Mercer Island dons its autumn cloak

Mercer Island churchyards now compete to bring heaven on Earth. Their lush plantings are cloaked in fall colors. Emmanuel Episcopal’s 90-foot maple is the hands-down winner in its rusty red majesty.

Two of the best shows of turning-leaf color are on the Covenant Shores stretch of North Mercer Way and the ivy on the freeway barriers, which have turned deep magenta. The cooler air holds the fruity fragrance of laden apple, pear and plum trees and a few pumpkin vines are producing.

The Harvest Moon recently glowed orange for Sukkot, a Jewish harvest festival celebrated at many local homes with dried squash and corn decorating “sukkah” (symbolic dwellings) in yards.

Activity calendars are also plumb full. (See event briefs following this column.)

MI Chamber of Commerce invites you to “Laugh and Lunch,” Oct. 22, 11:45 a.m. at the CCMV with 36-year-old Joel McHale, comic star of “The Soup” on E! Network. Joel, who now lives in Glendale with wife Sarah and son Eddie, is an alumnus of MI’s Youth Theatre Northwest and MIHS class of 1991. He has appeared on KING TV’s Almost Live, CSI Miami, Diagnosis Murder, Will & Grace, The Guiding Light and Spiderman 2, to name a few.

We see him as the perfect genetic blend of parents Laurie and Jack McHale — Laurie’s cute, upturned nose and Jack’s body language and infectious humor. Not at all funny, however, is Jack’s recent plummet from pruning a 15-foot tall sequoia tree in his yard, driving his femurs into his pelvis. He’s come through two surgeries at Harborview Medical Center to reconnect the bones. The McHales’ network of support has been incredible here, says Laurie, who thanks everyone. She expects Jack’s positive outlook to sustain his extended rehabilitation.

To register for lunch with Joel, contact, (206) 232-3404, or mail $18 to P.O. Box 108.

On another McHale front, Joel’s sister-in-law Holly (brother Stephen’s wife), will be ordained as a Lutheran minister that same week. Stephen isn’t far behind in his studies to be an Episcopal priest. “The family’s pretty ecumenical since we’re still Catholic!” adds Laurie.

One, two, three four...knit purl ...score some more: I plan to spend dawn to dusk one day at Luther Burbank Park knitting and counting the number of aircraft that traverse our air space. It’s hard to believe there are more than 200 a day, but, golly, who counts? E-mail me if you’d like to rally and tally.

At last week’s public meeting about the Renton Airfield Noise Study, we learned of alternatives to decrease aircraft noise — most highly technical that involve scientific modeling.

I preferred the more practical ideas from citizens, including a flight curfew over the Isle from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. in lieu of the costly noise study, and a baseline study to measure the ambient noise here now, and to do what’s possible to preserve it. Bart Dawson suggested installing monitoring stations to identify the noisiest culprits; then FAA could increase those planes’ landing fees, thus creating an aversion to fly near us again!

Send your thoughts to Ryan Zulauf, Renton Municipal Airport manager,, (425) 430-7471.

Safiya Ricketts, ’93 MIHS grad, never dreamed she would perform jazz dances in Africa and in front of Egypt’s pyramids with Chantal Chamandy and the Cairo Opera House Ballet Company. Or that she would dance in the 2004 Olympics opening ceremony in Utah or be part of “Generation Motown” in Quebec.

The former cheerleader, Homecoming Queen and Seattle Sonics dance team member from ’93-95 now lives in Montreal with her Canadian husband and dances concerts throughout the world. She also teaches dance and particularly loves working with elementary-age students, which she learned by volunteering at Lake Washington Elementary School and at a Korean academy in L.A.

Since her days of study with Peter Donaldson at the MI Youth Theatre and Camille Chrysler at Mercerart, she has been on stages in Las Vegas and L.A., done TV and commercials and still is shooting for Broadway. Watch for her in the PBS showcase of the Egypt concert coming in the spring.

The Frank Lane Memorial Bike Racks have been installed at The Lid, Mercerdale Park and Luther Burbank. Two other South end racks await installation until groundwork is complete, according to Keith Kerner, MI parks. The $1,965 memorial funds for Frank Lane were designated for this cause, since Frank was an avid cycler on the Island. His widow, Suzanne, says he would be so pleased.

A new three-story office complex of 40,781 square feet is planned for just west of City Hall by 2009. Colliers International, a Canadian real estate firm, will shepherd the project at 9555 S.E. 36th St. The posted illustration on the land shows the complex facing west, filling space the size of 1 1/2 football fields.

Higher learning: A 13,886-foot second story and extra parking is proposed for the French-American School next to Stroum Jewish Community Center on East Mercer Way. This is needed to increase its enrollment from 300-425 students, according to the conditional use permit application. Comments to the city must be submitted by Oct. 8, 236-3572, It will be on the Nov. 7 Design Commission agenda.

Tip of the week: to reduce junk mail, ask Direct Marketing Association to purge you from their lists — or write POB 282, Carmel, NY 10512.

To contact Nancy Hilliard, e-mail her at

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