Page 1


A Guide to a

Fulfilling Senior Life

in Whatcom County

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

What’s Inside.... C3 — Meet the “smilemaker” John DeJong and see his craftsmanship for charity C6 — Senior Day in the Park is coming to Hovander August 14 C8 — A look at Ladd Tremaine’s military career doing what few could handle: examining the deceased

A supplement of the Lynden Tribune and Ferndale Record


Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, July 24, 2019 | Ferndale Record




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Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, July 24, 2019 | Ferndale Record



In retirement he makes Toys for God’s Kids John DeJong, ‘smilemaker,’ seeks more takers of these crafted wooden cars from his shop By Calvin Bratt

   LYNDEN ­— John DeJong has the retirement hobby he wanted: making things in a little woodworking shop.    DeJong retired in 2016 from being a glazier with Vander Griend Lumber. To continue to put his craftsmanship to good use, however, he created the new 8-by-22-foot work space behind his garage.    And he decided that he would build Toys for God’s Kids there.    Toys for God’s Kids is a ministry begun by Marlin Dorhout, of Colorado, in 2000 to supply little wooden cars and trucks to children throughout the world.    Dorhout had brought some of his handcrafted toys on a mission trip to Nicaragua, and passing them out in a village brought such joy to the faces of children that Dorhout knew he had found his retirement calling.    DeJong is now one of the “smilemakers” in a network across the United States.    “I just thought it was a cool idea and I could do it,” he said.    But he needs more outlets for his wooden Toys for God’s Kids. Finding an outlet is up to the maker of the toys. DeJong wants to give away these creations.    “I’m looking for people to take these cars. I’ll give them to anybody,” DeJong said last week. “I would make more if I had more outlets.” See DeJong on C4

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John DeJong makes wooden Toys for God’s Kids from his home workshop on Brook Way, Lynden. But he needs more takers of the miniature cars to give to children for free. (Calvin Bratt/Lynden Tribune)

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DeJong Continued from C3

   Bagfuls have gone to Nepal and to Africa with people who were going on trips or missions to those places. He has supplied hundreds to Children’s Hospital of Seattle.    “The idea is to just to make a kid happy. I’m always looking for someone to take them,” he said.    DeJong’s supply of tight-grained basswood for the bodies of cars comes as scraps from a Plantation Shutters factory in Arizona. The width and height of all cars will be 1-1/16th by 2 inches, while their length will vary.    He chooses designs to most efficiently use a strip of wood. The patterns include, by DeJong’s naming, an Indy race car, a delivery van, a Camaro, a pickup, a Model A car, an Opel, an Aerostar van and a VW Beetle.    Doing the wheels of the cars is the trickiest part, and requiring the most handwork. DeJong gets the small dowels he needs for axles from several local cabinet makers, and he gets donation help from the CHS Northwest cooperative and Christ The King church to buy the wheels and for certain other supplies he needs.    He wants the wheels to turn freely for the boy or girl who gets a car.    There are about a dozen steps in all when DeJong gets into serious production. He will attack one box of the basswood at a time.    He had to buy a few additional tools — he needs saws, drills, sanders, routers — to properly stock his workshop for this.    He figures he has made about 3,600 of the wooden toys so far, but wouldn’t mind picking up the pace if he had the outlets for them.    In the Lynden area, two other ambitious producers of cars supply the high volume needed for an Operation Christmas Child effort locally each December, which sends treat shoeboxes of items to children around the world.   Dorhout, the founder, periodically checks in with all his toy makers to make sure they have all the supplies and support needed, and that they meet standards.    DeJong has two interesting sidebars that align with his crafting impulses.    First, he has also gotten into creating wooden bandsaw boxes, intricate little handheld boxes for storing trinkets and such. He did one in the shape of the continent of Africa a couple of years ago when his daughter Julie was visiting a school there.    He has by now done about 30 of these

Above: Another woodshop creation of John DeJong is bandsaw boxes, with one visible in the lower right corner. Below: Boxes of wood scraps await action. Years ago, DeJong’s grandpa Barney DeBoer created a basic pinball game. (Calvin Bratt/Lynden Tribune)

bandsaw boxes, of different designs “out of my head,” among them a guitar and a lighthouse. They go to friends and relatives.    Second, DeJong can claim that a grandfather of his in South Dakota was truly the in-

ventor of the pinball machine, or its concept at least, but got swindled out of credit for it and any profit from it by the lawyer who was supposed to patent it for him.    DeJong has one version of the primi-

tive game board, using marbles, that Barney DeBoer of Corsica, S.D., made. Upon being conned, grandpa had put his work into storage until discovered by family many years later.

Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, July 24, 2019 | Ferndale Record



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Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, July 24, 2019 | Ferndale Record


Senior Day in Park Aug. 14 at Hovander It’s a big day of music, food and info sharing By Laura Place

   WHATCOM ­— The Lynden fair isn’t the only big event happening in mid-August in Whatcom County. Aug. 14 (Wednesday of fair week) will bring the 21st annual Senior Day in the Park gathering of seniors from the various senior centers of the county including Blaine, Ferndale, Bellingham and Lynden. It will be a day of food, music and resource sharing at Hovander Homestead Park of Ferndale.    The event is organized by the Whatcom County Council on Aging, headquartered at the Bellingham Senior Activity Center. Lupe

Various organizations are present at Senior Day in the Park each year with information about services they offer. (Courtesy photo)

Continued on next page

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Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, July 24, 2019 | Ferndale Record

ENCORE Romero, a visitor to the Bellingham center, has been attending the Senior Day at Hovander for around the past 15 years.    “The band, the music, the food ... I enjoy everything,” Romero said. “I always look forward to going.”    An important focus of the day is providing resources for seniors in a relaxed space, said Meals on Wheels and More director Julie Meyers. Sponsors Kaiser Permanente and VibrantUSA will be there this year along with other resources, so seniors can learn more about what’s available to them.    “We’re working on increasing outreach so we have a wide representation of resources, not just Bellingham-focused, but all of Whatcom County,” Meyers said.    This year, over 40 local businesses and programs will be present.    Romero said she enjoys walking around the big park along Nooksack River and seeing the different vendors and booths, which give away gift bags and information about resources. Of course, she also enjoys the food and music.    “The lines there for food — it’s like there’s no end to it,” Romero said with a smile.    The Rodney Jammers Bluegrass Band, a group from the Blaine Senior Center, will be returning to entertain.    Meyers said the Bellingham center is

Lupe Romero is one who faithfully attends the annual Senior Day in the Park, on Aug. 14 this year. (Laura Place/Lynden Tribune) closed on the day of the event, since all staff will be helping out at Hovander and also to encourage seniors to attend. A shuttle service is available from the Bellingham Senior

Activity Center for those who can’t get to the event on their own.    According to Meyers, the senior center with the most attendees at the event, exclud-

ing Bellingham, will be rewarded with an ice cream social at a later date.    The hours of this year’s Senior Day in the Park are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, July 24, 2019 | Ferndale Record


Ladd Tremaine retires from 34-year Army medical career He specialized in what many could not take — examining dead bodies From Tacoma he has now started a business serving the Northwest By Elisa Claassen for the Lynden Tribune

   The Facebook post on Ladd Tremaine’s page read: “Thanks everyone for the retirement well-wishes. It has been a long 30-plus years with many unique experiences, some good and some bad. I couldn’t have done it without my wife and kids by my side. My wife is the rock and my kids are our blessing. The grandkids are just a special treat God blesses us with. I will miss the Army.”    On June 30, 1989, Ladd and wife Sheila (De Groot) said, “I Do!” Fast forward to June 30, 2019, and it was a different celebration to add to the first one: Ladd’s retirement from the U.S. Army where he rose to the top position of medical examiner near Washington, D.C., for the only U.S.-based military funeral home for its own.    The high echelons were not always easy for Ladd’s command at Dover Air Force Base in Maryland, the Department of Defense’s largest mortuary. In his four years there, he was under several different jurisdictions including the Defense Health Agency and was primarily focused on meeting after meeting in the role of administrator in an office that was regularly written about by The Washington Post and other national media.    Not all of the coverage was favorable prior to his arriving there. Not all of the departments he was in shared the same “mission.” After trying to retire in 2016 as a lieutenant colonel, he was told by the Army he had to put in three more years. They wished for him to stay at Dover, but he requested for his final years to be at Fort Lewis, now officially Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, and he received that.    It would be closer to his roots.   Ladd grew up in and around Lyn-

