2012: A look back

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Sequim Gazette staff

Perhaps the most surprising of all, though, is how little things changed politically despite 2012’s status as a presidential election year. Almost across the board in Clallam County, Washington state and in Washington D.C., voters welcomed back incumbents to office, but our state made national news by legalizing same-sex marriage and marijuana use.


Here’s a brief review of the year that was in Sequim:



• Real estate icon Jace Schmitz, 65, died while recuperating from a serious lung injury he suffered three years earlier.


• On Jan. 23, the school board finally approved the closure of the Sequim Community School, years after agreeing the structure needed to come down. The move displaced several community programs that sought new homes.


The district refurbished the newest part of the school later in the year to house the Olympic Peninsula Academy while the other 80 percent of the school remains unused.


• On Jan. 30, 78-year-old Keith Bryant was injured — and died nine days later — when his boat exploded in John Wayne Marina.



• The Sequim Community Orchestra formed; the group’s first concert was in June.


• On Feb. 3, teacher Pam Landoni became the first Sequim educator to receive a Golden Apple Award.

• Charles “Chuck” Dryke, a lifelong Sequim resident and teacher of champion marksmen, died Feb. 9 at the age of 85.


• A 30-year veteran of teaching music, Sequim High School band director Vern Fosket was inducted into the Washington Music Educators Association’s Hall of Fame.


• On Feb. 21, the shooting deaths of David Randle, 19, and Ray Varney, 68, shocked the region. The man believed to have killed them, 45-year-old John Loring, killed himself Feb. 22 as police closed in to make the arrest.


• On Feb. 28, volunteer extraordinaire Dick Hughes was named the 2011 Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year.



• A fire on March 9 in a Diamond Point modular home killed 2-year-old Evan Bellis.


• The Sequim school board hired new superintendent Kelly Shea on March 26. Shea succeeded Bill Bentley, superintendent of Sequim schools for the past five years.



• The Buzz, a popular hangout business in the heart of downtown Sequim, closed.



• Olympic Medical Center’s newest walk-in clinic opened May 1, providing the area with a healthy boost of services.


• The Washington State Supreme Court ruled 8-1 on May 10 to overturn Darold Stenson’s 1994 murder convictions on the grounds the state “wrongfully suppressed” photographs that raised questions about evidence mishandling and an FBI file. Later in the year, Clallam County Prosecutor Deb Kelly said she would not seek the death penalty in the retrial.


• The Museum & Arts Center in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley made history of its own by earning the prestigious 2012 State Historic Preservation Officer’s Award.



• The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission at a June 2 meeting approved the purchase of 52 acres of property for a conservation estuary in the 3 Crabs area.


• In the second shocking multiple murder in east Clallam County, Patrick Boyd Drum shot Gary Lee Blanton Jr., 28, and Jerry Ray, 56, before fleeing to the Blue Mountain area the morning of June 3, where he was arrested without incident after a three-and-a-half-hour manhunt. In September, he received double life sentences.


• On June 11, Sequim City councilors asked the Olympic Regional Clean Air Agency to pay for and operate an air quality monitoring station in Sequim.



• Sue Ellen Riesau, publisher of the Sequim Gazette and employee of the parent company Olympic View Publishing for 23 years, stepped down from the position.


• Frick’s Healthcare, Medical Equipment and Photo, a staple of the local business scene, began the process of closing its doors as Ella and Cy Frick announced their retirement.


• On July 12, a father and daughter from Sequim pleaded guilty to stealing $111,705 from state and federal health care programs.


• A Sequim woman fought off an attacker while bicycling on the Olympic Discovery Trail on July 21; more than a month later, law enforcement made an arrest.



• In the Aug. 7 primary election, city residents voted for a public safety sales tax. City officials plan to build a new police station and emergency operations center on the existing city hall site.


• In a letter to City of Sequim officials on Aug. 23, Battelle, the contract agency at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, announced it no longer wanted to pursue annexation by the city.



• The region celebrated the first Sequim Balloon Festival on Labor Day Weekend, with an estimated 9,000 visitors to the unique event.



• Former Citizen of the Year Tom Schaafsma was nearly killed on Oct. 12 when a tractor he was operating flipped and landed on top of him. Extraordinary efforts by his son Ryan and medical aides helped save the 64-year-old’s life.


• The Olympic Peninsula Humane Society finalized a deal to buy three modular homes and a barn on a 9.5-acre parcel on Old Olympic Highway, to eventually build an animal shelter.


• A series of burglaries in Sequim subdivisions from Oct. 13-16 put law enforcement and residents on alert.


• Violet O’Dell, 11, died of a rare form of brain cancer on Oct. 26. Community groups had raised funds to aid in O’Dell’s treatment and then turned to support the family.


• Although the official date was a year away, the City of Sequim kicked off a yearlong centennial celebration on Oct. 27.



• After being closed in May by the county auditor, the Sequim Vehicle/Vessel Licensing reopened under new management on Nov. 5.


• Washington state voters approved a same-sex marriage referendum and legalization of marijuana initiative. Kelly, the Clallam County Prosecutor, said she would dismiss all possession of marijuana cases on the books.


• Democrats locally and statewide fared well, as Jim Hargrove was elected state senator for District 24, state representatives Steve Tharinger and Kevin Van DeWege retained their offices and Port Angeles native Derek Kilmer won in his bid for U.S. Representative. Echoing President Obama’s victory, state voters approved Democrat nominees across the board.


• On Nov. 14, Sequim’s own Chuck Milliman ran 80 miles on his 80th birthday to raise funds for the Sequim Boys & Girls Club.


• The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed changes to the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge that drew public criticism.


• In late November, Five Acre School owners Bill Jevne and Juanita Ramsey-Jevne announced they sold the school.



• On Dec. 6, Judy “JP” Persall and Diana Wickman became Sequim’s first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license; on Dec. 9, they married.


• After more than two decades of work, the Department of Ecology finalized plans for the Dungeness Water Management Rule, a measure designed to enhance flows in area streams while protecting interests of senior water rights holders. The rule goes into effect today, Jan. 2.


• A trio with Sequim origins, Emblem3, made it to the final four of the TV competition “The X Factor.”

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