Julie McDonald Commentary: Veterans Museum Offers Treats Beyond Candy in Trunks; Kudos to Wyman; Farewell to Stamper


My husband and I enjoyed seeing Halloween-decorated classic cars, creative costumes and cute little kids collecting candy Saturday afternoon as we joined a throng of thousands of people at Veterans Memorial Museum in Chehalis Saturday as part of Trunks-with0Treats.

I loved seeing so many kids dressed up as real-life superheroes such as police officers and firefighters. We joined our 10-year-old granddaughter Brooke and her mother Amanda, who dressed as matching scarecrows, and grandson Colton, 20, all of Woodland. When Brooke was born a decade ago, I cradled her arms and proclaimed that she’d be taller than me by 10. She’s just shy of surpassing my height (which isn’t hard). Her father stands six-foot-eleven, and when he was only eight, a grown-up told him he was too old to trick or treat. Sad.

Although not as busy as last year, volunteers said they quit counting at 2,000 participants and distributed more than a thousand pounds of donated candy.

We ventured inside the museum, decorated for Halloween, where I always love sharing gems with family members. This time I read aloud to Brooke the story of the Four Chaplains aboard the American troopship SS Dorchester, which was carrying 900 when a German U-boat fired a torpedo and sunk it Feb. 3, 1943. The first lieutenants — Rev. George L. Fox, a Methodist; Reform Rabbi Alexander D Goode, Jewish; Father John P. Washington, a Catholic; and Rev. Clark V. Poling of the Dutch Reformed Church — saved the lives of more than 200, even removing their life jackets to give to others, and stood on the deck praying together to their one God as the ship plunged into the ocean’s depths.

And, once again, I showed them my favorite display case, the one that shows President Richard Nixon awarding the Medal of Honor to Onalaska’s Thomas James “Jim” Kinsman, who saved seven fellow soldiers in Vietnam after throwing his helmet and then his body onto a live grenade.

The Medal of Honor is displayed next to what would have been the forgotten sacrifice of Seattle’s Michael Cady, whose little green plaid coat, high school letterman’s jacket, and Marine uniform and medals wound up in a secondhand store in Tenino decades after he died serving his country. His mother had passed away, leaving nobody to remember the life and death of her only child — that is, until museum cofounder Lee Grimes purchased his memorabilia. During the Vietnam War, Cady was walking in the point position Feb. 15, 1968, when enemy gunfire erupted, killing him in Quang Nam Province.

Thanks to Grimes and the museum, his life — and death — shall never be forgotten.


Rocky Horror Picture Show

Although my husband returned home, we remained in town for the drive-in outdoor airing of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” which I had seen decades ago as an undergraduate at the University of Washington. My roommate persuaded me to go with her to the 800-seat Neptune Theatre on NE 45th St. The University District theater set a record by airing the iconic 1975 musical every week for more than 14 years. All I remember is seeing people dressed in costumes, dancing before the big screen, throwing toast and shouting. Weird.

However, I didn’t recall the movie, which contained far too many sexually suggestive scenes. “Cover your eyes, Brooke” became Amanda’s constant refrain until we drove away mid-movie.

Chip Duncan, the museum’s executive director, had mentioned during a Chehalis Community Renaissance Team meeting earlier this month that he had never seen the movie. I don’t know if he watched it Saturday, but I know I’ll never see it again.


Kudos to Kim Wyman

Congratulations to Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman on her appointment by the Biden administration to the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency as senior election security lead. Wyman, a Republican who served as Thurston County Auditor and Elections Director for years before voters selected her in 2021 as the state’s top elections official, stood strong against unfounded claims of election fraud lobbied first by President Donald Trump in 2020 — allegations he continues to spout but never proves — and later by Loren Culp, who lost his race for governor to Jay Inslee, who won 57 percent of the vote compared with Culp’s 43 percent.

I hope Inslee appoints a Republican like Wyman to fill that position, perhaps Lewis County Auditor Larry Grove as fellow columnist Brian Mittge suggested, although I’d hate to see our county lose his professional oversight.

“Her decades of experience, unparalleled expertise, and unimpeachable integrity have earned her bipartisan respect at every level of government,” CISA Director Jen Easterly said. “Free and fair elections are a cornerstone of our democracy; Kim and I share a common view that ensuring the security of our elections must be a nonpartisan effort.”

Having our governor, a Democrat, appoint a Republican to fill Wyman’s position would show that nonpartisanship.


Remembering Gary Stamper

Last Thursday hundreds of people honored the life of 67-year-old Gary Stamper, our Lewis County Commissioner who lost his five-week battle with Covid-19 Sept. 29. I met him in his role as a county commissioner after his election in 2014, but I loved hearing stories of his successes as a student, father, partner, teacher, coach, and principal.

I respected Gary as a commissioner and a friend. He answered questions when asked and genuinely cared for the people he represented as a commissioner. I didn’t agree with all his decisions — such as defunding the senior centers and suggesting a Sea-Tac 2 at Toledo—but I honored his willingness to show up and answer questions about those decisions. He didn’t need to funnel his answers through a public relations person but spoke directly to the people he served — as all elected officials should do.

First-year Commissioners Lindsey Pollock and Sean Swope will select someone to fill the vacancy left by Gary’s death. Lewis County Republicans forwarded three names to them for consideration — Kevin Emerson, Lee Grose and Harry Bhagwandin. I don’t know Emerson, who served on Lewis County Fire District 1 and Water-Sewer District 2 boards, but I do know eight-year Lewis County Commissioner Lee Grose and Bhagwandin, a founding member of the Onalaska Alliance and semi-retired tree farmer. Both are good men who would serve well, but given the lack of experience on the commission, it seems wise to select Grose to serve the last year remaining in Stamper’s four-year term. He knows how the county operates. He doesn’t plan to seek election next year, so he can focus entirely on serving the county.


Ridiculous Proposal

Separating children from parents at the southern border of the United States in 2018 horrified me, but the Biden administration’s proposal to pay $450,000 each to immigrants who tried to enter the country illegally is beyond ridiculous. The nation provides only $100,000 in a death gratuity to the families of service members killed in the line of duty.

The proposal comes in the wake of lawsuits filed on behalf of the separated families, claiming lasting psychological trauma. It likely did leave scars, but they wouldn’t have been separated if they hadn’t crossed the border illegally. Maybe instead of paying money, much of which will probably line the pockets of attorneys, give those who suffered psychological trauma what they wanted in the first place — residency in the United States. It’s a much better prospect in the long term.


Julie McDonald, a personal historian from Toledo, may be reached at memoirs@chaptersoflife.com.