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Join us for a new history research project in Elma

Happy New Year, friends. I’m really glad 2014 is here, and I’m looking forward to the adventure of a new year.

I’m involved in a new project and want/need your help. But before I get into that, I want to thank the many loving people who have supported me in the unexpected loss of my 48-year-old son, Michael, the day after Christmas.

All of your words, cards, flowers, hugs, offers of help and especially your prayers are very much appreciated. The oldest of my five children, Michael was the last baby born in Seattle and south King County in 1964 (nine minutes before midnight on New Year’s Eve). We lived in Renton at the time, though he grew up primarily in Aberdeen before serving seven years in the Marine Corps. A celebration of his life and burial in the Tahoma National Cemetery near Kent are still being scheduled.

I’m happy that Grays Harbor has been my home for some 38 years, the last eight in Elma. Living — and working as a reporter — here has enabled me to know many special people I would not have wanted to miss.

Now, I’ve been asked by the Elma Friends of the Library, where I am a new member, to help compile the history of Elma. It won’t be the first, but our History Committee is hoping to encompass information in the previous one, published by the Elma Friends of the Library in 1988, which included information and pictures up to the mid-1940s.

We would like to add more to that history, as well as reach further forward, possibly encompassing Elma’s first 100 years.

To do that as effectively as possible, we are asking for names of pioneering individuals and families, as well as others who have helped form the history of the town. (Please don’t assume we know the ones you are aware of. We might miss someone that way.)

We would also like to talk with folks who know any facet of Elma’s history and are asking you to let us know of people you think could fill us in. The publication will also include pictures, and we’re asking anyone who has such photos or knows of others who do — photos we could copy/scan for the project — to let us know about that, too.

Our plan is for the history to be a chronology of Elma’s development and the people and events that have been part of the town. According to the city of Elma’s website, the town was incorporated in 1888. But we’re hoping for information on what was happening here even before that.

A special note: We certainly want to include those who are known as being historical figures in Elma, but we would also like to dig deeper into the area’s fertile soil for information on others who, until now, might have been “below the radar” but are also historical figures in their own right, nevertheless.

Our plan is to talk with everyone we can to unearth and preserve this history. For that reason, we haven’t set an estimated time frame to have the project completed. There is much to do — and it will take time.

The History Committee includes simply those who are interested in helping. So far, that’s Alice Knight, a founding member of the Elma Friends of the Library in 1981 who was also involved in the previous history and suggested the current project; Kate Breckon, daughter of Montesano’s beloved late veterinarian, Dr. Donald “Doc” Mustard; Luke Bailey, who with his wife, Julieann, owns Image Flowers & Fine Chocolates in Elma, and me.

The committee is also open to anyone else who would like help. We will be meeting Thursday, Jan. 23, and asked that to be noted in The Vidette’s weekly calendar. Because we don’t have regular dates and times for our meetings, we will continue to announce them the same way.

Additionally, folks who would like to submit information and suggestions to the committee can email

Tommi Halvorsen Gatlin is a retired reporter, who still contributes to The Vidette. Contact her by emailing the editor at