Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bringing a Cemetery to Life

South King County Genealogical Society members Hilda Meryhew, Linda Van Nest and Karen Bouton at the Saar Pioneer Cemetery, photo courtesy of Sylva Coppock

by Karen Bouton

Last July I attended a Living History tour at the Tacoma Cemetery. Nine different actors dressed in period costumes portrayed a ‘character’ from Tacoma’s history. Each actor stood next to the character’s headstone and spoke alone about that person. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to these brief stories and learned a lot about my neighboring city. I had heard of this type of event being performed at cemeteries throughout our country and was glad I finally had a chance to witness one. While driving home, I thought, we need to tell the story of the residents of Saar Pioneer Cemetery!

After putting out the word about this idea, the Saar Cemetery Living History Committee was formed in October of 2009. Sylva Coppock, Hilda Meryhew, Charlene Shaw, Linda Stephens, Linda Van Nest, and I have been meeting each month since then to plan this event.

First we obtained a Site Specific grant with 4Culture. This brought about the hiring of Book-It Theatre and Living Voices. Biographical and genealogical research of the cemetery residents was provided to Rachel Atkins at Living Voices. She was able to take that massive amount of information and turn it into a script for six of the cemetery residents. It will be an interactive conversation between the actors about each character. A grant from 4Culture Heritage will provide funds for advertising, programs, refreshments at the event, floral arrangements at six gravesites, and DVD’s.

The performance will begin with Mary Anderson, born in Pennsylvania, a midwife, a member of the Salvation Army, and passing away in the White River Valley area at age 80. Second will be a Civil War veteran, Elias Clark, who passed away in 1916 at the Washington Veterans’ Home. He fought with the 74th Illinois Infantry and then with Company D, 20th Michigan Infantry. Next will be Stephen P. Willis. Willis Street in Kent is named in his honor. He opened a school in 1869 with his children among the first to attend classes. Two great-nieces of Mr. Willis, Lucy and Martha Shinn, will have the opportunity share their short lives. Fourth on the tour will be James Iddings, another Civil War Veteran. He fought for both the South and then for the North. Fifth, Mighill Maddocks will tell of his adventures arriving in Seattle around 1861. Have you ever heard of Maddocksville? Lastly, Margaret Saar will tell her story. She was the first burial in the cemetery. Her headstone was large and ornate and unfortunately, is now MISSING.

The performances will take place July 17 and 18. Reservation details are located on the South King County Genealogy Society’s website at

For her work as the Saar Cemetery Project Coordinator, Karen Bouton received the 2007 Washington State Genealogical Society award and King County's John D. Spellman Historic Preservation Award in 2008.

Monday, June 14, 2010

One Great Wilderness - in Federal Way

Story and photos by Karen Meador

Ever feel like communing with nature and/or history but don’t like getting your shoes dirty? An urban oasis consisting of a primeval bog, two lakes, tall trees, lush and varied vegetation, assorted wildlife and two historic cabins on 120 acres of natural habitat await you just one mile from I-5 … in Federal Way. Located on the south side of South 348th Street and 4th Avenue South, West Hylebos Wetlands Park is a delightful way to spend time bonding with nature – without mastering the art of backpacking.

With 1.5 miles of gravel trails and wheelchair-accessible boardwalks, the park is extremely user-friendly for all age groups and fitness levels. Toddlers, senior citizens and all ages in between can be seen enjoying this remarkable gem in the midst of suburban development. About 50 yards from the South 348th Street parking lot, the traffic noise vanishes and you find yourself in another world -- much like Ilene and Francis Marckx found the property when they purchased it in 1955. Ilene Marckx later donated 37 acres toward the park and spearheaded the effort to expand and preserve it for future generations. Mrs. Marckx liked to boast that “the West Hylebos contains every type of wetland there is” – from cedar swamp to open marsh.

With a mutual goal of preserving the natural and cultural history of Federal Way, the Friends of the Hylebos joined with the Historical Society of Federal Way to relocate two historic log cabins to the Park. Early Seattle pioneer David Denny’s original donation claim included much of what is now downtown Seattle as well as Seattle Center. In 1889 he built a cabin just west of that location for use as a real estate office with lumber logged from Queen Anne hill. The cabin remained there for many years and was used as a tavern -- among other things -- before being moved to Federal Way.

The John Barker Cabin – filled with period furnishings and artifacts -- was built on the Barker homestead in 1883 at approximately South 312th Street and 7th Avenue South. He and his wife were among the earliest settlers in the Federal Way area, which his son Claude later described as “one great wilderness.” The Barker Cabin is open for tours from 12:00 to 4:00 on the second Saturday of every month through October.

