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REPORTER

Mercer Island

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 20, 2012 | 75¢

‘Road diet’ to begin July 1

Sky surfer

Joint MISD, City Council meeting Tuesday, June 26 The Mercer Island School District Board of Directors will be holding a joint meeting with the City Council on Tuesday, June 26. The meeting, which begins at 8 a.m. at the Community and Event Center, is scheduled to last until 9:30 a.m. The agenda includes discussion of the EMC survey and a school facilities master plan.

By Mary L. Grady

editor@mi-reporter.com

St. Monica rummage sale, June 30 St. Monica Church is holding its first annual “Respect Life” rummage sale from 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 30, in the St. Monica Church gym. The church is located at 4301 88th Ave. S.E. Donations are welcome on Friday, June 29, from noon to 7 p.m. at St. Monica.

Calling all Mercer Island parade musicians Band musicians of all ages are encouraged to sign up to march in the Summer Celebration parade on Saturday, July 14. A single rehearsal is set for 6:45 p.m. until 9 p.m. on Thursday, July 12, at Emmanuel Episcopal Church. Contact davidmenz@earthlink. net and check www.facebook. com/mercerislandcommunityband to learn more.

[more-online www.MI-Reporter.com

Skydive Snohomish/Contributed Photo

Audrey Unger, 82, skydives with instructor Adrian Bowles on June 10, 2012, to celebrate her birthday. See page 7 for the story.

A gift for learning, an aptitude for adventure By Mary L. Grady

editor@mi-reporter.com

For Islander Nathan Ma, the time he attended school on Mercer Island seems long ago. He had forgotten that most of his would-be classmates would be graduating from high school on June 7. Instead, he was busy preparing for a final at the University of Washington, where he is a junior. Ma never attended high school on Mercer Island. He never attended any high school. Instead, he entered the University of Washington in 2008, one of a dozen or so gifted youth accepted into a program designed just for students like him. He was 14 years old. The Early Entrance Program is a two-step program for young students consisting of one year of Transition School, an intensive college preparatory program conducted by the Robinson Center for Young Scholars at the UW that leads to full-time enrollment at the university. Ma had attended summer

has been a positive member of the program, a volunteer and a mentor to others.” “I’d like to keep him around,” she laughed. During the first year, there is an extensive support system for the camps sponsored by the program students that follows them through as a fifth and sixththe first year and grader. During beyond, including eighth grade, he a special academic took the ACT test advisor and the and was invited to program staff, their apply. Applicants peers, and other need to score at or resources. They above the 85th perlive at home. Their centile on that test parents are also a to be considered for key part of the prothe program. Ma gram’s success. does not remember At the end of his score. He does the first year, the remember that the students ‘graduate’ application proand can then enter cess was extensive. Contributed Photo the university as There were sevNathan Ma, 18, is a regular students. eral interviews and But none of these writing exercises. junior at the University of young scholars can “It was intense,” he Washington. really be considsaid. ered regular. Julie Lancour, the interim direcThe students in these programs tor of the Early Entrance program, aren’t afraid to take risks, Lancour said that Ma has been an excellent said. They quickly leave high student. He represents exactly the school behind. They are just feartype of student that they look for. less. “Nathan has a great sense of the According to the program webpossible,” she said. site, the most successful Early “He is an incredible young man in many ways,” she continued. “He GIFT | PAGE 3

ROAD | PAGE 2

REPORTER

The Mercer Island Fire Department will be holding a first aid and adult CPR (with AED) class on Saturday, June 30, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the main fire station. The class is $35 per person. Call (206) 275-7607 to reserve a spot.

Mercer Island

First aid, adult CPR class on June 30

Construction that will reconfigure the four-lane stretch of Island Crest Way south of 42nd Street into three lanes is set to begin by the end of the month. Many South end residents worry the changes will worsen congestion on the busy roadway during peak periods. Engineers say that speeds will drop and safety will improve along the corridor. Clint Morris, street engineer for the City of Mercer Island, said that recent road diet projects have been successful in other King County cities. “Cities such as Seattle and Sammamish have seen the benefits of a three-lane configuration vs. a four-lane roadway,” he said. “Three lanes help left turn movements, and pedestrian crossings are

