Don Sarver hangs up a Green Mountain Lookout steward banner on the exterior of the structure on Aug. 31. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

Don Sarver hangs up a Green Mountain Lookout steward banner on the exterior of the structure on Aug. 31. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

The stories we told: A look back at The Herald’s features of 2019

Twelve stories — one for each month — about the people, places and things that made for a memorable year.

There was no shortage of interesting folks, icons and trends to write about in Herald Features in 2019.

We told you about the pilots who, when hungry for flying time, take off for $100 burgers at airports around the Sound.

You read about the black-and-white portraits of students at Edmonds Community College who show the college’s international scope.

And we can’t forget the story of Billy Sturman, the Everett Western wear merchant who was honored by a museum for his leadership in the local Jewish community.

And that’s just a taste. Reporter Sharon Salyer got the scoop on how volunteers turned a historic gym into the new Startup Event Center. Features editor Sara Bruestle interviewed the top cookie seller among the Girl Scouts of Western Washington. She’s an 11-year-old from Lynnwood. Reporter Evan Thompson summited Green Mountain Lookout, perched at 6,500 feet about 17 miles east of Darrington.

Here’s a look back at some of the people, places and things that made for a memorable year.

LaVendrick Smith, who decided he wanted a career in journalism while still at Mariner High School, now works as a breaking-news reporter for the Dallas Morning News. (Joon Lee)

LaVendrick Smith, who decided he wanted a career in journalism while still at Mariner High School, now works as a breaking-news reporter for the Dallas Morning News. (Joon Lee)

His fast-rising journalism career began in Mukilteo

He’s at home in a newsroom.

LaVendrick Smith, a Mariner High School grad, is now a reporter for the Dallas Morning News. Before that, he interned at The Washington Post, The Seattle Times and several other major newspapers.

But before all those newsrooms, he worked in mine.

Smith, 25, was my reporter intern at the weekly Mukilteo Beacon, where I was the editor, in 2011 and 2012. He was just 17 when he started. He helped me cover Mukilteo, a city of 21,000.

Now he’s writing breaking news for Dallas, Texas, with a population of 1.3 million.

“I had a lot of the same goals that most reporters do,” Smith said. “I wanted to go to the East Coast. I wanted to work in New York. Those things were on my mind.”

Back then he thought he had it all figured out: He’d go to Northwestern University and get a job at The New York Times.

But he didn’t go to Northwestern.

— Sara Bruestle

Aly Gustavson, 11, in her sixth year as a Girl Scout, sold 3,200 cookies this year. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

Aly Gustavson, 11, in her sixth year as a Girl Scout, sold 3,200 cookies this year. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

She sold 3,200 boxes of Girl Scout cookies this year

Aly Gustavson’s goal to sell a hundred more boxes of Girl Scout cookies than last year seemed reasonable.

But then you find out that the 11-year-old from Lynnwood sold 2,300 boxes in 2018.

“My goal was to sell 2,400 boxes, but I didn’t want to stop selling because then I could get more cookie dough (Girl Scout lingo for cash and prizes),” Aly said.

So the fifth-grader who attends Edmonds Heights K-12 didn’t stop after selling 100 more. She didn’t stop after 200 more. Or even 300 more.

She sold 3,200 boxes of cookies this year, making her the top seller among the Girl Scouts of Western Washington. This year 16,045 girls in Western Washington sold 4.2 million packages. Thirty-nine girls sold 2,000 or more boxes and 537 girls sold more than 1,000 boxes.

— Sara Bruestle

After flying in from Arlington, pilot Todd Bohon gets a laugh from fellow pilots (from left) Dan Tarasievich, Trisa Jackson and Ryan LaPointe during breakfast at the Spruce Goose Cafe in Port Townsend. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

After flying in from Arlington, pilot Todd Bohon gets a laugh from fellow pilots (from left) Dan Tarasievich, Trisa Jackson and Ryan LaPointe during breakfast at the Spruce Goose Cafe in Port Townsend. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

When these pilots take off, a $100 burger is the destination

Whenever Ryan LaPointe is hungry for flying time in his plane, he goes for a $100 hamburger.

Or whatever’s on the menu at his destination.

LaPointe has flown to Port Townsend for pie at the Spruce Goose Cafe, to Tacoma for pizza at The Hub, and to Arlington for bacon and eggs from Ellie’s at the Airport. He’s even flown 142 miles, from Bremerton to Portland, Oregon, just for donuts.

On a recent Saturday, he flew over to Langley for his favorite breakfast at Mukilteo Coffee Roasters.

The flights in his restored 1955 Piper PA-16 Clipper aren’t cheap, but that doesn’t bother him.

“You don’t look at the cost,” LaPointe, a Bremerton resident who graduated from Marysville-Pilchuck High School in 2000. “You scrape it together because you love it.”

