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Wednesday, December 23, 2020

What’s Inside.... B3 — Ferndale Senior Center looks ahead to 2021 B6 — New centenarian Earl Matheson celebrates 100 years of life B6 — Author Michael G. Impero discusses his sixth book on Whatcom County

A supplement of the Lynden Tribune and Ferndale Record


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Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, December 23, 2020 | Ferndale Record

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Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, December 23, 2020| Ferndale Record

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Ferndale senior center keeps up crucial services, even with doors closed Management tries to plan ahead for an uncertain 2021 By Brent Lindquist brent@lyndentribune.com

   FERNDALE — For Karma Wells, running the Ferndale Senior Activity Center in the midst of a global pandemic is a task full of paradoxes.    “It’s been so crazy,” she said. “We closed March 12. I thought, a few weeks, maybe a month, maybe two at the most, maybe. I could never have foreseen this.”    Wells’ job as center director changed very quickly, and she was left with a variety of questions she didn’t have answers to. How does a senior activity center serve its purpose when seniors can’t go there in person, or even volunteer there?    For answers, Wells and her staff turned to the center’s original purpose.    “I don’t know a lot of things, but I do know certain things. I know what our mission statement is,” she said. “Looking out for seniors, providing a place for them to be stimulated mentally, physically, socially, that doesn’t have to happen within the walls. That can happen within the walls or that can happen outside the walls.”    Providing meals to seniors is always a large part of what the center does in the community, and that didn’t change when the pandemic came. From 11:30 to noon each Wednesday, seniors can show up at the Cherry Street center to collect six frozen meals made available by Meals On Wheels along with one hot meal made by the Ferndale Senior Activity Center, all donation-based. Wells and volunteer Marcus Ash supplement these meals with produce, bread, pastries and whatever has been donated. Ash, who normally leads games and activities for seniors in the center, has stepped up and essentially taken over the meal distribution model.    For Wells and her volunteers, providing these meals accomplishes two goals: getting nutrition to seniors and keeping seniors out of stores. She emphasizes that these meals are not just for Ferndale center members, and the same goes for the help provided by the center during these diffi-

The Ferndale Senior Activity Center's meal program would not be possible without the center's lunch crew, which consists of, from left, volunteer Marcus Ash, center director Karma Wells and volunteers Jennifer Sefzik and Sam Sefzik. (Courtesy photo/Karma Wells) cult times.    “I’m always battling against that misinformation that that lunch program is for our members. It’s not,” Wells said. “It’s for seniors. It’s donation-based.”    If a senior wants to show up and receive a week’s worth of food, Wells said, it’s always a good idea to call ahead and leave a message so she knows how much food to prepare.    When the center was closed in March, Wells began receiving phone calls from Ferndale seniors’ family members

living far away. She said it’s not unusual for a local senior to call the center to ask for help around the house or something similar. Calls from family members were very new.    “We got calls from Canada, Florida, all over, from people who have seniors here who are concerned, asking what services we have or, ‘Can someone go and check on him, I haven’t talked to him for a while.’ We’re just kind of handling all of that.”    One instance involved a referral via

the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce from family members living out of state. They couldn’t travel to Washington because of travel restrictions, and they had senior parents living in Ferndale whose phone had been shut off. The Ferndale Senior Activity Center worked with the family and with the local seniors to develop a solution.    Right now, Wells is working on the center’s budget for 2021, and that’s about See Center on B4


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Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, December 23, 2020 | Ferndale Record

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Darrel Barnes, left, and Dave Nelson, center, deliver a check to Karma Wells, Ferndale Senior Activity Center director, out of their Ferndale High School Class of 1956 reunion fund. (Courtesy photo/Karma Wells) Continued from B3

as difficult as it sounds, she said, as there’s really no way to know when the center will be open for in-person activities again. Her salary is funded via a county grant, and the center’s budget comes from an organizational grant via the City of Ferndale, which also offsets the wages for her assistant.    The center’s income was completely stopped by the pandemic, Wells said, and the aforementioned paradox of running an

activity center during a time when in-person activities aren’t permitted has loomed large over her budgeting process.    “I’m budgeting on the premise that we’re not going to be open in 2021,” at least at the start, she said.    Right now, Wells’ biggest task is figuring out how to engage seniors during such a strange and different time.    “We’re seeing seniors go backwards,” she said. “If you don’t have that engagement, this is why the senior center is so