This photo was taken just this year of the entire Tremaine family. From left are: son Tyler Tremaine with wife Natalie and child Benjamin; daughter Abigail with husband Adam and their children Makenna, Maddelyn and Juliana; Ladd and Sheila; and son Cody Tremaine. (Courtesy photo/Tremaine family) den, son of Larry Sr. and Helen Tremaine, who now live at Birch Bay Village. Back at Lynden High School, Ladd was self-admittedly not the top student in his class of 1986. He focused on sports, although he appreciated biology teacher Mari Knutson as one key mentor, he said in a phone interview.    Ladd joined the military while still in high school. He went through boot camp the summer between his junior and senior years. At the recruiter’s office in Bellingham, he had checked his options with the U.S. Navy, the division his father had done service with years before. No, they didn’t have any early-entry programs for young Ladd. A voice came from another part of the office. It was the Army’s recruiter: They had something for him. In that moment, his path was determined.    Ladd was tired of the raspberry fields, which eventually became a career for older brother Larry Jr. and his family

in Lynden. But he soon found out that military training was not especially easy either.    Basic training was at Fort Dix in New Jersey. “The first week I thought, ‘what was I thinking?’” Through ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) Ladd went on to the University of Washington. He knew he liked the sciences, but was looking for his niche. While at a job in the sports complex, he had another encounter that would shape his life. He met Dr. Mickey Eisenberg, of the UW Department of Emergency Medicine, at the gym one night. Dr. Eisenberg suggested Ladd try for a job as a technician in an emergency room.    Through the ER of the university Medical School, he was immersed into the world of medicine. “I could do this,” was his reaction already at the time. He applied to go into the UW’s medical program, but also to the military’s medical

training program at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. “It made more sense (to go the military way),” he said. The military would pay for him as a second lieutenant and he would finish ROTC at Washington with no loans — in sharp contrast to the typical situation for traditional medical students.   In 1989, during his junior year of college, Ladd and Sheila, who was also of Lynden, were married. It wasn’t until the pair had their three children — Abigail, Tyler and Cody — that they dealt with one of the hard moments of their married life: Sheila had a heart problem. Her father, Jay De Groot, also had one. It was 2000 and she was only 31 years of age. They were stationed in the Mojave Desert and waited for her to go to the doctor at Madigan Army Medical Center back in Washington State. She was in heart failContinued on next page

Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, July 24, 2019 | Ferndale Record

ENCORE ure. Doctors stabilized her blood pressure and looked at surgical options including artificial valve replacement and going onto Coumadin blood thinner. The latter option is a concern since it places patients at a higher risk for stroke.    Doctors told the Tremaines to wait for the mitro valve of Sheila’s heart to dilate, which happens due to overcompensation. Unfortunately, it represents a worsening of cardiac function. When they checked with Cleveland Clinic, a world-class clinic in Ohio, there was no solution to repair the defective valve.    In the meantime, Ladd, who had Lasix surgery in 2001, found he had a problem with his left eye. While stationed in Germany, both he and Sheila found solutions not available in the U.S. It was “a blessing from God,” Ladd said. In nearby Hamburg, maybe 30 miles away, was the only specialist who actually repaired, instead of replacing, heart mitro valves. Sheila’s surgery, originally scheduled for three and one-half hours, extended into six hours. Ladd said he was certain his wife had died since they didn’t have communication. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. The physician was up to the task of doing actually two heart See Tremaine on C10

Ladd and Sheila, both of Lynden roots, have now been married 30 years. In Ladd’s retirement from his demanding Army job, they are enjoying more time with grandchildren too. (Courtesy photos)

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Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, July 24, 2019 | Ferndale Record



The original Lynden family consisted of, from left, brothers Ladd and Larrry Jr. and dad and mom Helen and Larry Sr. (Courtesy photo) Continued from C9

repairs on Sheila.    In the meantime, another doctor was able to repair Ladd’s cornea with a procedure using biotin cross linking and using UV light and collagen. The procedure is not available in the U.S., he said, since there is no money in pharmacy to use vitamins.   When the children were young, Sheila was able to stay home with them as Ladd traveled extensively for work, especially when one of his roles was to oversee operations of a broad scope. (Later, Sheila managed some physical therapy clinics.) Early on, they were in Hawaii for three years and he was focused on pediatrics pathology. As he saw more and more child abuse cases, resulting also in court time and difficult emotions, he started to transition to another specialty: forensic pathology.    He remembers his first autopsy.