It’s a pastime known as the “$100 hamburger,” which is aviation slang for a trip that involves flying a short distance (less than two hours), eating at a restaurant near the runway, then flying home. The $100 refers to the approximate cost of flying round-trip. And no, pilots don’t always order a burger.

— Evan Thompson

Evan Thompson and his father, Jim Thompson, near a restored B-52 at Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park in Tukwila. The elder Thompson served in Vietnam, and credits the bomber for helping him survive the war. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Evan Thompson and his father, Jim Thompson, near a restored B-52 at Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park in Tukwila. The elder Thompson served in Vietnam, and credits the bomber for helping him survive the war. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

What I learned about my father through the Vietnam War

I’m here because the shrapnel that would have pierced my dad’s heart struck the 20-round magazine of his M16 instead.

It wasn’t his first or last near-death experience as a Marine in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969, but none of the others resonated like that chunk of steel meant to kill him.

After the “holy crap” moment wore off, he didn’t think too deeply about his luck; mostly he just hoped one day would pass mercifully into the next so he could complete his 13-month tour and go home.

But 51 years later, it’s never far from his mind. Neither are the friends he lost, the countless acts of bravery he witnessed and the men he served with in the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, nicknamed “The Walking Dead” during the Vietnam War for having the highest casualty rate in the Marine Corps.

I’m thankful Dad, Jim Thompson, 73, can talk about these things. Not all combat veterans can. But his stories over the years only told me so much. I still wish I could spend one day in his shoes in Vietnam, just so we could see eye-to-eye and grow closer as father and son.

— Evan Thompson 

Billy Sturman, seen here in 1984 at his shop, Billy’s Men’s and Boy’s Western Wear on Hewitt Avenue in Everett, is featured in a new online museum exhibit. (Jim Leo / Herald file)

Billy Sturman, seen here in 1984 at his shop, Billy’s Men’s and Boy’s Western Wear on Hewitt Avenue in Everett, is featured in a new online museum exhibit. (Jim Leo / Herald file)

The Western wear seller who helped build Everett’s synagogue

The sepia-toned photo was taken in 1942. Father and son stand side-by-side, all smiles, in the front yard of their Everett home. The boy, 8-year-old Mel Sturman, is dressed as a cowboy.

“In those days, a man used to go around with a pony and would knock on people’s doors and say, ‘Do you want to have a picture of your kids on a pony?’ and most people would say yes,” said Mel Sturman, explaining the photo.

But cowboy garb was nothing unusual for young Mel. His father, Billy Sturman, owned a Western wear store in Everett.

The life of Billy Sturman (1908-2002), an Everett icon for generations, is a new featured exhibit at the online Washington Jewish Museum. That photo of father and son is one of many included in the exhibit.

Sturman ran Billy’s Men’s and Boy’s Western Wear store on Hewitt Avenue for nearly 70 years. He was also instrumental in establishing Temple Beth Or in Everett, Snohomish County’s Jewish synagogue.

— Sara Bruestle

Richard Bergman (left) helps Rick Cross finish the bathroom partitions that will be installed in the renovated Startup Event Center. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

Richard Bergman (left) helps Rick Cross finish the bathroom partitions that will be installed in the renovated Startup Event Center. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

Get ’er done: Volunteers in Startup save town’s historic gym

The strength of friendship is measured by who you turn to when you need help.

For Rick Cross, that moment came several years ago as he worked on a community project to rehab the nearly 80-year-old Startup Gym. He contacted his long-time friend Richard Bergman.

“He said, ‘Come over here, I want some advice on plumbing,’” Bergman recalled. “It was more than advice. I ended up helping him.”

The day Bergman met his buddy at the gym, he saw a 7,000-square-foot building with big holes in the roof, floors that were rotted, windows that were shattered and its exterior paint peeling.

“This whole building was about to fall down,” he said.

Still, Bergman, a career member of a plumbers and steamfitters union, didn’t think salvaging the structure was impossible. “Being in construction my whole life, anything is doable,” he said.

It was a vision of what the historical building could be — an arts center, a place for community events and even a wedding venue — that launched the renovation effort in 2015.

Four years and thousands of volunteer hours later, the Startup Event Center will be dedicated during a community celebration.

— Sharon Salyer

Summit stewards make the steep trek to Green Mountain Lookout

Don and Stacy Sarver arrived at the peak exhausted and out of breath, yet an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment washed over them.

The Everett couple strained under heavy packs during their 4-mile climb to Green Mountain Lookout, an isolated cabin perched at 6,500 feet overlooking the North Cascades and Glacier Peak Wilderness.

They hauled enough supplies for their stay over the Labor Day weekend — three days and two nights — including sleeping bags, water, food, portable stoves and clothes.

Green Mountain Lookout, about 17 miles east of Darrington, is closed most of the year. Volunteer stewards like the Sarvers open the lookout in the summer to teach hikers about the surroundings, flora and fauna, and the history of the structure. The lookout will be periodically manned through September.

