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Wednesday December 11, 2013

Lasting legacy Children’s Garden School founder retires after 36 years By Mae Jacobson It all started with three $20 travelers checks and a contract written on construction paper. The year was 1977. That summer, Bonnie Steussy and her husband David Edfeldt traveled from South Carolina to Steussy’s home state of Washington. At the behest of her sister, Steussy went to an open house for a small property across the street from where she lived in Issaquah. Steussy and Edfeldt were both teachers. Steussy said education was a lifelong passion. “I can remember sitting in my bedroom, dreaming about being a teacher” as a child, she said. When the couple found out there was a small preschool on the property, they knew it was meant to be. A French teacher at the time, Steussy was still grieving from a tragedy that occurred at her South Carolina high school. The couple offered to buy the preschool, starting a new chapter in their lives and pursuit of education. “The house was being shown and we walked in and said, ‘We are not interested in your home. We want to buy your school and keep it going. We want to steward this school,’” Steussy said. The owner wanted Steussy and Edfeldt’s offer so badly that she broke a prior agreement worth $1,000. “All we had to give her was three $20 travelers checks. We took a piece of construction paper from the preschool, and we wrote out the earnest agreement and we decorated it with felt pens, and that was our legal agreement,” Steussy said. Despite financial struggle, uncertainty and fear, Steussy and Edfeldt persevered for the sake of the school and their dream. “We were afraid. We had no money. We didn’t really know how we were going to do this. But every time we went to say, ‘No, we don’t think we’ll do this,’ another door opened,” Steussy said. “The thing that was so incredible was that it was such a strong calling for us to do this, that when

“I always envisioned my kids going to Children’s Garden. And when we were trying to decide whether to stay in Seattle or move to Issaquah, I asked my friends, ‘What do you remember about preschool?’” — Corey Fernando Children’s Garden School alum

a calling is that strong, you can’t but listen to it. It’s like you don’t have a choice.” That calling manifested itself as The Children’s Garden School, 3 miles south of downtown Issaquah. Children’s Garden offers preschool and kindergarten education to youngsters ages 3 to 5. Featuring elements such as a staff storyteller and parent education classes, The Children’s Garden seeks to instill in their students and parents a love for learning and imagination, an educational experience Steussy describes as a “birthright.” No one is more familiar with this birthright than Corey Fernando, a Children’s Garden alum who relocated from West Seattle to Issaquah in order for her kids to attend the same preschool she did. “I always envisioned my kids going to Children’s Garden. And when we were trying to decide whether to stay in Seattle or move to Issaquah, I asked my friends, ‘What do you remember about preschool?’” Fernando said. The answer of “little or nothing” may not surprise you, but Fernando’s recollections of preschool may. “I remember everything,” she said. “I remember the walkway up to the door, the red door. I could remember the classroom and what I would play with. I remember the feeling and the smell, very vivid memories. And to me that spoke volumes.” After 36 years of creating and maintaining such See LEGACY, Page B3


Ed McKee, 91, talks about mates from his air squadron during World War II from the office in his Timber Ridge apartment in Talus.


B-25 gunner Ed McKee kept the skies clear on WWII European bombing missions By David Hayes


n 1937, Ed McKee was a sophomore in high school, with not enough spending money in his pockets to spread around his hometown of Albany, Ore. Just seven years later, how he chose to augment his income would eventually take him over the skies of Europe on bombing raids of Axis targets. Almost more amazing than McKee’s journey to Italy and back, from gunner aboard B-25 missions to regional jewelry salesman, is the 91-year-old’s steel trap of a memory. From his current Timber Ridge home in Talus, where he’s lived the past three years with his rescued wiener dog Samantha, McKee shared his tale, dropping more names than Frank Langella (whose memoir was, after all, titled “Dropped Names: Famous Men and Women as I Knew Them”). The fact the people associated with the names mean little to anyone beyond McKee doesn’t diminish his amazing recall.

To make extra money The World War II veteran’s tale actually begins five years after he and two or three friends joined the Oregon National

combat chronicles

AN ONGOING SERIES ABOUT THOSE WHO SERVED TO PROTECT OUR FREEDOMS Guard to make a little extra money. When things got hot in Europe, his unit was mobilized. “Once the war started, I was in for the duration,” McKee said. His first assignment was on coastal duty. After a Japanese sub was spotted in the waters off the shores of Santa Barbara, Calif., McKee said the government wanted to prevent similar incursions into the Pacific Northwest. He would man the huge guns protecting the coast from Fort Stevens on the Oregon side of the border and from Fort Columbia and Fort Canby from the Washington side. “Those guns were never fired once in anger,” McKee recalled. “It was very boring.” After applying for paratrooper school, McKee’s next assignment came through the Air Corps, where he would go to aircraft


Ed McKee sports a 50-caliber machine gun he manned aboard a B-25 bomber. He flew 22 missions as the gunner aboard the B-25 Billy Mitchell (above left). mechanic school, learning to shoot the big guns on the B-26 as an engineer gunner. He had to leave his wife, highschool sweetheart Betty, behind. In fact, he missed the birth of their first child Mike while he was away at flight school. It wasn’t long after that he’d soon be flying missions out of Italy. Mission chronicler To help supplement the account of his career, McKee turns the pages of a memory book any museum would pine for. McKee filled its pages with personal snapshots, aerial military photographs and original copies of V-

OPENING THE ARCHIVES The Issaquah History Museums take requests regarding what people would like to see in the Digital Collection at issaquahpics. If there is a particular name, place or item you’d like to see more images of on the website, email Erica Maniez at erica. Send your history photos to


Bonnie Steussy brings out her hand puppet Belle Amie, who visits a class of Children’s Garden preschoolers to ask how they are feeling.

Santa Claus Coming to Town in a Covered Wagon Bill Bergsma Sr. was well-known in Issaquah for his role as the town’s perennial Santa Claus. Bergsma, a lifelong Issaquah resident, passed away in 1997. Here, Santa rides down Front Street in a covered wagon.


See VETERAN, Page B3

Liz Wilhelm to coordinate drug free grant program Liz Wilhelm has been selected as the project coordinator for the federal Drug Free Community grant awarded to the Issaquah Drug Free Community Coalition and the city of Issaquah in September. The grant, which will bring $125,000 per year for up to 10 years to the Issaquah School District service area, is aimed at reducing teen alcohol, marijuana and prescription drug abuse. Hiring a local project See WILHELM, Page B3