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As far as high school is concerned, Ma, the second oldest of four brothers, considers the question for a moment before he answers. “I feel like I did not miss out on anything,” he said. Tallish, lean and matterof-fact about his accelerated journey through higher education, Ma appears unaffected by his gifts. But he is aware that he has been presented with great opportunities. He said he has tried to make the most of it. He said that it was probably good for him to be so young when he entered the program. “If I would be leaving high school right now, I would probably be intimidated by college and all of

Highway congestion to harm state jobs, cause billions in lost production Increased congestion on Washington’s highways could result in thousands of lost jobs in freight-dependent businesses and a more than $3 billion hit to the state economy, according to a new Washington State Department of Transportation report. A 20 percent increase in congestion would lead to a loss of more than 27,500 jobs and $3.3 billion in output, according to the report. “There is no question increased congestion has a negative impact on our state’s freight-dependent businesses,” said Paula Hammond, Washington’s transportation secretary. “Our transportation investment strategies must put a priority on economic corridors — those routes to and from our ports, farms and factories.” Hammond said the study reinforces the need for transportation-funding options to implement the needs identified by the Connecting Washington

“Nathan has a great sense of the possible.”

Task Force. The task force recommended $21 billion in transportation investments over the next 10 years to maintain and preserve the existing system of highways, ferries and rail, and to invest in key economic corridors, among other priorities. Not only will more traffic impact business, according to the report, but it will hurt customers as well. Freight businesses were asked how they would deal with the increased costs related to traffic. Close to 60 percent say they would pass increased congestion-related costs on to consumers, 19 percent would absorb the costs, and 12 percent would close or move out of Washington. Freight haulers note that congestion-related costs such as fuel and labor, new equipment and more time products spend on the road, not on the shelves, lead to

higher prices for consumers.

Bellevue Square set to expand Bellevue Square is getting even bigger. Bellevue's signature mall has submitted paperwork to the city to another 250,000 square feet of space — including 119,000 in new retail room and 131,000 of parking, a gain of 375 new stalls. Representatives from Kemper Development declined to comment on the specifics of the plan. The expansion will have the mall getting taller, adding onto its current parking garages and retail space, rather than growing outward, according to planning documents. According to project documents, between 150 and 200 people are projected to work in the new space.

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Entrance Program students are “motivated to fully develop their intellectual capacity, and are enthused to learn.” It is this combination of ability and strong selfmotivation that is sought after in applicants. Indeed, they want students to look at all the options that are made available to them. “We don’t want any of them to walk across the stage at graduation and think, ‘I wish I would have...’” said Lancour.

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the choices,” he said. during the school year at a Yet, when asked how his coffee stand on campus. “If parents might describe him, I’m having a busy week, I’ll he answered, “adventurous.” give up my shifts, and if I His twin majors of pho- don’t have anything to do, tography and psychology I’ll pick some up,” he said. do not seem like an unusual In between his required pairing at all to him. “Each classes and work hours, discipline informs the he has sought out learning other,” he said. opportunities. He has been Ma is a recipient of a Mary part of research projects Gates Research Scholarship notably in animal psycholand was awarded a fed- ogy. eral government stipend He has been a research to help cover the cost of a assistant for the psycholtrip to Indonesia this sum- ogy department at the mer. There, Woodland he will conPark Zoo duct and since the document a winter quarpopulation ter of his survey of the freshman long-tailed year. There, Nancy Lancour, macaques of Early Entrance Program, UW he has also Tinjil Island. added to his He has photo g r a won other scholarships, he phy portfolio. explained, including one There is more. He from the Early Entrance squeezed in an Italian lanProgram, “to add to the guage class. He spent a summoney my parents have mer quarter in Rome studysaved for my education.” ing art history. Ma, who turned 18 last It has not been all that November, will graduate easy. in 2013 with a B.F.A. in Ma does not have a driv- Photomedia with distincer’s license, but is not in a tion, a B.S. in Psychology hurry to get one. He has had (Animal Behavior) with a long commute to campus distinction, and a minor in on the 205 bus from Mercer Art History. He will also Island. He lived near cam- graduate with college honpus this past year. ors, which denotes he has In addition to his classes completed the UW Honors and research projects, he Program’s graduation works 15 to 20 hours a week requirements.

