July 17, 2012
She never heard his voice.
She never shook his hand or gave him a hug.
She didn’t even know his name until after he hanged himself.
But the story of Ken Dennis, a 22-year-old Marine who took his short life in 2004 after serving in Iraq, still haunts Sue Nebeker eight years later.
“He and his dad were at the mall,” she said, “and his dad said he looked around and said, ‘You know, I don’t fit in here anymore. I can’t do this. I’ve seen too much.’”
Nebeker would first learn of the Marine’s story in “The War Comes Home: Rifleman couldn’t take any more,” an August 2004 Seattle Post-Intelligencer article about Dennis’ struggle — facing the challenges of a recently discharged serviceman. And while most people would absorb the information and move on, Nebeker knew she had to do something.
That’s when she started American Hero Quilts, a project that aims to ensure wounded veterans in Iraq and Afghanistan come home to a tangible thank you through the warmth and comfort of a patriotic quilt. Nebeker vows to continue the project until U.S. forces are out of Afghanistan, and she is working to make quilts available to Vietnam veterans as well.
July 10, 2012
Remembering Mr. Bentz
There are few better aspects of this job than sitting down with the likes of William Bentz.
A 92-year-old World War II veteran who spent much of his Army service in the South Pacific, William constructed and supervised pump stations to ensure those fighting the enemy in the Air Force had ample fuel.
William, his wife Onadee and their daughter Judy welcomed me into their Issaquah home at Providence Point one May afternoon so I could tell William’s story of service for The Issaquah Press’ annual Lest We Forget Memorial Day section. The section highlights and honors every Issaquah veteran of which we’re aware.
On June 18, I received a call from William’s nephew, who informed me that William had passed away the day before — less than one month after I interviewed him.
May 22, 2012
In the distance, not far from beaches along Sainte-Maxime, a city along the Mediterranean Sea, a battle raged to liberate France from Nazi occupation.
Offshore, a ship painted a radiant white girded for the inevitable casualties — incoming soldiers suffering from gunshot and shrapnel wounds. The crew aboard spent the months beforehand preparing for service in a combat zone.
The complement of nurses aboard the ship, U.S. Army Hospital Ship Marigold, included 21-year-old Lucille Lennart, a compassionate young woman from tiny Everson, near the border between Washington and British Columbia.
Nowadays, Lucille Lennart is Lucille Lundstrom, a retired nurse and resident at Providence Point in Issaquah. Like other World War II veterans — a group dubbed “The Greatest Generation” by journalist Tom Brokaw — Lundstrom is humble about the years she served aboard the Marigold.
“I thought I should,” she said in a recent interview. “There was a war on.”
Lundstrom served as a nurse aboard the Marigold — a cruise liner converted for wartime use — as the ship sailed around the globe and joined more than 350,000 American women in military service amid World War II.
May 22, 2012
When William Bentz enlisted in the U.S. Army in July 1943 to serve in history’s most widespread world war, modern technological communication did not yet exist.
That meant no cellphones, no Skype, no email.
What he and his wife Onadee did have, however, was V-Mail. Short for Victory Mail, the hybrid mail system used by Americans in World War II to securely correspond with soldiers stationed abroad.
“I wrote what they call V letters,” he said. “During the war times, instead of having your 8.5 by 10 legal paper, they reduced them down … those days you couldn’t run to the computer to get it across and I was certainly too far away to yell.”
William Bentz reported for active duty at Fort Lewis before taking on firefighting training at a WWII U.S. Army camp called Camp Claiborne in Louisiana.
Bentz opted to be what was called service personnel instead of in the infantry because he had a wife and infant at home.
It took 25 days via naval ship to get to his first long-term destination during the war — New Guinea.
“A lot of people don’t think about it, but there were 2,500 to 3,000 troops up there, but they zigzagged going across the Pacific because of submarines,” he said regarding a maneuver that was supposed to make ships harder targets to hit. “Coming home was a different story, of course.”
After spending seven months in New Guinea, he served in the 781st Engineer Petroleum Distribution Company on Leyte Island in the Philippines.
May 22, 2012
Historians refer to the Aleutian Islands campaign as the Forgotten Battle.
The battle occurred amid roiling seas and pea-soup fog in the chain of islands stretched between North America and Asia at almost the same time as the Battle of Guadalcanal started thousands of miles to the south.
