationally prominent charities (smaller charities may not be listed – that’s really where doing your homework comes in). A grade of B means the organization openly shares audited financial statements and income tax forms, spends less than $25 to raise $100 and allocates at least 75 percent of money raised towards charitable programs (not fund-raising and general administration).

The Better Business Bureau reports on charities based on its Charity Accountability Standards, which are listed on the Web site. The BBB also lists complaints it’s received about charities (absence of a charity on the complaint list doesn’t necessarily guarantee its worthiness).

Heath also recommends you review the organization’s 990 tax information form. Finally, she said, read as much as you can about the organization and talk to people you know about it.

If you visit the Westsound Seattle Red Cross, you’ll see a section called “Accountability” which includes links to the organization’s annual report along with other information made in the interest of full disclosure.

Heath encourages donors to consider that the relief effort in Haiti will be a long-term process.

Here is a list of tips for giving from the American Institute of Philanthropy (explained more fully on their Web site).
Know Your Charity
Find Out Where Your Dollars Go
Do Not Respond to Pressure
Keep Records of Your Donations
“Tax Exempt” Does Not Always Mean “Tax Deductible”
Do Not Be Misled by a Charity’s Familiar Name
Do Not Be Enticed by Emotional Appeals
Ask if the Charity is Registered by Federal, State or Local Authorities
Beware of Charities Offering Gifts

Marathon Runner with Pacemaker Makes Good Time in Seattle Marathon

Mark Wagner of South Kitsap, featured in Sunday’s Kitsap Sun, is a marathon runner with an artificial heart valve. Sunday’s Seattle Marathon was his sixth since the heart valve was installed in 2000 to corrected a congenital defect.

Mark Wagner, Marathon Runner
Mark Wagner, Marathon Runner

Wagner took up running marathons after his open heart surgery in part to prove to himself that he could do it, in part to raise funds for the international charity World Vision. In 2008, he needed a pacemaker installed.

Sunday’s marathon, just over 26 miles, was Wagner’s shake-down cruise for the pacemaker, which held up nicely. Wagner’s time was five hours, fifteen minutes. Although he didn’t beat his best time of 4 hours, 29 minutes and 45 seconds, he was pleased considering “I’ve never seen a marathon with so many hills.”

Also, one thing I didn’t mention is that five months before the marathon, he was in a wheelchair. A fall at work injured his leg, and because he takes blood thinners, he had internal bleeding for which he was hospitalized in March. By June, he was walking again, and by July he was training for Sunday’s race. Guess, we’ll just have to start calling him Mark “the Energizer Bunny” Wagner.

Wagner will take a couple weeks off before starting to train for the Eugene (Ore.) Marathon in May.