630208

GIFT | FROM 1

Wednesday, June 20, 2012 | Page 3


REPORTER

Mercer Island

Serving the Mercer Island community since 1947

The food bank at Mercer Island Youth and Family Services is very low on food. They need contributions such as peanut butter and jelly, Top Ramen, boxed cereal, canned chicken or tuna, white and brown rice, hearty soups, Rice-a-Roni and mac and cheese products. Items to be donated can be taken to the MIYFS office in Luther Burbank Park, Banner Bank on 78th Avenue S.E., the Community Center, Albertsons and the Mercer Island Thrift Shop.

By Mary L. Grady

editor@mi-reporter.com

The 2012 Candidate Forum, hosted by the Mercer Island Reporter and the Bellevue Reporter, will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 10, at 7:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at Bellevue City Hall. The event will feature candidates from the 41st and 48th State Legislative districts, including Maureen Judge, Steve Litzow, Tim Eaves, Marcie Maxwell and Judy Clibborn from the 41st District.

Historical Society meeting is Oct. 15 The Mercer Island Historical Society will host its October meeting on Monday, Oct. 15, at 1 p.m. at the Community and Event Center. The meeting will feature speaker Karl House, of the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society, who will discuss the Puget Sound Mosquito Fleet on Lake Washington before 1916. To learn more, visit www.mihistory.org.

Statewide earthquake drill is Oct. 18 Both the City of Mercer Island and the Mercer Island School District will participate in the statewide earthquake drill on Thursday, Oct. 18. Learn more on page 8.

Rebecca Mar/Staff Photo

Children participate in the 15th annual Walk to School Day event at West Mercer Elementary on Wednesday morning, Oct. 3, 2012. Island schools observed the international event, which is held every October.

A storm, a football game and a queen Friday is the 50th anniversary of the Columbus Day Storm By Mary L. Grady

editor@mi-reporter.com

What does a brawling windstorm, a football game and a shy high school student have in common? On Columbus Day, Oct. 12, 1962, a storm with winds up to 100 mph wreaked havoc on the Puget Sound region in what the National Weather Service later designated as Washington’s worst weather disaster of the 20th century. More than 50 people were killed between Vancouver, B.C., and San Francisco, nine in Washington.

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As the huge storm hit the Seattle area, the Mercer Island football team was suited up at Islander Stadium, ready to take the field to meet archrival Bellevue for the Homecoming game. At the same time, the dangerous storm that began as Typhoon Freda in the South Pacific Ocean was bearing down on Seattle and the Eastside. Hours earlier, the storm had moved onto land in California where high winds halted the sixth game of the World Series at Candlestick Park. Power lines and giant redwood trees were reported to have been toppled from the force of the winds. According to weather service reports, winds at over 100 mph then moved into Oregon. The storm struck Portland, tearing off roofs, toppling trees and destroy-

ing buildings with “the fury of nearly a Category 3 hurricane.” As it blew north, wind gusts were measured up to 92 miles per hour in Vancouver, Wash., and over 100 miles per hour out on the Washington coast. In Longview, the city’s civic center collapsed. A HistoryLink.org essay describes what followed: the center of the storm hit Seattle at around 7 p.m. The power went out at Sea-Tac Airport. On Highway 99, billboards lay broken and trees lay in the road. Ferry runs were cancelled. At the Seattle World’s Fair, fair officials closed the Coliseum at 7:30 p.m., worried that the glass windows might blow out. Communities east of Lake Washington, including Mercer Island, were soon plunged into darkness. In Issaquah, the roof was torn off of the grandstand at the city’s Memorial Stadium. At Islander Stadium, the game had begun. But just two plays after

STORM | PAGE 4

BUDGET | PAGE 2

REPORTER

41st District Voters Forum is tonight

Over the next five City Council meetings, culminating in a final vote on Dec. 3, the Mercer Island City Council will deliberate how to fashion a $25 million balanced city budget for the next two years. Under Washington state law and standard city practice, the city manager is to deliver a balanced budget to the City Council every two years. As in recent years, the real work will be in finding ways to cut expenses in light of declining tax and fee revenues. Preliminary figures indicate that without those cuts, the city will be short by more than $1 million each year. The 2012-2013 budget message, prepared by City Finance Director Chip Corder, states that “much of

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Shelves almost empty at food bank

2012-2013 city budget cycle is underway

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Page 4 | Wednesday, October 10, 2012

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EYE ON MI | LIFE IN ART Each Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at the Mercer Island Community and Event Center, the life drawing class is open to students. The course, listed as #13354 in the Parks and Recreation event book, runs through Nov. 28. The class is each Wednesday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The class is an open workshop that allows participants to learn and improve drawing skills. Learn more by visiting the city’s website at www. mercergov.org. Photo by Max Read. If you have a photo or event to share with Mercer Island, contact us at editor@mi-reporter.com or by calling (206) 232-1215.

