The late actress Donna Reed lived in this home on Mercer Island in the late 1970s. Photo courtesy of Greg Asimakoupoulos

The late actress Donna Reed lived in this home on Mercer Island in the late 1970s. Photo courtesy of Greg Asimakoupoulos

‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ fan tracks down star’s home on Mercer Island

Donna Reed, who played Mary Hatch Bailey in Frank Capra’s 1946 film, lived on the Island in the 70s.

Many celebrities and public figures have resided on Mercer Island over the years. When Covenant Shores Chaplain Greg Asimakoupoulos found out that Donna Reed, one of the stars of his favorite movies, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” had lived in the Seattle area, he resolved to track down her former home.

Asimakoupoulos has written a book about the movie, and often reflects on it, especially around this time of year. He even attended and spoke at the “It’s a Wonderful Life Festival” in Seneca Falls, New York in December 2016.

When Asimakoupoulos and his family moved to Mercer Island in 2005, he discovered that Karolyn Grimes (who played Zuzu Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life”) lived in the Seattle area.

“Rumor had it that another one of the stars from Frank Capra’s classic film had lived on the Eastside,” he said. “Some folks said Mercer Island. Some suggested Bellevue. When I got to know Karolyn Grimes, she wasn’t sure.”

At the festival, which celebrated the 70th anniversary of the movie’s release last year, he met Donna Reed’s daughter, Mary Owen. Owen confirmed that her mother and step-father had lived on Mercer Island in the late ‘70s, but couldn’t remember the address. She said that Reed had remarried a retired military man by the name of Grover Asmus, who wanted to live in the Seattle area.

“When I got back to Seattle from New York, I set about trying to locate the home Donna Reed lived in so that I could take a photo of the home and send it to Donna’s daughter,” Asimakoupoulos said.

He asked longtime Island residents, including a realtor receiving treatment in the health center at Covenant Shores, who told him she thought it was on the south end, near the Beach Club.

He called Susan Blake at the Mercer Island Historical Society, who offered to go through old telephone directories and look for Asmus. Three months later, Blake called and said she had found the address in the 1977 phone book.

Asimakoupoulos drove to the house in the 6900 block of 96th Ave. SE and knocked on the door. The current residents, Gary and Patricia Ritzman, welcomed him and gave him a tour. They said they had lived in the home for more than a quarter century.

“They informed me that the people from whom they’d purchased the home had made significant revisions and added on,” Asimakoupoulos said. “They showed me a warming oven in the kitchen they’d been told had been added by Donna Reed and her husband when they lived their 40 years ago.”

The Ritzmans also showed him a cabana in the backyard connected to their dock on the lake. Their next door neighbor (99-year-old Clay Nichols) recalls Reed hosting many a summer party in the cabana, to which he was invited.

Asimakoupoulos emailed the photos of the home and cabana to Reed’s daughter, who was grateful, though she admitted that she had not spent much time on Mercer Island while her folks lived here.

Asimakoupoulos said he was “delighted to solve the mystery.”

“In addition of being a fan of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ I faithfully watched ‘The Donna Reed Show’ as a teenager,” he said.

The Asmuses only lived on the Island for a few years, and Reed died in 1986 at the age of 64.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@mi-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.mi-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

Donna Reed hosted summer parties in her cabana on Mercer Island. Photo courtesy of Greg Asimakoupoulos

Donna Reed hosted summer parties in her cabana on Mercer Island. Photo courtesy of Greg Asimakoupoulos

[flipp]

More in Life

File photo.
Chamber wellness webinar moved

The event, which features Dr. Erica Clark and Dr. Ilan Green, has been rescheduled from Aug. 6 to Sept. 10.

Shot from a previous Art UnCorked event. Photo courtesy MI Art UnCorked Facebook page
Art UnCorked, postponed to 2021, gets new official date

For now, the next Art UnCorked event is set for Sept. 10, 2021.

Graphic courtesy SJCC.
SJCC announces ‘senior hours’ for sidewalk café

Starting Aug. 4, seniors will be served exclusively from 10-11 a.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Top row, L-R: Councilmember Jake Jacobson, Mayor Benson Wong, Deputy Mayor Wendy Weiker. Middle row, L-R: Councilmembers Lisa Anderl, Craig Reynolds, David Rosenbaum. Bottom row, L-R: Citizens of the Year Kendra and David Uhler and Councilmember Salim Nice. Screengrab courtesy city of Mercer Island
Mercer Island ‘Citizen of the Year’ announced

David and Kendra Uhler received the honor at a recent council meeting.

A photo from this year’s production of “Rent,” which debuted in March. YTN only got through a few performances before having to cancel remaining dates due to coronavirus concerns. Photo courtesy YTN Facebook
Youth Theatre Northwest making unprecedented adjustments amid pandemic

The Reporter caught up with executive director Mimi Katano to discuss how the theatre is transitioning, what has/hasn’t worked and what concerns she has about the future.

Ezra Teshome. Photo courtesy Mercer Island Rotary Club
Mercer Island Rotary Club announces upcoming speakers

Ezra Teshome will be presenting at the July 21 meeting, Rick Newell on the 28th.

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid. Courtesy photo
2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid | Car review

There’s a reason Honda’s CR-V has been America’s top-selling crossover vehicle over… Continue reading

2020 Ford Ranger SuperCrew Lariat. Courtesy photo
2020 Ford Ranger SuperCrew Lariat | Car review

Ford’s venerable compact Ranger pickup went away for a while. But it… Continue reading

Courtesy photo
Sign up for 2020 ‘Run to Rwanda’ Fun Run slated for September

Clyde Hill resident Sophie Sharp, an 11th grade student at The Overlake… Continue reading

A library staffer setting up a “Curbside to Go” sign. Photo courtesy KCLS
KCLS’ Mercer Island branch offers ‘Curbside to Go’ services

Local branch among 17 in the area to reinstate returns, introduce new pick-up option.

File photo.
MISD announces new virtual kindergarten read-aloud series

Sessions will be held over Zoom on a weekly basis starting July 14.