“Tonight we honor a fixture in our community who has been involved in almost everything for decades,” said Mayor Jim Pearman June 16 in naming Jim Trombold Mercer Island Citizen of the Year. In addition to being a respected physician and Rotarian, Trombold has been a community activist, environmentalist and defender of MI parks.
Trombold helped save Mercerdale Park from becoming a fire station in 1997 by gathering signatures and petitioning the City Council to retain the Island’s village green. He has helped develop Luther Burbank’s boat house and opposes any commercial development there. He has worked on greenbelt and park levies, pulled ivy from the trees, and opposed the golf proposals for Pioneer Park. He has led school levy campaigns, started the Planet Earth Committee in Rotary to address local environmental issues; and one of his sons also helped launch the recycling center at Mercerdale.
Following a standing ovation by as many as 100 at the meeting, Trombold replied, “As you were saying all those hard-to-believe kind things, I said a prayer to God asking for forgiveness for you lying so much and for me enjoying it so much. I am overwhelmed with this.”
Trombold, an intern and heart specialist by career, also has been committed to Physicians for Social Responsibility, engaging the community in creating a more healthy, peaceful and sustainable world through prevention of war, nuclear disasters, and ridding the environment of harmful toxic chemicals. He also exhorted Congress to restrict assault guns — “to see what we can do to prevent violence, instead of just treating gunshot wounds,” he told the Reporter in 1994.
He sits on Hanford’s advisory board, which focuses on cleaning up its toxic nuclear wastes, and helped set up the display of crosses last year at Mercerdale Field by Vietnam Veterans against the war in Iraq. In 2005-06, when he was president of MI Rotary, he helped expand support for the Half-Marathon to raise money for colon cancer awareness and wholeheartedly endorsed Rotary’s goal to eradicate polio worldwide through its volunteer inoculation program.
Trombold tackles such community action in much the same manner as he handled being the team physician for the Seattle Seahawks from 1976-1997 — stressing communication, but taking action when necessary. “The players will say, ‘I’m OK, doc,’ during an injury in a game situation when you’re trying to explain to them that they really shouldn’t play,” he told the press at the time. “Often, you have to hold them back and actually take their helmet away.”
In 1997, when he took aim at the City Council to protect the Village Green from becoming a fire station, he told the Council: “It’s attractive to start nibbling on the park. But I have a Nancy Reaganism for you: Anytime you are tempted to take a piece of Mercerdale Park, just say no.”
Trombold and his wife, Mary Ann, came to Mercer Island in 1967 for his medical training at the UW. The Kansas boy had already earned bachelor and M.D. degrees at the University of Kansas and done internships and medical residencies in New York. He joined the staff at Swedish Hospital, was an intern for the Seahawks and the Mariners, and joined the Summit Madison Medical Group.
He and Mary Ann have been married for 50 years since saying their vows on the UK campus, officiated by the celebrated Pastor Dale Turner. Sons John and Kevin, now in their 40s, graduated from Island schools. John is a teacher of American literature, and Kevin is a Seattle attorney.
“We’ve all enjoyed a sense of identity and community on our Island,” said Trombold, who most appreciated the Council’s cooperative — rather than self-serving — approach to issues.
In retrospect, said Trombold at age 71, he has probably not had enough “fun,” being so serious, goal-oriented and committed to peace and justice. He has tried to make a difference, he added.
But, for the first time in his life, he is unsure of his next agenda. Having suffered health issues for the past six months, Trombold said it has been a slow, steady recovery.
“This overwhelming show of support really helps,” he said.