Sheila and Ladd Tremaine enjoy a day out sailing on Birch Bay last year, while home to see mom and dad Tremaine for their 55th wedding anniversary. Ladd put in 34 years with the Army instead of the traditional 30 for a career, explained Larry Sr., because his early enlistment while still in Lynden High School and also his three years with a regional medical center in Germany did not count toward his total. (Courtesy photo) It was at the University of Washington while he was in the ER. He asked to watch a post-mortem and was “fascinated.”    His reaction to something that is simply not easy: “This is one of God’s most amazing creations (referring to the human body).” He could tolerate what

many couldn’t. “It had to be done.”    The military was actually sending home the bodies not only of military members but also of detainees — doing autopsies and then sending them back to the lands where they had died, such as Iraq and Afghanistan. With Ladd’s move

to Ramstein Army Base in Germany in 2009, he could travel into the countries of the detainees and do the autopsies on site.    “I was gone 60 to 70 percent of the time,” he said. He again praises his wife Continued on next page


Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, July 24, 2019 | Ferndale Record


many, with a nice small lab. “It was a fascinating job.” Yet, even on vacations with his family, he would be called to leave to tend to an immediate need, he said. From a Mediterranean cruise, he was on his way to Africa. Likewise, when they were in Prague, he was needed to go to Italy. It happened again and again.

This was Ladd as he assumed a new Army command position. for her help back at home with the family.    Tremaine’s “territory” was to cover Europe, the Middle East and into Africa as a regional medical examiner both for U.S. service members and detainees. He was also the chief pathologist at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Ger-

  What has he “seen” over the years in terms of causes of death? “Every time you think you’ve seen everything, then you see something new …. even here in Washington.” While many homicides may be more obvious for a cause, it is the sudden deaths that are both more interesting and more difficult. Many people may not have been to a doctor for a diagnosis and suddenly have a heart attack or a stroke.    Surprisingly, he admits, he is not a patient person. “I’m impatient.” One example is that he won’t be found fishing. He is also someone who has found medicine to be … “easy.”    “My mind is geared for a medical mystery,” he said.    He looks at everything, dissects tissue and looks at it under the microscope, and pieces things together. His goal is to be able to explain to a family what happened to their loved one. Statistically,

the leading cause of death in the United States is cardiac events. Another common factor in death is substance abuse, and Tremaine has seen a rise in the use of methamphetamines and illicit drugs such as opioids.    For students considering a career in medicine, he encourages taking jobs within medical offices or sectors, to be focused on the academics, and to make sure to apply to medical school. He has seen TV shows such as “CSI” bringing more interest to medicine. “You have to have the passion … work side by side medical professionals.”    Many are not able to stomach the reality of the things he has dealt with, and also talking about difficult things. “You will see, smell, touch and even hear things the average person doesn’t.” That includes decomposing bodies, he said.    The shift back stateside to highprofile Dover AFB was both a blessing and a curse, Tremaine said. Although an “honor,” it involved moving from being hands-on to being responsible at a high administrative level.   Tremaine is now retired from the Army, but not from working. He has started an independent contract-

ing business to do medical examining for Thurston, Skagit and Clark counties due to a general shortage of forensic pathologists. This specialty tends to not pay as well as others in medicine and it requires some knowledge about all specialties, in essence being “a doctor’s doctor,” he said.    “You have to know about … everything,” he said. “It attracts a very unique individual.”    While his sense of humor is intact, his hearing now requires aids, courtesy of genetics, Tremaine said. He isn’t back in Lynden, but he is in the Pacific Northwest and closer to different generations of family. Abigail, married to a specialforces soldier, has three daughters. Tyler, a WSU-trained engineer, works at the naval shipyard in Bremerton. Cody, a Lynden resident, works at Daritech. None of them are in medicine. Note: Elisa met Ladd Tremaine prior to high school. She was in youth group with his older brother Larry Jr. When she shared that her late mother had hated the heat in Basra, Iraq, on the tarmacs when she was waiting for a Pan Am plane to refuel, Ladd identified and said it was 140 degrees on one when he was in Qatar.

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Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, July 24, 2019 | Ferndale Record

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Encore July 2019  

A look at senior life in Whatcom County

Encore July 2019  

A look at senior life in Whatcom County