File Photo

The Hanukkah Eve storm of December 2006 hit the Island hard, blowing down trees and knocking out power lines such as here on West Mercer Way. The storm was a lightweight compared to the fury of the 1962 Columbus Day storm that began as a typhoon in the South Pacific Ocean.

STORM | FROM 1

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Mercer Island

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kickoff, the game was non-white people in Island stopped. It was too danger- schools.” ous to continue. Halftime When she and her family festivities with the pre- found a home on the Island sentation of a few years Homecoming earlier, the royalty and realtor said the crowning he could not of the queen, sell them the Miss Alyce house until Toda, were he had asked postponed. neighbors if Yet Toda, it was alright now Alyce with them. Arai, said that Both of she was not Arai’s parsorry that halfents had been time had been in Japanese cancelled. internment Reached by camps during t e l e p h o n e Homecoming Queen World War II. last week at Alyce Toda in the 1963 Even as late as her home in Mercer Island High School 1962, Japanese Seattle, she yearbook. were still said she was shunned. relieved. She “I was very had been dreading the shy and always felt odd,” moment. she said. “When I was a “I felt I was getting an freshman, I only looked at honor I didn’t deserve,” she the floor.” said. “I felt awful.” But she was not left out. “I am Japanese,” she A check of the Mercer explained. “My sister and I Island High School Class were the only Japanese or of 1963 yearbook confirms

that she was involved in many activities, including French Club, Spanish Club, Student Cabinet, Pep Club and Service Club, the yearbook staff and more. She even had a nickname, “Acey.” “The kids were extremely nice and accepted me,” she said. “They elected me to other things that I did not earn, like the drill team.” Of the abbreviated Homecoming game, she recalled the flowers she held and the wind. “Oh, that wind blew,” she remembered. The Homecoming dance was held on Saturday night, where the Homecoming royalty and their queen were finally crowned. The game against Bellevue had been finished that afternoon. To add insult to injury, Bellevue won the game, 7 to 6. As for Queen Alyce, she put her shyness behind her, perhaps inspired by her old classmates. “The kids at the school showed a lot of heart and compassion,” she said. “I will always remember that.”


REPORTER

Mercer Island

Wednesday, November 7, 2012 | 75¢

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Islanders in NYC find marathon cancelled

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MISD Town Hall meeting tonight The Mercer Island School District will host the second of three Town Hall meetings tonight, Wednesday, Nov. 7, from 7 to 9 p.m. at Islander Middle School. The meetings are to present information about building a new school and to get feedback from the community. The final Town Hall will be held on Thursday, Nov. 15, from 7 to 9 p.m. at Crest Learning Center.

Mercer Island couple arrives early before race, only to have it canceled day before event By Megan Managan

Election results online tonight

VFW Post 5760 will be handing out Buddy Poppies on Mercer Island on Nov. 10, ahead of Veterans Day, Nov. 11. Veterans will be handing out the poppies from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. On Sunday, Nov. 11, the VFW will recognize the holiday with a period of silence lasting two minutes beginning at 8 a.m., and the U.S. flag will be at half-staff during the rest of the day.

Veterans Day holiday closures Veterans Day this year lands on Sunday, Nov. 11, but many cities and other businesses will be observing the holiday on Monday, Nov. 12. On Nov. 12, City of Mercer Island offices will be closed, along with Mercer Island schools and the post office. The Mercer Island Library will be closed on Sunday, Nov. 11, and open on Monday, Nov. 12.

