Stanwood nursing home marks 100 years

STANWOOD — John Hals built the Josephine Old People’s Home in the midst of great loss.

His young wife, Josephine Hals, died giving birth to their son. The baby died, too.

His first wife, Elizabeth, and their two infants had died earlier.

Hals was alone.

In his grief, he reached out.

With the fortune he’d amassed running sawmills in the Stanwood area, the Norwegian immigrant decided to build the community’s first nursing home. In 1907, he donated $10,000 to the Norwegian Lutheran Church to build a care facility in Stanwood.

A year later, between 1,000 and 1,500 people turned out to dedicate the newly built wood house to Josephine Hals.

It was the first Lutheran nursing home on the West Coast, according to Josephine administrators.

Twenty-three poor men and women with nowhere to go in their old age moved in. Two staff members came to the home daily to cook and clean.

Over the last century, Hals’ dream has grown.

The original building was torn down around 1949 and a brick nursing facility was erected. Later, three stories’ worth of assisted-living suites and nursing space were built. Classrooms that enable kids to make crafts and visit with the elderly were added.

Today, Josephine Sunset Home has 255 employees, 160 nursing home residents, 57 people living in assisted living suites, 244 children in day care and a Montessori classroom for 4- and 5-year-olds. (The day care started for employees but has grown to include other children in the community.)

This year, the facility in downtown Stanwood turns 100. It is one of only a handful of the 240 licensed nursing homes in Washington to reach its centennial, said Deb Murphy, chief executive of the Washington Association of Housing and Services for the Aging.

The community is celebrating its birthday with events throughout the year, beginning with a program Sunday. A worship service is planned for 4 p.m. at Josephine Sunset Home. In honor of Hals’ Norwegian heritage, a dinner of lefse, pickled herring and meatballs will follow. At 6 p.m., a centennial program with speakers including local politicians and Mike Gregoire, husband of Gov. Chris Gregoire, is scheduled. There may also be Norwegian dancing.

The facility survived through tight years, in part, because of donations from Lutheran churches and Stanwood residents.

In the early 1900s, farmers donated crops to help feed the residents. Women baked bread and made jams for the residents.

“We say the ground here is blessed,” said Josephine administrator Marilyn Kennedy.

Today, Stanwood residents donate Wii video games and television sets. They come to the facility to sing songs and lead residents in craft activities.

“I love it,” said resident Allen Dow, 47, after playing baseball on Josephine’s Wii. “When my mother came in the building, she felt love — really. That means she wanted me in here. It’s the best place.”

Ruth Painter worked in Josephine Sunset Home decades before she moved there. In the 1970s, she washed clothes for the facility.

It’s grown so much since then that Painter, 84, sometimes feels lost in the maze of hallways. Nonetheless, when she starting having health problems, she knew immediately where she wanted to go. She says she’s happy at Josephine’s.

“I’m a practical old soul, and I don’t want to run around my place and maybe take another fall,” she said, eating lunch with friends in the dining room. “I wanted to move in with people and do my thing.”

In 1914, John Hals married again; this time to Anna Larson. He helped raise her son, Harold Larson. They traveled to Norway and settled on a farm in Stanwood. Hals outlived his wife.

His dreamed outlived them both.

Josephine Sunset Home continues to grow.

Reporter Kaitlin Manry: 425-339-3292 or

Talk to us

More in Local News

Ella Larson, left, and Simon Fuentes sort through blueberries at Hazel Blue Acres on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Fruits, flowers and bees aplenty in Arlington farm fete

First-ever event highlights local growers’ bounty and contributions to local community

The Everett Districting Commission is proposing four adjustments to the city council districts based on 2020 Census data. (City of Everett)
Proposed map shifts every Everett City Council district

Census data from 2020 prompted several “small tweaks” to council district boundaries.

Cars wait to turn onto Highway 9 from Bickford Avenue on Wednesday, May 18, 2022 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Highway 9 stretch closing for roundabout work next week

Drivers will need to use detours as the closure affects the stretch between Second and 30th streets in Snohomish.

Commanding Officer Meghan Bodnar is greeted by her son Grady, who hasn’t seen her in 224 days, at Naval Station Everett on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
After 200-plus days abroad, Navy destroyers return to Everett homeport

The USS Gridley is one of the few women-led ships, attesting to a growing number of women in the U.S. military.

A concept drawing shows the future multi-use path along U.S. 2 between 179th Avenue Southeast and the North Kelsey Street shopping area. (City of Monroe)
Monroe to start building walking, biking path along U.S. 2

The long-awaited project will give pedestrians and cyclists a safe route to the North Kelsey Street shopping area.

Grand Apartments’ owners are under scrutiny over alleged unpermitted electrical and plumbing work. Photographed in Everett, Washington on August 11, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Decision delayed on $4,500 in fines for Grand Apartments owner

An attorney for the landlord said he only learned of the hearing 15 minutes before it started Thursday.

Jennifer Bereskin is a housing advocate who was previously homeless in south Snohomish County.  Photographed on August 9, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Where shelter space has been scarce, Lynnwood explores ‘rapid rehousing’

Jennifer Bereskin grew up couch-surfing near Lynnwood. A new program seeks to create an easier path for this generation.

Man dies in motorcycle crash that snarled I-5 in Everett

Washington State Patrol: he tried to speed by another driver but lost control and hit the shoulder barrier.

Rev. Barbara Raspberry, dressed in her go-to officiating garments, sits in the indoor chapel at her home, the Purple Wedding Chapel, on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022, in Everett, Washington. The space used to be two bedrooms, but she and her husband Don took down a wall converted them into a room for wedding ceremonies the day after their youngest son moved out over 20 years ago. The room can seat about 20 for in-person ceremonies, plus it serves as a changing room for brides and is the setting for virtual weddings that Raspberry officiates between brides and their incarcerated fiancees at the Monroe Correctional Complex. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Everett’s oh-so-colorful Purple Wedding Chapel is in the red

Rev. Rasberry has hitched hundreds of couples over the years. After her husband died, she’s unsure if she can keep the place.

Most Read