Graystone Castle is a 22,000-square-foot luxury home that sits on 5 arces near Arlington. (Graystone Castle)
Graystone Castle is a 22,000-square-foot luxury home that sits on 5 arces near Arlington. (Graystone Castle)

Graystone Castle is a 22,000-square-foot luxury home that sits on 5 arces near Arlington. (Graystone Castle) Graystone Castle is a 22,000-square-foot luxury home that sits on 5 arces near Arlington. (Graystone Castle)

The stories we told: A look back at The Herald’s features of 2020

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

Even with the coronavirus, there was no shortage of interesting folks, icons and trends to write about in Herald Features in 2020.

We told you about rockhounds who found a 16,000-pound jade boulder near Darrington — which just may be the largest discovery of its kind in Washington.

You read about Lee Oskar’s benefit concert to preserve the the 117-year old Historic Everett Theatre, which is struggling financially. Oskar played the harmonica in the 1970s funk band War.

And we can’t forget the feature on Judy Matheson, whose shop — J. Matheson Gifts, Kitchen and Gourmet in Everett — has been voted the county’s best gift stop The Daily Herald’s Reader’s Choice awards five years in a row.

And that’s just a taste. Reporter Sharon Salyer got the scoop on a new behavioral health urgent care service Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. Reporter Evan Thompson interviewed the voice of Skipper, the leader of the penguins in “Madagascar.” The Hollywood voice actor is from Lynnwood. Features editor Sara Bruestle visited Flying Fortress Farm, a family operation run on a 5-acre parcel just north of Granite Falls, to see the farm’s flock of turkeys.

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

Graystone Castle is a 22,000-square-foot luxury home that sits on 5 arces near Arlington. (Graystone Castle)
Graystone Castle is a 22,000-square-foot luxury home that sits on 5 arces near Arlington. (Graystone Castle)

Graystone Castle is a 22,000-square-foot luxury home that sits on 5 arces near Arlington. (Graystone Castle) Graystone Castle is a 22,000-square-foot luxury home that sits on 5 arces near Arlington. (Graystone Castle)

This sprawling Arlington mansion is fit for a king

Pictures don’t do Graystone Castle justice.

The 22,000-square-foot luxury home near Arlington sits on 5 acres of lawn overlooking the Stillaguamish River and the Stilly Valley.

The $4.1 million mansion features seven bedrooms, 10 bathrooms plus a spa-inspired master bath, movie theater, library, ballroom, chefs’ kitchen, billiards room, poker room, four dining rooms and four living rooms. In the basement is a life-sized chess set and arcade games. In addition to the great lawn, there are many terraces and green spaces, as well as a fire pit.

Owner Dmitriy Zakharin has been buying and rehabbing million-dollar luxury properties for about 10 years in Washington — although he recently bought a house in Oregon. Think the Street of Dreams.

The Arlington castle is the real-estate investor’s only vacation rental.

And it’s a popular one. Nearly every weekend at Graystone Castle is booked out through June. There are just four spots left. It’s in the highest demand around Christmas.

“With a property of this size, the list of amenities and features of each room would be quite long, but all you need to know when you book this amazing property is that you won’t want to leave,” said Emily Peterson, estate manager for Graystone Castle. “It literally has everything.”

— Sara Bruestle

Norma Vasquez makes a splash in the Reiter Foothills Forest on a tour by Index-based Chinook ATV’s Expeditions. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Norma Vasquez makes a splash in the Reiter Foothills Forest on a tour by Index-based Chinook ATV’s Expeditions. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Tour company leads ATV treks through county’s foothills

There’s beauty to be found in the Reiter Foothills State Forest, but it takes a bumpy ride to get there.

With 30 miles of trails for all-terrain vehicles, the 15-square-mile recreation area between Gold Bar and Index is a mecca for ATV buffs.

That’s where Chinook ATV Expeditions comes in.

The Index tour company leads half-day and overnight excursions into the forest throughout the year. The half-day tours, the most popular option, can accommodate up to four drivers of all skill levels. All safety gear is provided.

Riders steer the ATVs across the Reiter Foothills’ hilly landscape, pausing to admire gushing waterfalls and panoramic views.

Anthony Henry-Vega, Chinook co-owner and lead guide, grew up riding the foothills on a dirt bike. He doesn’t take any of its beauty for granted.

“I love it,” he said. “It’s my Shangri-La.”

— Evan Thompson

Lee Oskar plays his harmonica at his Everett home. The musician, best known for playing in the 1970s funk-rock fusion band War, performed at a benefit concert for the Historic Everett Theatre. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

Lee Oskar plays his harmonica at his Everett home. The musician, best known for playing in the 1970s funk-rock fusion band War, performed at a benefit concert for the Historic Everett Theatre. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

Harmonica legend Lee Oskar rallies to save Everett’s theater

Renowned harmonica player Lee Oskar says it’s time for the community to step up to preserve the Historic Everett Theatre, which could be put up for sale later this year.