The program, launched in 2016 by the Darrington Ranger District and Washington Trails Association, also trains stewards to report fires, help with search and rescues, and perform maintenance; one of the Sarvers’ tasks was starting repairs on a neglected toilet near the peak.

During their downtime, stewards relax and pass the time however they want. The Sarvers made coffee — a small reward after four hours of hiking steep traverses, made even better by views of snow-capped mountains, green valleys, flowing rivers and milky clouds in every direction.

With every sip, the grueling climb with its 3,300-foot elevation gain felt more and more like a distant memory. They were finally home for the weekend.

— Evan Thompson

Steven Greenebaum talks about his new book, “One Family: Indivisible,” at Third Eye Books in Lake Forest Park. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Steven Greenebaum talks about his new book, “One Family: Indivisible,” at Third Eye Books in Lake Forest Park. (Kevin Clark / Herald file) Purchase Photo

Lynnwood man walked the path to a faith of inclusiveness

There’s a verse in the Koran that illustrates how Steven Greenebaum, a lifelong Jew, sees the world.

“We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another,” it reads.

Breaking down denominational lines is Greenebaum’s life work. He’s the founder of Living Interfaith Church in Lynnwood, which embraces all religions and focuses on secular ethical teachings that unite all faiths: love, compassion and harmony.

“This is one of the things I love about interfaith: I can sit down as a Jew with someone who is Christian and someone who is Buddhist,” he said. “It’s not that we won’t get mad at each other occasionally and storm out of the room in disgust. At the end of the day, we’re still family, whether we’re white, black, brown, yellow, red, Jews, Muslim, Baha’i or whatever.”

Greenebaum, 71, of Lynnwood, is the author of three books on interfaith. His latest, “One Family: Indivisible,” out this month, is a spiritual memoir about how significant events in his life led him down his spiritual path.

He was minister of Living Interfaith Church for about a decade until stepping down this summer. He wore vestments with the symbols of nearly a dozen religions, advocated for social and environmental justice, human rights and mutual respect between faiths, and invited congregations to talk about their respective religions.

Greenebaum began writing his memoir five years ago, but he felt a sense of urgency to finish it because of political strife under the Trump administration — especially the president’s stance on immigration and Muslims.

He hopes readers will be encouraged to celebrate the differences between religions, cultures and ideologies, rather than fear them.

“We are constantly being encouraged to fear each other,” he said. “I just don’t see it that way.”

— Evan Thompson

Edmonds Community College student Peris Nganda, from Kenya, is one of 22 international students featured in Michael Wewer’s “Origin/Identity/Belonging” show. (Michael Wewer)

Edmonds Community College student Peris Nganda, from Kenya, is one of 22 international students featured in Michael Wewer’s “Origin/Identity/Belonging” show. (Michael Wewer)

They came to the college from 16 countries, but this is home

Twenty-two black-and-white portraits line the walls of Edmonds Community College’s gallery.

Their large size — 24 by 30 inches — creates an intimacy with each man or woman pictured, as if each is inviting the viewer to learn more about their stories.

Nearby is a notebook filled with short essays written by each person in the exhibit. All photographed are current or former EdCC students. They came to the college from 16 countries, spanning a geography from Central and South America to Africa and the Middle East — the fruition of an idea that began in 2012.

Michael Wewer, who teaches photography at the college, took six years to finish a project involving photographs of some of the college’s international students.

Wewer said that part of his interest grew out of the number of international students he has in his classes. They comprise about a third of the students he teaches each quarter.

Of the college’s current enrollment of 10,600 students, about 1,200 have come to the U.S. from 62 countries.

Many came to the college not knowing anyone, not speaking English fluently. But they had a sense of comfort being at place where they were encouraged to pursue their goals.

— Sharon Salyer

Jacky Lichtenthaler puts the finishing touches on a Yule log at L’Artisan. (Andy Bronson/ Herald file)

Jacky Lichtenthaler puts the finishing touches on a Yule log at L’Artisan. (Andy Bronson/ Herald file)

Everett’s master French baker shares his Yule log secrets

On frosty December mornings, as the holidays near, you may very well see a crowd gathering in front of a bakery in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Everett.

They’re like children staring in wonderment at a department store window at Christmastime. Except they’re not looking at toys — they’re watching a master pastry chef at work.

The master is Jacky Lichtenthaler, who draws on his 50 years in the field to create a special once-a-year confectionery: a Yule log, or as Jacky, who was born in France, calls it, “buche de Noel.”

As Christmas approaches, orders for the seasonal specialty flow in like an avalanche — as many as 300 customers count on having the rich but oh-so-light delicacy for their celebrations.

“At Christmas it’s like 32 hours straight,” he said, “and we’ve got cakes and pastries to do. People say: ‘You’re crazy!’ ”

He smiles, though, as he tells the story of crowds standing at the window to watch him work.

— Sharon Salyer

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