important, right? Coming in and playing cards, using the gym, going to an exercise class, social engagement, if you don’t have that, you start to deteriorate.”    Social distancing isn’t in the DNA of the senior activity center, and with so many restrictions in place and higher COVID-19 risks for senior citizens, the process of figuring out what to do in 2021 is tough. Activities outside in the parking lot aren’t possible in the winter, Wells said, and while it is possible to do activities on

the computer via Zoom or other platforms, only a small percentage of members do that.    Even as the difficult budgeting process continues, however, the center’s work continues. Wells has a call tree in place so she can check in with members and keep them engaged. In November, the center hosted a drive-through flu clinic so local seniors could get flu shots, and that was a Continued on next page


ENCORE success.    Outside organizations have proven to be a big help, Wells said. The center received a generous donation from the Ferndale High School Class of 1956, which had some money in its account that members wanted to put toward a good cause.    “I was kind of the treasurer,” said Darrel Barnes of the class. “We had had lots of class reunions, and for the past couple of years, we hadn’t done any. So I talked to Dave Nelson, one of our other classmates, and we just got talking about it, and I said, ‘You know, I think the Ferndale Senior Activity Center would be a good one for us because I knew one of my good friends’ mother who was in there for a long time, and they could use some money too,’ and I thought that would be a good thing to do.”    The local Turkey Trot event was canceled this year, but its organizers still donated funds to the center, Wells said. Every bit helps, and center membership is going to be very important in the new year. Because of the lack of income, it will be crucial for members to renew their $40 dues in 2021, because even though seniors aren’t allowed to enjoy the center in person, its work continues.    “The business still goes on behind closed doors,” Wells said. “We’re always hoping that we’re going to open soon.”

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Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, December 23, 2020| Ferndale Record

From tables set up outside, the Ferndale Senior Activity Center distributes a week's worth of meals each Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to noon. (Courtesy photos/Karma Wells)

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Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, December 23, 2020 | Ferndale Record

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Ex-Everson mayor, WWII vet regaled on his 100th birthday

With his niece Pam Matheson Ensley announcing who is coming by in their vehicles, Earl Matheson on his 100th birthday on Dec. 17 waves at wellwishers in front of the Meadow Greens retirement center in Lynden. (Calvin Bratt/Lynden Tribune)

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   LYNDEN ­— Relatives of all sorts, but all younger than him, turned out to wish Earl Matheson a happy 100th birthday at Meadow Greens on Thursday, Dec. 17.    A procession of decorated cars with exuberant people on board circled around in front of the care center while Earl stood waving and niece Pam Matheson Ensley, with a megaphone, narrated and announced who everyone was for Earl’s benefit.    After the hoopla in front, the group gathered for a typical birthday celebration in an open-air plaza at the back of Meadow Greens.    Earl Matheson grew up on a Smith Road farm and graduated from Meridian High School, then worked for lumber businesses in Everson and Bellingham. He is a World War II veteran who worked 1941-44 on the hydraulic parts of planes at the naval air base in Kodiak, Alaska. He served as mayor of Everson for a time.

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Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, December 23, 2020| Ferndale Record

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Earl Matheson is in good health and good spirits at age 100. He and his wife Frances, who died six years ago after 67 years together, had four children and now 14 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren. Meadow Greens has two other residents age 100 or older. (Calvin Bratt/Lynden Tribune)

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Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, December 23, 2020 | Ferndale Record

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Latest Impero book on BB&BC Railroad Bellingham to Sumas to start, it extended out in early Whatcom County By Calvin Bratt editor@lyndentribune.com

Michael G. Impero lives on Noon Road in a house he built in the 1980s. It is very close to where the old Bellingham Bay and British Columbia Railroad crossed on its northeasterly route toward Sumas in 1889. (Calvin Bratt/Lynden Tribune)

   WHATCOM — In the early settlement on Bellingham Bay, Washington Territory, an important announcement showed up in the newspapers in 1883: The Canadian Pacific Railroad had chosen the Fraser River valley as the last leg of its transcontinental route across Canada.    The CPR would pass through the town Continued on next page

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Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, December 23, 2020| Ferndale Record