Everett resident Oskar, who played in the 1970s funk band War, is doing his part.

All ticket sales from Lee Oskar & Friends’ concert will be donated to preservation of the 117-year old Everett landmark, which is struggling financially.

“They run the theater almost on a shoestring,” he said. “I’m hoping that anybody who hears about it will help out.”

The 800-seat theater’s events include a variety of musical groups, comedians, and the screening of silent movies accompanied by live pipe organ music. And then there’s the sprinkling of the unexpected, like the upcoming stunt dog performance.

“Frankly, the city deserves this theater,” said Curt Shriner, the theater’s manager. “Lee knows how important a theater like this is and is stepping up.”

— Sharon Salyer

Ijeoma Oluo, bestselling author of “So You Want to Talk About Race,” is a keynote speaker for this year’s Edge of Amazing health summit.

Ijeoma Oluo, bestselling author of “So You Want to Talk About Race,” is a keynote speaker for this year’s Edge of Amazing health summit.

Author to discuss the connection between race and health

Ijeoma Oluo wants you to know the pandemic is a stark reminder that race is closely related to physical and mental well-being.

Oluo, bestselling author of “So You Want to Talk About Race,” will deliver that message and more in her keynote speech at a Snohomish County health.

Oluo is a writer, speaker and self-proclaimed “internet yeller” on racial, sexual, economic and gender issues. She is the author of “So You Want to Talk About Race,” an examination of race in America, “Mediocre,” a history of white male American identity and “The Badass Feminist Coloring Book,” featuring 45 sketches of her favorite feminists.

As one of one of Seattle’s strongest voices for social justice, Oluo has attracted a Twitter following of more than 281,200. She helped launch The Establishment, a woman-run news and opinion website where she was an editor-at-large from 2015 to 2019. Oluo also was the winner of the Feminist Humanist Award by the American Humanist Society in 2018.

She will speak at the sixth annual Edge of Amazing, a virtual health summit hosted by the Providence Institute for a Healthier Community.

“We’re going to talk about race and physical and mental health, and how they work together,” Oluo said. “There are many ways in which they do and always have. When we look at indicators for life expectancy, health and well-being, race is one of the primary indicators of how you will fare in life.”

— Sara Bruestle

Julius Wilson’s artwork can be seen at Zoey’s Fried Chicken Sandwiches on Casino Road in south Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Julius Wilson’s artwork can be seen at Zoey’s Fried Chicken Sandwiches on Casino Road in south Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Everett artist paints the heroes who inspired his journey

If you’re starved for art and chicken sandwiches, go to Zoey’s Fried Chicken Sandwiches in south Everett.

Owner Aissa M’baye has adorned her restaurant’s red walls with a series in pastels titled “Not All Heroes Wear Capes” by artist Julius Wilson.

It’s not exactly an art exhibit. But after 73 days of quarantine, it’s close enough.

Wilson, 34, of Everett, is a self-taught illustrator, painter and sculptor. He took just one art class while a student at Highland High School in Palmdale, California. It stayed with him.

He’s a jack-of-all-trades from Southern California who moved to Everett three years ago for a contract job at Aviation Technical Services. When the coronavirus hit Everett, Wilson was laid off from Jamco, where he worked as an aircraft interior technician.

Now unemployed, Wilson has had more time to work in his sketchbook. With his commission at Zoey’s, he’s launched his passion into a new career.

“Not All Heroes Wear Capes” is a catchphrase that gained in popularity with the COVID-19 emergency. It serves as a reminder that you don’t have to be a superhero to be heroic.

— Sara Bruestle

Arlington prospector Ed Molsee stands in front of a 16,000-pound jade boulder, he and fellow prospector Jason Henry, of Marblemount, discovered in the Darrington area. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

Arlington prospector Ed Molsee stands in front of a 16,000-pound jade boulder, he and fellow prospector Jason Henry, of Marblemount, discovered in the Darrington area. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

Rockhounds unearth a righteous gemstone near Darrington

Jason Henry was on the verge of giving up when he made the greatest geological discovery of his life.

Henry, 38, a Darrington native who lives in Marblemount, spent the summer prospecting for the valuable gemstone nephrite jade near Helena Ridge, about 10 miles south of his hometown. After seeing jade from the area displayed in Darrington businesses, he was inspired to go looking for it. But coming home empty-handed was wearing him thin.

