The berry queen, the trophy and the garbage man

Jim Green’s Uncle Arnold put into practice the notion that one person’s trash is another’s treasure.

Arnold Green, who died in 1989, had worked for Rubatino Refuse Removal Inc., Everett’s garbage collection business. Through the years, his nephew said, the older man had “brought home from off the truck” all sorts of things others discarded.

“My uncle was always on the lookout for something. He was a product of the Depression,” said Jim Green, who lives in Snohomish.

Late last year, after his aunt had moved to a nursing home, Green was going through his late uncle’s garage. There, he found something he knew had been treasured by someone.

“We found the trophy for the 1961 Strawberry Festival Queen,” Green told me by e-mail. “Her name is Kathy Harper, and I was wondering if you might put a blurb in your column in hopes of reuniting the loving cup trophy with its owner.”

With help from Marysville Strawberry Festival volunteers and from Dexter Holmes, a 1961 Marysville High School graduate, I was able to do more. Festival folks, busy with this weekend’s parade, had no contact information for Kathy Harper. They suggested I ask Holmes, who organizes class reunions.

Holmes did a day’s detective work to find a phone number for the former queen. Listed among past royalty as Kathy Harper Graves on the festival Web site, she’d been married again and had moved away.

Friday, I drove to Arlington to deliver the engraved, silvery cup to Brenda Beeman, the daughter of Kathy Harper Garretson. Queen Kathy was a 16-year-old junior at Marysville High the year she wore the crown. Beeman was to give the cup to her mom this weekend.

Reached at her home at Birch Bay, near Blaine, Garretson was amazed by the tale of Green’s discovery. “That’s pretty cool,” the 63-year-old said.

Thinking back, Garretson suspects she’s the culprit in the disappearance. After graduation in 1962, her parents moved to Everett. She lived with them for a time before marrying and moving to Seattle.

“I probably got rid of it in my early 20s,” she said. “I also had a little tiara,” she said. The tiara is still missing.

“I don’t think you value those kinds of things when they happen,” Garretson said. “As you age, you think back. That was one of the highlights of my life.”

Today’s Strawberry Festival court is selected through an application process, and a pageant that includes talent and public speaking competitions.

“Back then, it didn’t have anything to do with beauty or talent. I wasn’t ugly, but I wasn’t a beauty – of course my mother thought I was,” Garretson said. “The winner was the one who sold the most raffle tickets for a trip to Hawaii. I think I ended up selling 992 tickets.

“My dad wanted me to do it. He said I could have a new wardrobe. I was so shy,” she said.

The day of the parade, the court was to ride on the Strawberry Festival float. “It was beautiful. It had seahorses and all the princesses sat at my feet. I was in a big clamshell,” she said.

Lovely to look at, the float was cursed with mechanical problems. The Strawberry Festival girls rode the parade route on an Everett float.

Her reign took her to Seattle, where the court delivered berries to the big-city mayor. They also went to the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver, B.C. “They flew us by jet up there. We got to spend the weekend in a nice hotel,” Garretson said.

Marysville has changed so much, it’s only in memories that kids walk a bit north of town to pick berries. “I picked berries every year to earn my school clothes,” Garretson said.

She can add to her memories and keepsakes a cup meant only for her – Kathy Harper, Marysville Strawberry Festival queen, 1961.

“When I saw it, I knew it needed to be reunited with this person,” Jim Green said.

Columnist Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460 or

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