Maloof family legacy of service, sense of fun shaped Island life

The original Maloof family home in the East Seattle neighborhood still stands today. The family referred to the house and big garden next door as ‘Bramble Acres.’ - Maloof Family Photo
The original Maloof family home in the East Seattle neighborhood still stands today. The family referred to the house and big garden next door as ‘Bramble Acres.’
— image credit: Maloof Family Photo

When you get to know the Maloofs, you quickly find out they’re simply good people. On a busy Saturday morning with houseguests on the way, Sandy sits cross-legged on the basement floor sifting through old photos, giggling about the good times, and making a stack of things that might be of interest. But that’s kind of how Sandy and Emmett Maloof are — they tend to give more than take.

Among other things, Sandy is a tireless volunteer at Emmanuel Episcopal Church — even more so now that she is retired from nursing at Virginia Mason (“kicking and screaming,” as Emmett says.) Emmett is a past president of the Chamber of Commerce who still remains on the board and is often the pragmatic business voice of reason as the Chair of the City of Mercer Island Design Committee. But, the couple’s community involvement isn’t all that surprising. They come to it honestly — both children of Mercer Island’s early civic leaders.

Sandy is the daughter of Island legend Delores (Dede) Erchinger, who essentially “was” the Chamber of Commerce during the 1970s. She seemed to be everywhere, running parades, advocating for seniors, working on the Bicentennial Celebration — a history of service that resulted in the award of Citizen of the Year in 1993. She had come to the Island in 1937 with her husband, Alan, moving into a log cabin that still stands today on Butterworth Road off East Mercer Way, and raising their three daughters. She died in 2009 at the age of 94 requesting that remembrances be made to the locally focused Mercer Island Community Fund.

Emmett, too, comes from a deep Mercer Island heritage. His mother, Betty (Townsley), was born on the Island and his father, Edward, relocated here in 1946 after they married, living first in East Seattle and then building a home on Forest Lane where the family still lives today. His father was a teacher on Mercer Island, a realtor and property investor, along with a founding member of the Mercer Island Fire Department and Craft Guild, president of the Mercer Island Chamber of Commerce, and the high school football and basketball announcer. He was also quite a character. “I got only two ‘Ds’ in my life, and both were from my father,” Emmett recalls, laughing. “He sure did things his way.”

Emmett and Sandy met in 1960 at Mercer Island High School in the infamous “mushroom” multipurpose room in the new high school after one of the football games. They married in 1966 and have lived on the Island since, raising their own kids here.

When asked to remember, the old stories come easily to Emmett. An hour passes quickly listening to his belly-laugh-inducing tales of a lifetime on the Island. There’s the one about him and his brother at ages 9 and 11, packing up backpacks and heading south on their own for a weekend of camping at “Scalzo’s Scar”; the story of that old tire that “got away” on S.E. 24th, rolling straight through the front door of Clyde’s Service Station and out the back; visits from the sheriff, the fire department, and a swarm of hornets that his dad decided to burn out of a tree.

But there is one that puts a spotlight on the social changes of the last 50 years on Mercer Island — Emmett’s high school backpacking adventures with schoolmate Gary Johnson. “We loved to backpack up toward Snoqualmie Pass, so we’d pack our backpacks on Friday morning — with our shotguns sticking out the top — and would hop on the school bus, dropping our packs at the administration office for the day. We’d pick them up after school, hop another school bus to the North end and flag down a Greyhound bus to the mountains for the weekend,” recalls Emmett. “We can’t imagine it now, but nobody thought a thing about it then.”

So life at the Maloofs’ is just plain fun. Very active and a little rambunctious, the couple reflects the carefree times of the ’50s, 60s and 70s on Mercer Island, as well as the tradition and importance of local community service. “I’ve always felt that if you live in a community, you’re obligated to give something back,” said Emmett. And it looks like they’ll continue to do that for many years to come.

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