Kelly Yarnes has been seen on postcards, magnets and blankets in Sequim, and soon the gold medal winner will see her name go next to some of Sequim’s other elite athletes on a sign along U.S. Highway 101.
Yarnes earned gold for her softball throw in the 1988 International German American Special Olympics, along with a silver medal in the long jump and a bronze for her 50-yard dash.
That summer was a tremendous one for the future Sequim grad after she was selected from hundreds of American children to carry the torch and light the ceremonial flame for the United States.
Kelly’s mother Laurie Yarnes said the Special Olympics are sometimes overlooked, but that she feels it’s great for daughter to have a recognition and sense of accomplishment then and now.
“They want to be like everybody else as they perceive everybody else to be and to do what everyone else does,” he said. “Yet they don’t see themselves as any different, so this is a pretty awesome thing.”
Kelly’s name will go on a sign going westbound on U.S. Highway 101 below the names of rower Joe Rantz and skeet shooter Matt Dryke, Sequim’s other two gold medalists.
Laurie said she’s tried for years to find the right contacts about placing a sign up for her daughter’s victory but it wasn’t until recently that she received a surprise call about the sign going up in the coming weeks.
“We were so excited,” she said. “This was a pretty special thing for her to get.”
“Everyone has been telling me congratulations and that they’re excited,” Kelly said.
Desire to compete
Kelly, who has a seizure disorder that affects her learning, has faint memories of competing as a 10-year-old, but said she does remember carrying the torch and how much she wanted to participate in the Special Olympics.
“I really wanted to do it,” she said.
The medals remain safely stored in the upstairs of the Yarnes’ home.
Kelly didn’t compete again after the 1988 Olympics. Laurie said her daughter is shy and the TV cameras and photographers were a lot to take in.
Kelly and brothers Noal and Nick did previously represent the U.S. at the 50th-annual German-American Red Cross Competition.
The Yarnes lived in Germany for a few years as Todd, Kelly’s father, served in the U.S. Army. They came back to Sequim, however, and Kelly graduated from Sequim High School in 1999.
10 years of Banana Belt Kelly
After graduation, Kelly has worked continuously and met a lot of people during her time at McDonald’s and Safeway.
“I think just about everyone in Sequim knows Kelly,” Todd said. “She’s a real social butterfly.”
That sociability proved to be a good fit for Kelly’s entrepreneurial effort to open her own store — Banana Belt Kelly, named after her favorite bread and Sequim’s banana belt.
After hosting a farm stand at the corners of Secor and Riverside Roads for a few years, Kelly moved into her father’s former woodshop in 2009.
With help from her family, the community and the state’s Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, Kelly looks to celebrate her 10th anniversary this year.
Laurie sits with Kelly to discuss what to purchase often and the state sends someone to help with various tasks each Friday for a few hours.
Kelly said her favorite part is “making sure things are really good and that people like it.”
Banana Belt Kelly, 481 Riverside Road, features an array of goods including Kelly’s lavender products, home goods, Laurie’s paintings, Todd’s woodworking and more.
Kelly’s parents say she is less worried about selling things and more interested in meeting people.
Kelly learned to make lavender products like sachets from former Olympic Lavender owner Mary Borland Liebsch, who years prior worked with Kelly in Helen Haller Elementary School’s special education program.
During the Sequim Lavender Festival, Kelly would wear long dresses and sun hats at the farm, which many people captured on film and in painted pictures earning her the nickname as “The Lavender Lady.”
Today the Yarnes operate the Riverside House Guest Lodge next to Banana Belt Kelly, which is open 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays.
Coincidentally, their home is near Rantz’s child home and they believe he might have even done some work on their farmhand decades ago.
For more information about Banana Belt Kelly, call 360-582-0339 or search for it on Facebook.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.