Nephrite, known for its green varieties, is a form of jade created from colliding tectonic plates. It’s one of the most valuable gemstones in the world, along with its counterpart, jadeite, which is most commonly found in Burma and Guatemala.

British Columbia is the largest producer and exporter of nephrite in the world — a $10-million-a-year business for jewelry and ornamental carvings — but it’s far less common in Washington. There was, however, a glimmer of hope for Henry; jade had been mined in the foothills surrounding Darrington for years.

Then, following the advice of his mentor, longtime rockhound Ed Molsee, 72, of Arlington, Henry tracked a vein of serpentine (a metamorphic mineral typically found near nephrite) up the ridge. He stood at the top of the outcropping and prayed. He didn’t know it yet, but he was looking at the top of an 8-ton nephrite boulder.

Experts with the Washington Department of Natural Resources and British Columbia’s Jade West Group agreed that it may be the largest jade discovery in Washington.

— Evan Thompson

Laura Knapp (left), director of behavioral health, and counselor Jordan Larkin-Sinn (right) inside the new Behavioral Health Urgent Care Unit at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

Laura Knapp (left), director of behavioral health, and counselor Jordan Larkin-Sinn (right) inside the new Behavioral Health Urgent Care Unit at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

Urgent mental health care clinic, a rarity, opens in Everett

Think of it as a walk-in clinic for adults with mental health issues.

This service, called behavioral health urgent care, is available at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. It’s thought to be the only such service in the state that’s part of a hospital campus.

“We are thrilled to have one more real resource to give to people who call in crisis,” said Karen Schilde, a board member of the Snohomish County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The shortage of psychiatrists and other mental-health specialists in the county makes it nearly impossible to get a timely initial assessment or even a crisis appointment for help. “That’s the niche I think they’ll be filling,” Schilde said.

Adults come to the clinic for anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, postpartum depression, divorce and the loss of a loved one.

“It’s like if you have a cold or the flu, you would go to an urgent care clinic,” said Laura Knapp, Providence’s director of behavioral health. “What I tell people is if you find you’re in a behavioral health crisis and don’t know where to turn, we are the perfect place to be seen.”

No one will be turned away due to lack of health insurance. The cost of the office visit is roughly the same as going to an urgent care clinic for medical care.

— Sharon Salyer

Rich Davis works on the deck of his home in Mukilteo on June 11. The deck isn’t 100% finished, but is far enough along for the Davis family to use it. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Rich Davis works on the deck of his home in Mukilteo on June 11. The deck isn’t 100% finished, but is far enough along for the Davis family to use it. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Mukilteo man’s pandemic project: A 500-square-foot deck

Rich Davis had never built a deck before, but he figured a pandemic was the perfect time to try it.

The Davis family moved into their Mukilteo home 15 years ago. The deck built with the house in 1986 was failing, so they had a decision to make: continue with costly repairs, resurface it or rebuild the deck from the ground up.

Davis, 57, planned to resurface the 500-square-foot deck, but after tearing off the boards, he saw that it needed more work than he thought.

A project that he estimated would cost $6,000 turned into one with a $15,000 price tag. But it was worth it.

The deck now has two levels — the bottom is 8 by 12 feet and the top is 16 by 20. They expanded the bottom level so that the family can barbecue from there. Davis even installed cabinets for grilling storage.

Davis rebuilt the deck with the help of his 24-year-old son. Quentin was furloughed from his job at the Seattle Golf Club at the time, so he’d stop by the house nearly every day to help his father.

Neither of them had built so much as a spice cabinet before, let alone demolish and then replace a 500-square-foot-deck.

“I was kind of worried because he’d never done a deck before,” wife Yumi Davis said. “In the middle of the project, I was like, ‘Should we call a professional?’ But he did a good job. He’s a pro now.”

— Sara Bruestle

Jennie Warmouth leads her class to an exhibit of two grizzly bears at the Woodland Park Zoo. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Jennie Warmouth leads her class to an exhibit of two grizzly bears at the Woodland Park Zoo. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Lynnwood teacher’s Arctic trip inspires kids to ditch plastic

After a trip to the Arctic on a National Geographic fellowship, Jennie Warmouth is bringing her adventures into the classroom.

Warmouth, a second-grade teacher at Lynnwood’s Spruce Elementary School, made it her mission to find ways to share not only the beautiful images of her trip, but to demonstrate to her students how that environment was changing and imperiled.

At a school assembly, Warmouth shared photos of her trip, including one of plastics found on the Arctic beach. The trash looked similar to the plastic sporks used in the school’s lunchroom. Students wondered: Just how many of those non-reusable plastic utensils were being used — and thrown away — at the school each year?