Navy pilot fought war on two fronts Captain Art Jacobson just received Bronze Star for service in WWII By Mary L. Grady

editor@mi-reporter.com

For Islander Art Jacobson, a Bronze Star for his meritorious service in World War II came 60 years late. His memories of those harrowing days have faded. He is 97 now, but his bearing and reserve are military. A hip replacement at age 92 has slowed him, but not too much. He still walks an hour each day at 10 a.m. He is not too sure what the fuss is about those months at war. You did what you were told and what

you had to do. In the days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, there was no time for questions. The career Navy man was born in Tacoma in 1915. He was always interested in flying, he said. Mechanically minded, he helped out at the service stations that his father owned around town. In high school, he and fellow students built a working glider. At 16, he was flying whenever he could afford to pay for the fuel. Later, he attended the University of Washington when he had money, working between semesters in the years after the stock market fell. Finally, he enlisted in the Navy and was sent to Florida for flight training in the late 1930s. His first assignment was Hawaii. He was later sent to the Philippines

in the months leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. He piloted amphibious PBY Catalinas. The PBY was the Navy’s “eyes in the sky” for the Pacific fleet. Their job was to search for, and locate, an enemy fleet hundreds of miles away from the fleet before it could attack. The Navy and President Roosevelt were keen to know what the Japanese were up to, and the PBY was the plane to do it. It had the range and ability to go to where the Japanese were and report on them. It was slow, not very maneuverable and did not have self-sealing fuel tanks or bulletproof armor for the crew or pilots. Regardless of its shortcomings, it was the only plane that the Navy had capable of doing the job. In the hours and days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese and their quick and deadly Zero fighters turned their attention to the American bases

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Honor veterans

U.S. Navy Photo

Navy Captain Arthur Jacobson, a pilot, top row, third from left, commanded crews on the amphibious PBY Catalina aircraft during the months after Pearl Harbor in both the Philippines and Alaska.

Less than a week after Superstorm Sandy caused chaos in the greater New York area, thousands of runners headed to the city for the annual New York City Marathon. Mercer Island resident Ginny Pietila and her husband, Bradley, decided to make the trip, though the couple whom they planned to travel with decided to defer their entry until next year. But after the Pietilas traveled across the country last Thursday, it was announced on Friday evening, New York time, that

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Page 2 | Wednesday, November 7, 2012

PILOT | FROM 1 in the Philippines. But after months of patrolling the Islands, the PBY pilots knew the territory well. They knew places where they could hide. They had learned to duck into the clouds. But there were many casualties. The PBYs were regularly strafed with bullets. The men kept broken pencils with them to plug the bullet holes in the plane. Bob Bergstrom, the son of Jacobson’s good friend and fellow Navy pilot, Captain Edward W. Bergstrom, has

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written extensively about the role of PBYs in the war. He was responsible for WWII PBY crews and pilots receiving the Bronze Star awards recently, including his father, now deceased, and his father’s old friend, Jacobson. In a recent story on the Orders and Medals Society of America website, Bergstrom described what the PBY fliers faced against the quicker and superior Zeros. “There were no real navigation aids, no maps. It was celestial navigation and dead reckoning at its best. The pilots observed what was around them. Sometimes

REPORTER

Mercer Island

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they would fly close to the sea to check the direction of the wind on the waves,” he wrote. When asked if he was ever afraid during these arduous patrols, Jacobson took a long pause. “Only just scared to death,” he said. The Zeros decimated U.S. bases and their aircraft in the Philippines. The pilots and crews were finally forced south and ended up in the Dutch East Indies after a series of marathon flights. They went on to Australia, where they only had the clothes on their backs when they arrived. They were exhausted and hungry. Within a few days, they were put on a ship and sent back to the states. After a short break stateside, Jacobson and other PBY pilots were sent to the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, where the Japanese had set up shop looking to extend their reach into North America. The extreme weather was hard on both the planes and the men who lived along the shore in canvas tents. The Japanese had invaded the Island of Kiska and bombed Dutch Harbor. The PBYs were placed on almost round-the-clock missions. Any and all PBYs were ordered to make bombing runs on Kiska Harbor during their normal patrol. The missions sometimes lasted

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Contributed Photo

Above, the amphibious PBY Catalina. Below, Art Jacobson and his wife, Lois, show off Jacobson’s new Bronze Star award, one of many collected by the pilot. Photos by Walker Stanberry.

