Big hearts, flowers and a little disco please

Nancy Gould-Hilliard
Around the Island

You often catch 91-year-old Al McMahan puttering in his showplace garden across from the MI Presbyterian Church. It’s the New England Cape Cod garden style with the brick-and-chain fence that frames the beds.

Currently, McMahan deadheads the last of his dahlias, gladiolas, fall asters, roses and hydrangea. Earlier it was day lilies, penstemon and annuals of all sizes, shapes and blooms.

Less visible is his wife, Jane, who cultivates shrubs and potted plants in the back yard. They have defined their spaces — “because the garden is so much more fun than the house,” says Jane, an Islander of 35 years. She’s in charge of the rhodies, daphne and camellia; he’s planting 300 tulips for spring bloom.

As they bid the fuschias and clematis adieu for the season, they welcome the autumn joy and turning leaves. “There’s continuous bloom here,” adds Jane. And continuous visits by birds, squirrels and bees. Honk if you too enjoy the show.

New digs in pioneer spot: Ground is being prepared in the 8200 block of S.E. 28th Street, where an old pioneer cabin once sat for decades. In its recent past it was occupied by Jack Cassidy, a frequent provocateur at town meetings. Now it’s gone and Joe Chen, employed by Hong Scheng LLC, is preparing to build three homes next year. This “short plat” of two-story homes of approximately 3,000 square feet each may be flanked by two mini-parks, one public and one for the residents. Nice touch for a historic haunt.

Smell of baking bread returns: Welcome COBS Breads, to open Oct. 18 across from Tabit Square. The company is an offshoot of 26-year-old Bakers Delight, with more than 700 outlets in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States. It’s also at Crossroads in Bellevue. Wasn’t Mama Ruben’s the last to produce such enticing aromas in this part of town?

COBS plans to produce daily: traditional white, sourdough “COBS” (round loaves), country grain and such signature breads as Cape Seed and Apricot Delight. Each local bakery offers more than 60 items every day, some of which have quirky Australian roots such as the CheesyMite Scroll.

Happy 90th, Aubrey: Friends rolled out the red carpet for Aubrey Davis at the end of September, celebrating his 90th birthday. The health care reformer, public transportation advocate, politician, civil servant, businessman, inventor, environmentalist has put his mark on our community. He helped create King County Metro; involved community in highway planning; and led the investigation of the I-90 floating bridge sinking in 1990. He was mayor of Mercer Island for two terms in the 1970s, helped Group Health survive and chaired the state transportation commission.

In other words, he takes on big issues and fights for pragmatic change. Most recently, Davis moderated MI’s City Council candidates’ forum, where he exhibited his moniker board style — holding his head, closing his eyes and then coming up with a zinger.

He and his wife of 60 years, Retta, came to Mercer Island in 1960, when she took a teaching job here. Davis, who earned his degree at Occidental College in Los Angeles in history and political science, began his career hoping to become a city manager. He ended up managing oh-so-much more. Thankfully.

Disco Baby! Not yet two years old, Mercer Island’s Harry McGovern has all the moves of John Travolta on the disco dance floor. The son of Ed and Ann recently won the Seattle region of the nationwide “Best Little Dancer in America” contest in the babies and toddlers category. Don’t miss him and the other winners at

Last word - Love: You’ve no doubt seen the posters around town of the young couple inviting you to become a better soulmate with your partner. That’s Les and Leslie Parrott, who’ve been on Oprah, Good Morning America, written books and fly around the globe with their ministry. They co-direct the Center for Relationship Development at Seattle Pacific University and teach “Relationships 101” to classes of 200.

MI’s Presbyterian, Covenant and Holy Trinity Lutheran churches bring them here Saturday, Oct. 20, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Ministers of these churches say they see signs of road-weary marriages, which, according to U.S. statistics, has only a 50-50 chance of lasting these days.

Paul Barrett, Presbyterian pastor, says his church, like many others, focuses on preparing couples for marriage. “But we tend to forget that it’s actually in the seasons of married life [when] couples need us most.”

Pastor Greg Asimakoupoulos, of MI Covenant adds that “often, in suburbs such as ours, children get more attention than we give to one another.” He refers to the emergency instructions on airplanes that call for parents to don their own oxygen masks before their children’s.

Rev. Paul Fauske of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church says his church always seeks resources to strengthen marriages and was happy to join this larger effort.

The Parrotts’ guilt-free approach stems from their “SPU experience 20 years ago [when] we first discovered the desperate need for practical relationship skills among our students,” says Leslie. Saturday, they’ll share essential ingredients for lasting love, how attending to small things can make a big difference, and one sentence that can revolutionize relationships, among others.

Anyone may register, regardless of church affiliation. Contact Katty Clark, 236-6496,, $35 per person.

To contact Nancy Hilliard, e-mail her at

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