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118th Irrigation Festivalâs dignitaries
Elaine Grinnell will serve as grand parade marshal during the 118th Irrigation Festival this coming May.
Over her 76 years, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe citizen has clung close to her cultural and geographic roots, having been reared by her grandparents, David and Mary Prince until age 10 in the tribe’s original Jamestown community, established in 1874.
She graduated from Port Angeles High School, earned a degree in counseling and worked for the Port Angeles School District as a counselor to Native American students.
She married Fred Grinnell 52 years ago and the couple has three children: Jack, Julie and Kurt, plus nine grandchildren.
After their children graduated from high school, the couple moved back to Jamestown on property that had remained in her family over the decades.
Long before the tribe was federally recognized in 1981, Grinnell served on its tribal council in the early 1970s and today is an honored elder of the tribe.
She continues to take an active role, as a member of the housing improvement committee, and working on education and scholarship opportunities with the tribe.
For the past several years, Grinnell has been a storyteller of S’Klallam legends to other tribes and non-natives, including at the annual canoe journeys. She is a member of the Northwest Native American Basket Weavers Association and Northwest Native American Storytellers Association, teaching others how to tell stories.
Upon being named grand marshal, Grinnell said, “I can remember going to the Irrigation Festival as a small child. My mother, Mildred Judson, was a grand marshal, too, and I think it’s the most exciting thing to happen during this lifetime of mine, to represent the people of Clallam County.
“I am especially honored because I think it’s the first time a native person, other than my mother, was selected. I am very excited because all of my kids are going to try to make it back for the parade.”
Esther Heuhslein Nelson
Esther Heuhslein Nelson’s roots in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley run a century deep. Her parents, Nicholas and Esther Heuhslein, arrived between 1902-1909 and established the 150-acre Agnew Dairy and Poultry Farm in the early 1920s.
One of four children, young Esther, born in 1928, was an expert in milking cows and putting up hay, not only on her own family farm, but also on neighboring farms during World War II when most of the young men were serving their country. For 10 years she was active in 4-H, raising a large garden and rabbits, canning, baking and sewing, for which she won a trip to Chicago, Ill., in 1946.
Now 84, Nelson is a 1946 graduate of Sequim High School and earned her associate of arts degree from Peninsula College, as well as a business degree. For 32 years she was employed as a counselor for the Washington State Employment Office in Port Angeles, retiring in 1982.
She and Ray Nelson have been married since then and she has two children from a previous marriage, Vickie Crane and Nick Larson, two grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Nelson has received numerous awards and honors, including 1996 Sequim Citizen of the Year, 2001 Washington Volunteer Information Center Volunteer of the Year and 2004-2005 Ladies of Elks Woman of the Year, as well as being grand marshal of the 2006 Irrigation Festival parade.
Organizations she has served with include the Agnew Helpful Neighbors Club, Clallam Transit Advisory Board, Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce, Retired Public Employees Council of Washington, Sequim Valley Lions Club, Sequim Senior Activity Center, Sequim Museum & Arts Center in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley and Veterans of Foreign Wars Ladies Auxiliary.
In 2009, Nelson was named a Paul Harris Fellow by the Sequim Rotary Club. She also helped with the publication of two “Sequim Pioneer Family Histories” and gives presentations on information she compiled about the county’s old schools. She has been the volunteer trainer at the chamber for more than 10 years.
Nelson said at first she almost said no to being chosen a Grand Pioneer because she feels there are many deserving contenders but decided to accept the honor “while I’m still able to enjoy it.”
The Cays family had been established as farmers in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley for more than 50 years by the time Neil Cays came along in 1934 — in fact, a road near Carlsborg already had been named after the clan by 1924. He grew up on his parents’ 100-acre dairy farm near Cays and Woodcock roads and remembers harvesting loose hay with a team of horses and milking cows by hand.
Had it not been for a chance conversation after graduating from Sequim High School in 1952, Cays might have been a lifelong dairy farmer, too. He’d planned to major in animal husbandry at Washington State University.
“An optometrist had beef cattle on our place and he asked me what I was going to do. He said I may not want to squat with cows all my life. It didn’t take long to realize there was a better way to make a living.”
After five years of study at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore., Cays earned his degree and became a doctor of optometry. Sequim in the late 1950s was too small to support an optometrist, Cays recalled, so he set up a practice in Ellensburg and Cle Elum and stayed 14 years.
After having four children, Cays returned to his hometown in 1970 and got divorced. He met his wife, Sally, a watercolorist, in 1978 and they married in 1980, adding her two children to their blended family.
They have 10 grandchildren, one great-grandchild and two great-grandchildren on the way. His children are Jeff Cays, Brian Cays, Janet Wheeler and Lisa Lindquist.
At age 78, in his 56th year of practice, Cays still works two days a week at Sequim Vision Center and has no active plans to retire. In 2000, he sold the business to Dr. Diana Young.
