Sparklers and all

G’day of Independence.

And, a rocketing Happy Birthday to Mercer Island’s true native son, who personifies adaptive life in metro land.

Five years ago on July 8, Charles Wischman was born to Mark Wischman and Carmen Angiuli on the I-90/I-5 connector in a Medic vehicle attended by three Island firefighters. His folks were speeding their way to Swedish Hospital when Charles, whose nickname is “Freeway,” made his appearance.

“It was near 7 a.m. at the start of rush hour,” recalls Mark. “We never expected things to happen so fast.” In four days, Charles will celebrate with family and friends at Grandpa Chuck's house, with his sister, Julia, friends, 10 cousins, aunts, uncles, both sets of grandparents, and great-grandpa Oscar.

Freeway will attend Mercer Island Learning Lab preschool next year, “With the same adventurous approach he entered this world — with a quickness and exuberance. He displays these traits skiing down runs with me [his dad] and grandpa or repeatedly dunking himself while learning to swim. He gives his mom gray hair.”

Island School Officials dismissed for the summer last Tuesday. Not only the kids, but most employees.

Jean Field, MIHS main office secretary who wears the keys to inner sanctums around her neck, deserves the break. For nine years, she’s been the pinwheel connecting administrators, students and details of life in those hallowed and harried halls. That can include lost-and-found, permission slips for everything, hall passes, tardy slips and simply a greeting when a kid needs one.

Her “Field-ing” includes shepherding the selection of the Rotary Students of the Month — the nominations and choice process, arranging mentor-teachers, filling out the award certificate, and getting all to Rotary meetings for recognition.

So, the Rotary Club sought a way to recognize this mother of four grown children who shuns fanfare. At last week’s final staff meeting, the club’s officers crept in and made her a Paul Harris Fellow — for which $1,000 is donated to humanitarian projects in Field’s honor. About 100 of her colleagues gave her a standing ovation, and several of her family members emerged from hiding to share the moment.

Principal John Harrison pulled off the secret maneuver and Field was flabbergasted. Mission accomplished: deserved accolades for one who tends to the details of our high schoolers’ lives.

Over in the bus barn, the district’s 33 bus drivers and their managers celebrated the retirements of Jim McDonald, driver of eight years, and Ray Brautigam, manager the 36-bus fleet and its personnel. Roy Ellingsen, a 1973 MIHS grad, also received an award for 18 years of accident-free driving.

The group in general contends they haul the Island’s kids “for the joy of it,” despite rollercoaster rides on curvy roads and sometimes contentious drivers.

“I like to drive big honkin' buses filled with lots of kids,” said Bunnie Lehan, who’s been behind the wheel for 25 years, mostly along the snaky East Mercer Way route. She now schleps “kids of kids I used to drive. It’s the only job I know where you can put all your problems behind you.”

If you’re a kindred spirit, the district seeks more drivers for next year. Contact Todd Kelsay, new king of the bus barn.

Sparks flew at last Thursday’s performance by The Rotary Rockettes, who feted the gavel-passing from John Matthews to Bo Darling at the club’s annual changeover dinner. Vyv Stumbles, Joyce Hedlund, Bonnie Weyhing, Donna Buckingham, Elizabeth Baska, Eva Agrawal, Janie Stewart, Joyce Wagar, Melinda Booth, Patti Darling, Pat Turner, Becca Palm, Trina Westerlund and yours truly did some serious bump and grind — and comedy — as they presented “John Matthews: This is Your Life.”

Finally though, “Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s off to Bo we go. We love you John but now you’re gone, Hi ho hi ho hi ho ...”

Not incidentally, 13-year-old Dylan Sullivan from Islander Middle School produced a remarkable video to accompany the revue. His talent began flourishing at the young age of 10, and he now produces videos of weddings birthday parties, and presentations for organizations.

Artistically, Sullivan and friend Ian Piper won first place at the middle school for a music video they created. He and his friends also produce satires and animations with Lego characters. Family favorite is Dylan’s interviews with his grandparents, now in their 80s, capturing stories of their growing up in the Depression and during WWII.

We’ll keep watching for more fireworks from this young man.

The last is a silent sparkler with far-reaching bursts. A group of about 30 Island Presbyterian women meet monthly to knit hugs. In 63 stitches, using the Trinity pattern, they create soft shawls to wrap around someone whose spirit needs a hug. The soft and colorful folds comfort folks in a tactile and visual way, says organizer Linda Fowler.

Church shelves are crowded with colorful shawls, each signed with a prayer, to go to the bereaved, ill or otherwise needy. The knitters say that, as they stitch, their own souls are also quieted.

Go forth and create your own fireworks.

To contact Nancy Hilliard, e-mail her at

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