U.S. Navy PBY Catalina Crew: 8 Length: 64 feet Wingspan: 104 ft. Max. weight: 35,420 lb Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp radial engines, 1,200 hp Range: 3,000 miles Maximum speed: 196 mph Armament: • Three .30 cal (7.62 mm) machine guns • Twin .50 cal (12.7 mm) machine guns • 4,000 lb (1,814 kg) of bombs or depth charges or torpedo 24 hours. The PBYs had to avoid attacking fighters and then “dive bomb” the ships through breaks in the fog. Many were lost. Most just disappeared, Jacobson said. “We would never know what happened to them. They would just not come back.” During all of this, a U.S. submarine went aground, leaving its crew stranded and vulnerable. Jacobson commanded three planes that went to pick up the men. “It was foggy,” he remembered. “We had to fly just 50 feet off the water.” They squeezed the additional men onto the already overloaded planes and slipped back over the waves. At some point during the

fighting in Alaska, Jacobson learned that he had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. There was no fuss or ceremony. The Navy had mailed the medal to his mother at home in Tacoma. Jacobson remained in the Navy for 35 years. Just after

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the war, he and his wife, Lois Jacobson, moved to a home on the South end, where they remain today. There they raised seven children. They now have 14 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Lois Jacobson has taught piano on two grand pianos in the basement for many years. The family owned a sixseat Piper Comanche airplane that they flew as far as South America. On one trip, they returned to Alaska, toting a motorcycle to get around. Jacobson last flew the plane on his 90th birthday. Bob Bergstrom contributed to this story.


Page 16 | Wednesday, November 28, 2012

MERCER ISLAND REPORTER | www.mi-reporter.com

Simple question sparks vocation offers needed help to priests who must manage the large On Oct. 27, Islander and parishes, such as St. Monica former Starbucks employee, on Mercer Island, on their Frank DiGirolamo, recited own. Permanent deacons (who vows and allegiance to the faith of the Roman Catholic are distinct from seminarChurch beneath the splen- ians on their way to final dor of the soaring Italian priestly vows) assist the local Renaissance ceilings of priest by visiting the sick, the 105-year-old St. James teaching the faith, counselCathedral in Seattle. Amid ing couples and individuals, the pomp of the ancient rites and working on parish comof ordination, DiGirolamo, mittees and councils. For DiGirolamo, a commitment a married to serving man, became the poor is a an ordained special part member of of his vocathe Catholic tion and Church clerduties. gy. It was a The role of a deacon in Deacon Frank DiGirolamo, process and St. Monica Church a journey, the Catholic he told the Church is to assist the priest in the Reporter last week, of his administration of a parish. path to the church. DiGirolamo, now 45, first He does not hold the sacred authority of an ordained considered a more formal priest. He cannot consecrate role in the church about 10 the offerings that are at the years ago, he said. “For me, heart of the mass. He can it was a more recent awakmarry couples and baptize ening than a lifelong goal.” “It wasn’t a deliberate babies, but most importantly By Mary L. Grady

editor@mi-reporter.com

“I am just a reflection of what this parish has given me.”

MEETING NOTICE Mercer Island School District

Unless otherwise noted, school board meetings are held at 4160 86th Avenue SE, Mercer Island, in the Board Room. Board meetings are held on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of every month. Regular board meetings begin at 7:00 pm.

Special School Board Meeting Monday December 10, 2012 6:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. City of Mercer Island Council Chambers 6:00 p.m. Call to Order Special Meeting Purpose: To receive updates from Transpo, Triangle Associates and EMC Research regarding Facilities Master Planning Partial Governance Process Monitoring* • Board Policy 1800 – OE-11: Facilities & Capital Assets 6:01 p.m. Transpo Update 7:00 p.m. Triangle Associates Report 8:00 p.m. EMC Research Presentation 8:30 p.m. Adjournment *action may be taken Agenda items are subject to change. Please verify agenda items by going to www.mercerislandschools.org/boardagendas