After your journey through the unique beauty and heritage of the West Hylebos Wetlands, take advantage of the best of both worlds and enjoy a meal at one of the wonderful restaurants in the Federal Way area -- all without changing your shoes.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

It's 8 PM - Do You Know Where Your Kids Are?

photo courtesy of Pacific Ballroom Dance

by Maureen Hathaway

Many young people go to school and feel firsthand the effects of the current economic situation. Families are having to cope by working evening hours, second jobs, and maneuvering around schedules that leave their kids unsupervised. This can become a gray area in which students begin to receive poor grades or become involved with friends who are experimenting in unsavory activities that might include drugs, theft, violence, etc.

Fortunately the Federal Way school system offers many productive afterschool programs such as sports, music, theater, and a variety of cultural clubs .When I briefly interviewed Kurt Lauer, the principal of the Federal Way Public Academy, he said that his students have the availability to participate in after school activities such as orchestra, art, chess club, and a Knowledge Bowl and math team.

We are also very fortunate to have a city that offers a wide variety of programs at our local parks, the Community Center, the X3 Ron Sandwith Teen Center, the Boys' and Girls' Clubs, as well as scouting and church groups, etc. All of these encourage kids to realize their full potential as productive, caring and responsible citizens.

Our school district feels deeply about the need for parental involvement. The home is the first and most important school a child will ever have. Studies show that parent involvement in almost any form produces measurable gains in student achievement. SO, IT’S 8:00 PM- DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR KIDS ARE? The parents of Pacific Ballroom Dance know where theirs are!

Pacific Ballroom Dance (PBD) is an excellent example of parents working with an arts program. Over a decade ago, PBD was launched as a community organization to provide ballroom dance setting with an emphasis on a positive, artistic, social and athletic experience for 11-18 age youth. It enables a network of support systems with mentoring instructors, parents and peer groups to nurture interaction in a positive way. PBD feels that if kids don’t have a positive place to belong and to identify with, they will find a negative alternative. PBD students have heart, and attack their dance with gusto! They know that if they work hard they will grow into a prime example of a dancer.

If you have ever had the chance to observe a PBD performance, you’ll see music and dancing that explodes into a realm of dazzling and non-stop energy! It doesn’t come as a surprise that this atmosphere creates immense intensity in its staging, costuming, subtle dramatic lighting changes, and shimmery visual designs. Everything radiates audiences with amazement and the choreography is meticulously constructed in all dance repertoires.

I had a fascinating conversation when I interviewed Heather Longhurst, PBD development director and instructor. She spoke of life and dance as perpetually intertwined, and of the hard work and dedication of the students. About 50% of PBD members are Federal Way students. Since I work at the Public Academy, I knew we had four students who were involved with PBD. When I talked with Kendall Hutchins and Brayle Grabel for this article, I immediately understood that dance inhibits their souls. They are living proof of how parental involvement enables them to explore and fulfill their dreams. This is not an easy task as Kendall explained. Her average daily schedule begins at 6 AM, school at 8:30, a church class at 2:30, dance studio techniques (called syllabus) at 4, and lastly at 5 PM team dance. She arrives home at around 7:40 and begins her homework which can amount to up to two and a half hours a day. On Tuesdays she has a one-hour private lesson at the studio which focuses on one couple at a time in preparation for competition.

As PBD prepares for “Escalate” - their weekend June 4th and 5th program at the Auburn Performance Center, Kendall and Brayle, in addition to going to school, will be rehearsing from 4-11 each night beginning on Wednesday.

Both Kendall and Brayle say that parents are a large contribution to the organization. They sew, alter, clean and press costumes, apply make-up, pay tuition, sell tickets, advertise, organize cast parties, prepare mailings, monitor fitting rooms, provide stage manager duties, help with props and maintain concession stands. But most of all they DRIVE, DRIVE, DRIVE! To make it easier they carpool as often as they can to both small and large events which offer plenty of flash and dazzle in terms of dancing and musical nuance.

Brayle’s schedule is similar to Kendall’s and she often doesn’t get to bed until 11:00 or 11:30 due to her homework. Neither seems to blink an eye when they talk of having only six hours of sleep a night! Along with her dancing, Brayle also participates in Young Women activities at her church and journalism at the Federal Way Public Academy.

Overall, both Kendall and Brayle enjoy every second of their complicated schedules. They love not only the PBD staff support, but also their parents' dedication in assisting them with the relentless pursuit of their love of dance. And yes…it’s 8 PM and the parents of Pacific Ballroom Dance students do know where their kids are!

To find out how you can join, volunteer, or support Pacific Ballroom Dance and the June 4-5 “Escalate” performance at the Auburn Performing Arts Center, visit the web site at: or call 253-939-6524.

Maureen Hathaway teaches in the Federal Way School District. She also is a member of the Federal Way Arts Commission.