ENCORE of Abbotsford just a brief distance north of the Whatcom County border at Sumas.    Far to the south in San Francisco, and elsewhere, industrialists saw an opportunity. They believed a railroad should be built the 34 miles from Bellingham Bay to the border, to gain a valuable transcontinental connection for the area and its commerce.    By this time, the Bellingham Bay Coal mine, in the bay town of Sehome, had seen success for about 25 years, but was now fizzled out. With San Francisco as the key city on the West Coast, much of the coal had gone there, as would timber in huge quantities for decades in the future. But now it was the capital of seven men, five of them from California, that was needed at Bellingham Bay.    Only one name on the list will resonate locally today. Pierre B. Cornwall put in just $3,800 of the initial $35,000. But he had been an owner of the coal mine and he was the person headed north on a steamer in July 1883 to do the preliminary inspection of the area leading toward construction of a railroad.    And that scan of history in the first few pages of Michael G. Impero’s new book sets the stage for his full 225-page See Book on B10

This photo in the book is of steam engine No. 1 of the Bellingham Bay & British Columbia Railroad, nicknamed "D.O. Mills" after a majority investor. Her first engineer was Harry Abbott, an Englishman.

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Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, December 23, 2020 | Ferndale Record

Book Continued from B9

telling of the story of the Bellingham Bay and British Columbia Railroad in Whatcom County.    This is Impero’s sixth foray into the history of the county, particularly of the Mt. Baker foothills area where he grew up. At age 79, he says he has one more book in the works that will focus on Kendall, including the famous Zender brothers who were both loggers and baseball players, “and then I’m going to retire from this,” says the former construction company owner.    Impero includes in his book a wealth of maps and diverse photos, both from archives and private collections as well as what can still be seen today, to illustrate this story.    Already in that summer of 1883, a crew of engineers, surveyors and laborers began carving out a railroad from the Bellingham Bay waterfront.    Out of Bellingham the main line would angle northeasterly down a grade at today’s Hannegan Road, the vestiges of which old-timers will remember. It continued through the Dewey valley and up Squalicum Creek toward where Impero lives on Noon Road, thence on to Goshen and Strandell and Everson, where the BB&BC Railroad crossed the Nooksack River.    The first bridge built there in 1889 did not survive a major winter flood in 1900 and was replaced with a two-span timber truss one that lasted to the 1980s when a fire set by kids ended it.    There were fits and starts of the whole process of construction. The main section reached its north terminus at Sumas on March 1, 1891. A few weeks later, the Canadian Pacific Railway also reached the border.    A spur to Lynden was built later, with the depot there dedicated circa 1903.    It was the branch and spur lines eastward into east Whatcom hills, or sometimes to a sawmill operation or other enterprise, that required amazing special talent and engineering of this small railroad company to negotiate ravines and unstable river banks.    The book contains photos of the trestles that were built — still visible to walkers along trails of the Cedar Springs Christian Retreat Center — for a railroad line up Saar Creek to the Columbia Valley area and the limestone quarry there. Continued on next page


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Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, December 23, 2020| Ferndale Record

The U.S. Geological Survey map of 1906 at the back of the book will be frequently consulted for the railroads route. (Calvin Bratt/Lynden Tribune)    Northern Pacific was a competing railway in Whatcom County. A 1920 photo in the book shows both railroads, plus an early version of the Mt. Baker Highway, all squeezed in close proximity to the Nooksack River at Deming.    Key figure Cornwall died in 1904, and passenger and freight revenues of the BB&BC Railroad had peaked at that point. It was in 1912 that the rail assets were sold to the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad Company, eventually to be shortened to The Milwaukee Road.    Impero says he got his history bug from the state history class he took at Mount Baker High School, and he wonders now why Whatcom County history is not taught at some level in local schools —

he thinks it is that rich and interesting.    Chapters in the book cover the start of the BB&BC, the Sehome Wharf, main and branch line construction, engines and other equipment, depots and other buildings, train operation, accidents and disasters, and memories.    What remains of the right-of-way of the old Bellingham Bay & British Columbia lines? Not much. It has mostly reverted back to private ownership along the route. An often-diagonal line of trees is a giveaway of location. If someone were to get on the trail of it on foot, “most of it is trees or brush, and damp and wet,” Impero said. He has tramped some of it.    The book lists for $29.95 and will be available soon in Village Books stores.

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Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, December 23, 2020 | Ferndale Record

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