decision. It was something I had been moving toward,” he explained. “After I married, I started to think, ‘What am I called to do?’” he said. It was at Starbucks, ironically, when he finally gave voice to what he had begun to feel about a possible vocation with his church. “My supervisor asked each of us who were working for him what we would be doing if we were not in our [present] job,” he said. “I answered that I would probably be working for the Catholic Church.” It was an answer that he had neither prepared nor imagined he would say. Yet it was prophetic. Within 18 months, he had left the corporate world and was employed at St. Monica. DiGirolamo remains grateful for that question. The formal formation process for his new role took more than four years. He has been working for the church, here, for seven years. He does not believe that his new title makes him terribly special. “I am just a reflection of what this parish has given me,” he said. Deacons remain somewhat rare. On and off over the past couple of decades, deacons have been added to the church clergy. The number of priests, who must take a vow of celibacy, has dwindled dramatically. Active priests are getting older and retiring. Far fewer men are entering the priesthood. According to data on the Archdiocese of Seattle website, there were 485 ordained priests in Seattle in 1966. In 2010, that number has fallen

Stephen Brashear/Special to the Reporter

Islander Frank DiGirolamo lies on the altar at St. James Cathedral in Seattle, along with 21 other candidates for ordination as they prepare to take vows to become a permanent deacon in the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle. by a third. The number of deacons has grown from 24 in 1976 to 140 now. The addition of more deacons helps priests manage parishes and brings an

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element of the congregation itself into the mass. It all seems natural to DiGirolamo. “Having lay people leading the liturgy is how the church began,” he said. “It has always been part of the mass.” DiGirolamo will serve as a deacon for St. Monica Parish. St. Monica has about 1,450 families, or about 4,000 parishioners. As he stood on the altar at

St. James with the 21 other applicants for the deaconate, DiGirolamo said he thought of all the people who helped him on his journey to that moment. “I thought, we would not be standing there if we had not been invited,” he said. DiGirolamo and his wife, Shelley, live on Mercer Island with their daughter, Mary, who attends Holy Names Academy on Seattle’s Capitol Hill.

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Archbishop Peter Sartain blesses DiGirolamo during the ordination of deacons at St. James Cathedral on Oct. 27.


Page 10 | Wednesday, March 27, 2013

MERCER ISLAND REPORTER | www.mi-reporter.com

Without sight or words, Jim Holt taught himself and others This is the second of three stories about special education student, Jim Holt. By Mary L. Grady

editor@mi-reporter.com

Islander Middle School student Jim Holt, who died suddenly late last month at age 16, was a severely disabled special needs student. He was born with chromosomal abnormalities that left him both mentally and physically damaged. He needed constant care. He had little vision and was unable to speak. But over the years, his presence drew hundreds of caregivers, friends and admirers into his life. Over 400 people attended his funeral at the Mercer Island Presbyterian Church. Many called themselves members of ‘Team Jim,’ a group of friends, caregivers and supporters of Jim and his family; his mother Kathy Holt, his brother, Thomas Holt, his father, Steve Holt and stepmother Pattie Holt and her grown children. Despite his challenges, Jim was able to learn and communicate with others. Jim formed strong relationships with his caregivers without speaking. Jim drew others to him. School district staff from administrators to para-pros learned how to communicate and innovate in order to reach Jim. They were deliberate about including him in the life of the school. Through the efforts of his parents, teachers and fellow students, both adults and students were drawn to Jim

“The Homeguy”

and to helping other students with special needs. The staff at Islander Middle School still speaks of Jim in the first person. His teacher, Julie Riccio, is bereft. Riccio and the staff who worked with Jim do not speak of his disabilities. Instead they laugh and tell stories about what he

a quiet or shy student. He expressed himself loudly. IMS Principal Mary Jo Budzius said, “Jim was so much a part of our school. Now, it is just too quiet around here without him.” “He was everywhere,” she said. “And if he fell, he would get up and go on.” Back in his classroom, there was read-aloud time

Contributed Photo

Jim Holt was a student at Islander Middle School. accomplished. His school day was both ordinary and extraordinary, given his circumstances. He rode the bus, like other students. He came to his classroom with chores to do. It might be working with his friend, Sydney Elston, to take roll by pressing buttons on a slate with pictures of fellow students or collecting the mail for his teacher. Next, he rode his bright green custom-built bike with his feet strapped firmly into the pedals, on a circuit through the IMS school hallways. It was part of his daily regimen to put in a mile on the bike. It helped the strengthen his lungs, Riccio said. But it also allowed Jim to make himself known to staff and students throughout the building. He was not

