Tim Wheeler is a Sequim High School graduate from the Class of 1958. In the July edition of the The Ditchwalker, the Sequim Alumni Association’s newsletter, Wheeler recounts a chance encounter with a man whose son would become President of the United States.
That article, “An Unforgettable Sequim Visitor,” is reprinted here with permission from the alumni association.
(To subscribe to The Ditchwalker, send $10 to: Sequim Alumni Association, PO Box 1758, Sequim, WA, 98382.)
“In 1961, I was working on our Sequim dairy farm and taking classes at the University of Washington. I met my future wife, Joyce, at the UW and made many friends. Some visited our farm, including Muga Ndega, an exchange student from Kenya.
Later I ran into Muga on the UW campus. He asked if he might visit again and could he bring a friend? Muga said his friend, a fellow Kenyan, had a big car and we could all ride together. So we did, with Muga and Joyce and I in the back seat, and his friend driving with two young women with him in the front. He was a slim, handsome man with an unusual and unforgettable name. I will never forget the white-knuckle terror as the Buick careened around the curves of Old Olympic Highway at breakneck speed to our home, the old Bell House that still stands up on Bell Hill. Muga’s friend was gracious and polite. I remember little more about his visit.
However, 40 years later at breakfast, I read Joyce an item in the newspaper that featured that unforgettable name. I said, “Somebody named Barack Obama is running for the U.S. Senate in Illinois. That can’t be the Barack Obama we know, can it? This guy running in Illinois is far too young.”
We realized that our visitor in 1961 was Barack Obama Sr., father of our 44th president.
He survived two serious car crashes in his life before dying in a crash outside Nairobi in 1982.
Joyce and I worked to help elect his son as president. Obama carried Clallam County in both elections.
Whenever I hear President Obama describe his journey as ‘improbable,’ I nod my head and say, ‘Only in America!’”
Everyone has a story and now they have a place to tell it. Verbatim is a first-person column that introduces you to your neighbors as they relate in their own words some of the difficult, humorous, moving or just plain fun moments in their lives. It’s all part of the Gazette’s commitment as your community newspaper. If you have a story for Verbatim, contact editor Michael Dashiell at firstname.lastname@example.org.