Cays continues to enjoy learning about the advances in optometry through 50 hours of continuing education every two years and caring for his patients, especially in the areas of low vision and vision therapy with children.
His leisure activities include golf and sailing and his civic involvement has included Kiwanis and the Lions Club. Upon being asked to be a Grand Pioneer, Cays said he was concerned his schedule wouldn’t allow him to participate in all the activities associated with it.
“But then I thought, ‘This is a good thing to do.’ I love this community and enjoy the people. I believe in having fun and enjoying life and Sequim is a good place to do that.”
And he will carry on another Cays family tradition — his mother, Esther, was an Honorary Pioneer and his father, Ray, was a Grand Pioneer.
Honorary Pioneer Nancy Jarmuth Smith
Another active octogenarian is Nancy Jarmuth Smith, who came to her aunt and uncle’s farm north of Sequim with her twin sister when they were 18 months old in 1929. The girls were born in Hollywood, Calif., but were sent north due to a brother’s contagious illness. Aunt Agnes and Uncle Frank Holland owned and operated a dairy at The Straits Farm, the site of today’s Graysmarsh Berry Farm on Holland Road.
Nancy and her twin, Mary, enjoyed playing on Jamestown beach, attended Sequim schools and were recognized in the newspaper as one of three sets of twins in their class — the Jarmuth girls, the Frost brother and sister and the Campbell girls. Nancy married McCoy Smith and moved to Mount Vernon to farm for a relative, returning to Sequim in 1948.
The Smiths purchased the Straits Farm from her aunt in 1949, running it as a dairy until they sold it in 1959. During their life together, they also owned Smitty’s Shell Service Station, located at what is now The Hurricane Coffee Company, and Smith and Sprague, a hardware and appliance store located on the present site of U.S. Bank in downtown Sequim.
Nancy had her hands full caring for her aging Aunt Agnes and raising their six children: Lance, Larry, Cheryl (Frankfurth), Rochelle (McHugh), Diane (Pollard) and Pam (Walker). She has 13 grandchildren and a dozen great-grandchildren.
Modestly, Smith said, “All I did was raise six great kids. After they all graduated from Sequim High School, I was ready to hit the golf course — I was ready to play.” She was a champion golfer at Sunland Golf Course & Country Club for about a dozen years and only gave up her clubs recently.
She also bowled competitively and continues that competitive spirit in bridge and other card games today. Now 84, Smith is an accomplished artist — specializing in pen and ink drawings of Sequim’s old barns and landmarks — a watercolorist and a photographer.
Upon being named an Honorary Pioneer, she said, “I turned it down but the kids said, ‘Mom, please do it.’ I don’t like being in the limelight — I’m a private person — but I did it for my kids, grandchildren.”
Daughter Rochelle McHugh is a past chairman of the 94th and 100th Irrigation Festivals and granddaughters Kimberly McHugh Shea and Melissa McHugh Cate are former royalty princesses.
Reuben (Harry) Schlaffman
Nearly three decades of Sequim High School graduates between 1957-1985 will remember Harry Schlaffman as their business education teacher whose philosophy was, “We’re here to learn but let’s make it fun!”
He was born in Beulah, N.D., in 1928 to Frederick and Dorothea Schlaffman, Germans who had emigrated from Russia.
During two summers, he worked at Boeing in Seattle. He graduated from high school in 1946 and was drafted into the armed forces, serving in the 82nd Airborne Division in parachute training at Fort Knox, Ky., and South Carolina. Under the G.I. Bill, he earned his bachelor’s degree from Valley City State University in Valley City, N.D. After teaching two years in North Dakota, he accepted, sight unseen, a teaching position in Sequim in 1957.
He and his wife, Bonnie, and their children, Rikk and Taryn, made the 2,000-mile journey in their 1945 car, pulling a trailer with all their belongings in true pioneer spirit. His love of woodworking enabled him to build the house in which he still lives. Son Ronn was born in 1959 in Port Angeles.
Schlaffman continued his education at Western Washington University in Bellingham and Central Washington University in Ellensburg, earning his master’s degree in 1960. In addition to business education, Schlaffman helped establish the skills center department at the high school and also taught two years at Chimacum.
After he retired in 1985, he felt he should contribute to the community, so he ran for the Sequim City Council and served three terms from 1988-1995. He’s proud to have been a part of the Sequim bypass project and was the city’s representative on the Clallam Transit Board, helping to get built the Clallam Transit Center in Port Angeles. He was a longtime member of the Lions Club, Sequim Elks Club and Dungeness Valley Lutheran Church.
After his wife’s death in 1997, at a school reunion in Beulah he rekindled a relationship with former classmate Lois Alice Messmer and they married in 1999, when they were in their early 70s. They live in Sequim but travel to North Dakota for four months each summer to be with her family and friends.
Schlaffman has two grandsons and a granddaughter.
“I am honored and happy and glad I was named an Honorary Pioneer,” he said.