and music. He attended the regular choir class, school assemblies, went to lunch with his friends, Jeffery and Tommy, and basked in the attention of his peer mentors. He liked to lay on the floor with his legs outstretched. Soon after he would be positioned on a blanket or a mat, he might pull himself over to the doorway, just as a principal or visitor might pass by. Once a week, Jim and the other students from his classroom would walk or wheel down to the QFC store at the South end shopping center, where they would shop for ‘healthy snacks.’ They had bright yellow ponchos to wear on rainy days. His mental development was of an infant less than

a year old. But Jim had 16 years of experience to build on, Riccio said. Before his four years at the middle school, Jim was a student at Island Park Elementary School, and he perfected pulling himself up off the floor by hanging onto a chair or a table and walking a few steps. He might ‘chase’ his special education teacher, Kristy Kenyon around the tables. “It was always so fun to see how far he would go to ‘get me,’” she wrote to his family of her memories of having him in her classroom. “In what would normally be a simple game, I know Jim used everything he had to keep up,” she said. Kenyon and para-pro Jim Berrington (aka Big Jim) helped him transition to middle school, training the staff there and easing ‘Little Jim’ into his new classroom. Kenyon remembers that Little Jim was always calm when Big Jim was with him. “Big Jim would always be talking with him,” she said. Holly Pratt remembers Jim from her time working at Island Park. She fed him (through a gastrostomy tube or G-Tube) and ferried him to recess. “All the other kids loved Jim,” she wrote. “Many would come up to him and grab his hand and talk to him — particularly the girls. In his special way, I know he loved the attention,” Pratt said. At the middle school, para-pro Kamma Scott was hired for just an hour a day to help out at the resource room. Jim was the first student she met and worked with. Within the week, they added two more hours for her to work. She began to ride the school bus with Jim to and from school every

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day. She is now full-time. “I class, the most popular am hooked now,” she said class,” they agreed. of her job. There are 37 students “Every time I was with who have applied to be Jim, I felt good about in the class this trimester myself,” she said. “I knew I alone, Riccio said. was making a difference.” The peer mentorship Both she and others program has had many agreed that despite his chal- benefits. It teaches patience lenges, he was both inde- and empathy. pendent and strong. It has become a way to “He was his own person,” build support and advocacy they said. for special needs students. Nikki Dellinger, a cerAnd for middle school tified special education kids, it was one period a teacher, said she was a little day when you don’t have apprehensive at first about to judge yourself, Riccio working with Jim. She knew noted. he had a set of complex He was a strong, determedical issues. mined soul. He made you Yet she soon found out feel grateful for what you that Jim was not breakable. have. He was present and able to Riccio credits the school communicate. administrators for being Jim made people feel supportive of all special like they were valued with- needs students. “They are out demanding that much always finding ways for attention. He was not a things to happen, how to high-needs student, but he include my kids,” she said. would let you know what Programs at the middle he wanted or needed, she school in areas such as explained. music and art, and even sciJim’s friend, Sydney, knew ence, are tweaked to include what is was like to be some- everyone. one different. And she credits the con“Like Jim, I am different,” stant involvement and carsaid Elston, who has a form ing of Jim’s family. of autism. “I know what it is Every fall and many like to be different.” times in between, Kathy Sydney was often Jim’s Holt would come to train ‘ A A A the staff in chauffeur,’” her son’s care, she said, how to feed guiding him through a his wheeltube every two chair down hours, and to QFC how to deal Mary Jo Budzius on Friday principal IMS with a seizure afternoons. or a crisis. S h e Even on the noted that Jim was just morning of her son’s funerlearning how to do a fist al, Kathy Holt came by to bump. visit with many of the staff She will miss him. involved in Jim’s life. Friends and peers like “She was worried about Sydney are an important us,” Riccio said. part of the special educaHis father Steve Holt and tion program at Islander. stepmother, Pattie, came Scott and para-pro Megan by a few days later to give Atkinson pointed to Riccio Riccio a special gift. It is as the one who started the a baby blanket that had student mentoring program belonged to Jim. It was a at the school, and has made gift for her first child, due it into a success. in May. “It has become the ‘cool’

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Mary L. Grady  

1. A gift for learning, an aptitude for adventure 2. A storm, a football game and a queen 3. Navy pilot fought war on two fronts 4. Simple q...

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