Guadalcanal is engrained in history, but the Aleutian Islands campaign is almost relegated to a footnote.
Not for local veteran Norman Peery.
For Peery, 86, World War II meant rough seas in the Aleutian Islands and, in postwar military service, smooth sailing to occupied Japan.
The retired Boeing electrician participated in the Aleutian Islands campaign, a bitter struggle over the islands between the United States and Japan.
The islands stretch for more than 1,200 miles from the Alaskan Peninsula and form a dividing line between the Bering Strait and the North Pacific Ocean.
Peery entered the U.S. Navy on Dec. 16, 1943, and served 18 months in the remote island chain aboard the USS Jarvis, a destroyer. (The ship was built at a Seattle shipyard in 1943-44.)
“There was a lot of rough water, believe me,” Peery said in a recent interview. “If you’ve ever been up in that water, you know.”
The destroyer plied the water off Adak and Attu. The islands hosted fierce fighting in the campaign.
“The water up there was so rough that you had to stand in the kitchen and put an arm around a post at dinner and hang on to that post and eat with the other hand,” he said. “That was kind of hard.”
April 24, 2012
- Issaquah is founded as Gilman. The city is named for railroad baron Daniel Hunt Gilman.
- The postmaster called for mail sent to Gilman to be addressed to Olney, Wash., to avoid confusion between Gilman and Gilmer, another city in the state.
- Townsfolk start calling the frontier town Issaquah, or “the sound of water birds” in the language of the American Indians native to the region.
- State lawmakers approve official name change from Gilman to Issaquah.
- Wilbur W. Sylvester founds the Bank of Issaquah in a clapboard building.
February 21, 2012
Find hidden treasures from the past in the city’s unofficial ‘attic’
There are 8,359. And counting.
That’s how many artifacts, including 3-D objects and an array of documents, make up the Issaquah History Museums’ collection.
With 7,111 photos to complement the collection, there’s no better place to get a sense of what makes Issaquah, well, Issaquah.
Among the items are rare finds — an unusual Native American trading knife buried beneath the floor of an Issaquah business or a logger’s skidding cone made right here by the town blacksmith.
Some are specific to this area, such as an early 1900s billboard — discovered later facedown in a ditch — advertising the latest and greatest in Issaquah merchants, medical care and goods.
But while each item lays claim to its own history and back story, every artifact weaves into a fabric that tells a story of who we are as a community, how we came to be and even where we’re going in the future.
February 21, 2012
Most citizens did not need a decennial update from the U.S. Census Bureau to recognize Issaquah as a boomtown.
The dramatic increase in population is a recent phenomenon.
Issaquah started as a pinpoint on maps, a remote hamlet in the rough-and-tumble Washington Territory.
Even as Seattle boomed amid World War II and into the postwar era, Issaquah did not crest 4,000 people until the late 1960s.
The population growth continued at a deliberate pace until a Microsoft-powered population explosion caused Issaquah and other Eastside cities to expand as the last century barreled to a close.
December 27, 2011
Early the morning of Dec. 21, the buyers for THR and Associates were at least temporarily on their own inside a meeting room of the Holiday Inn of Issaquah.
A national buyer of precious metal and collectibles, THR was in town Dec. 19-23 to offer those wishing to divest themselves of possibly worthwhile but unneeded items a chance to earn money for those items.
THR is the same group that produces the Treasure Hunters Roadshow TV show.
Standing by a table filled mostly with jewelry and watches, THR buyer Noah Williams said the company usually provides him with about $500,000 to spend on items during a stop such as that at the local Holiday Inn. Tough economic times and current high prices for gold and silver are driving sellers to such companies as THR, Williams said.
He added the Issaquah buying event was a lot busier earlier in the week, but sellers were still arriving in small numbers as Christmas approached.
As of mid-week, Williams said the star item purchased was undoubtedly a 1961 Gibson electric guitar. He placed the full value of the instrument at about $8,000, saying the seller had left with a check for $7,500.
December 6, 2011
The shimmering layer on the crystalline water is called “black tears” — a relic and a reminder from the attack on the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor.
The shipwreck leaks more than a quart of oil each day and stains the harbor near the blinding white memorial to the sailors entombed below.