The math was pretty simple: The sporks cost 15 cents each. Some 385 sporks were thrown out each day of the 180-day school year, costing $1,039.50 a year. Replacing them with metal forks and spoons would cost $200, saving about $800 annually.

The students’ idea to replace plastic with reusable lunchroom utensils was soon approved, stopping the disposal of more than 89,000 sporks during a school year.

And the way to stop students from throwing them away? Have fellow students, dressed in green vests with badges, stand guard at the garbage cans. If a piece of silverware accidentally is thrown away, the students have grabbers and reach wands with magnetic tips to hoist it out.

— Sharon Salyer

Jeremy Ballinger feeds his Thanksgiving turkeys at Flying Fortress Farm near Granite Falls. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

Jeremy Ballinger feeds his Thanksgiving turkeys at Flying Fortress Farm near Granite Falls. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

This ‘beyond organic’ farm raises turkeys, chickens and more

Most of the Thanksgiving turkeys Jeremy and Heather Ballinger ordered in the mail this year showed up dead.

The turkeys were victims of United States Postal Service delays. As they opened the boxes, the Ballingers prayed that they’d find live chicks inside.

“It was really sad to see them all dead in the box,” Heather Ballinger said. “We knew they had been in the mail for too long, so it wasn’t a huge surprise. I just felt so sorry for them. They had essentially starved to death.”

They were depressed by the count. Only 10 of the 55 chicks they unboxed were still alive.

He was afraid he’d be laughed off the phone when trying to order more turkeys, but he did it anyway. After making a lot of frantic calls to his fellow farmers, Jeremy managed to get 50 more turkeys shipped out. The chicks arrived a week later, all of them alive.

Such is life on Flying Fortress Farm, a family operation run on a 5-acre parcel just north of Granite Falls. In addition to turkeys, the farm offers pasture-raised chickens, rabbits, pork and eggs.

It’s turkey time right now. Their flock of broad-breasted white turkeys will soon be ready for the Thanksgiving table. Broad-breasted turkeys take about 17 weeks to reach a weight of 16 to 20 pounds.

— Sara Bruestle

Lynnwood native Tom McGrath arrives at the 75th annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, California, in 2018. (Associated Press)

Lynnwood native Tom McGrath arrives at the 75th annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, California, in 2018. (Associated Press)

Lynnwood native is the voice of Skipper in ‘Madagascar’

You may know him best as the voice of Skipper, the leader of the penguins in “Madagascar.”

Tom McGrath, 55, is a Hollywood voice actor, animator, film director and screenwriter with A-list credits to his name. Of course, there’s “Madagascar” and its sequels. But he also worked on “Shrek the Third,” “Puss in Boots,” “The Boss Baby” and “Megamind.” Stuff that makes hundreds of millions at the box office.

He’s rubbed shoulders with the likes of Alec Baldwin, Angelina Jolie and John Malkovich. Ron Howard is one of his mentors.

Oh, also: He hails from Lynnwood.

McGrath is much more than the voice of Skipper in the “Madagascar” franchise. He also is credited as a director, writer and creator of the movies, and is a creative consultant on the television show.

“I love being a goofball,” said McGrath, who now lives in Burbank, California. “I have to say, when you hear your voice … booming throughout the theater, it’s really an existential experience.”

— Evan Thompson

At J. Matheson Gifts, Kitchen and Gourmet, Judy Matheson presents an amazing selection of gifts. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
At J. Matheson Gifts, Kitchen and Gourmet, Judy Matheson presents an amazing selection of gifts. (Dan Bates / Herald file)

At J. Matheson Gifts, Kitchen and Gourmet, Judy Matheson presents an amazing selection of gifts. (Dan Bates / The Herald) At J. Matheson Gifts, Kitchen and Gourmet, Judy Matheson presents an amazing selection of gifts. (Dan Bates / Herald file)

Everett’s gift guru knows exactly what her customers want

Judy Matheson is a master gift-giver.

And that’s no surprise — she’s been picking the perfect gift for 50 years.

Snohomish County seems to agree. Her shop — J. Matheson Gifts, Kitchen and Gourmet in Everett — has been voted Snohomish County’s best gift stop five years running in The Daily Herald’s Reader’s Choice awards.

The store at 2615 Colby Ave. has been a fixture in downtown Everett for nearly 30 years, offering an array of gifts and home furnishings.

What makes her gift shop the best? It’s her top-notch selection of merchandise and her award-winning customer service.

It’s also Judy herself.

“She is that gift-giver in her heart,” longtime customer Marsha Cogdill said. “She treats everybody with kindness and makes them feel welcome. That’s something you don’t get in most retail businesses.

“She’s one of a kind.”

— Sara Bruestle

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