Lynnwood Today is pleased to present this monthly column on Lynnwood history, written by a long-time Lynnwood resident and local historian.
By Betty Lou Gaeng
Sixty-five years ago, Lynnwood was only a small community of a few homes and businesses at the Crossroads—the intersection of Pacific Highway (Highway 99) and the Edmonds/Alderwood Manor Road (196th Street). The town of Edmonds directly west was the only incorporated city in the southern part of Snohomish County.
Historic Alderwood Manor to the east and adjacent to the community of Lynnwood in 1948 was the largest of the many diverse communities in the area. One day, Alderwood Manor would become part of the City of Lynnwood. However, Lynnwood’s incorporation and growth was still several years in the future.
The children of South Snohomish County attended school in Edmonds School District 15, some at Alderwood Grade School, others at Esperance Grade School and Edmonds Grade School. Edmonds High School, located at Fourth and Daley Streets in downtown Edmonds, was the only high school serving the district at that time.
All of these communities had a close relationship. They had weathered the Great Depression and then endured World War II. Many of the boys from School District 15 had left to serve their country during the war—some did not return.
In 1948, American Legion Post 90 of Alderwood Manor, under the leadership of Crossroads businessman S. Al Wilcox, decided there should be a visible memorial to honor all the young men of the school district who had lost their lives during war time. The Legion post issued a plea for donations to erect a memorial monument to honor the young men of the entire Edmonds School District 15 who had died during both WWI and WWII.
The first to respond to the pleas for donations was Mrs. Odessa Patterson, an older widow and longtime resident of East Alderwood Manor. The Pattersons had managed to rear a large family through the Great Depression and had also taken their 8-year-old orphaned grandson Danny Leonard into their home. Following the death of his grandfather, and with the country still mired in the Depression, Danny joined the National Guard. War seemed imminent and Danny, as well as other members of the National Guard, was soon in the Army. Shipped to the Philippines, young Danny Leonard was one of early casualties of WWII when he died in a Japanese extermination camp after surviving the Bataan Death March. As with so many of the Alderwood residents, Mrs. Patterson did not have much money, but she gave what little she could. As other donations came in, the Legion continued the project.
Soon a 7-foot-tall granite memorial monument was erected on property owned by Alderwood Manor Legion Post 90 at the intersection of Pacific Highway and Walnut Way. This area was then part of Alderwood Manor—now it is known as 52nd Avenue West and 181st, Highway 99, Lynnwood. Forty-five names of young men from the area who had lost their lives during WWI and WWII were engraved onto the face of the monument.
On Memorial Day, Sunday, May 30, 1948, the monument was dedicated “To Those of School District No. 15 Who Made the Supreme Sacrifice in the Service of Their Country.” Over 400 people attended the impressive ceremony. However, as so often happens, interest gradually faded and a few short years later only a spattering of people attended the Memorial Day services held each year at the monument.
American Legion Post 90 fell into hard times and sold their land and eventually disbanded. The memorial monument was moved to a spot in the parking lot of the new Lynnwood Junior High School, just east of Highway 99 on 196th Street. Memorial Day services continued to be held at this new location, but again the majority of the residents lost interest.
In 1959, the community of Lynnwood incorporated and through the years much of the surrounding area became part of the City of Lynnwood, with city offices located on land that had been early-day Alderwood Manor.
As the years passed, commercial businesses encroached onto the land around Lynnwood Junior High and the school closed its doors in 1981. Left behind and forgotten, the monument became a derelict leaning against one of the old school buildings and subjected to vandalism by those who seemed not to realize its purpose and historic importance to the community.
In 1982, the neglect was noticed by Bill Crump, the commander of American Legion Post 66 of Edmonds. Feeling that the memorial monument would be more visible and respected by the public in a prominent Edmonds location, Commander Crump arranged for its removal. A place was found for the monument in front of the old Carnegie Library building, which had recently become home to the Edmonds Historical Museum.
Edmonds Legion Post 66 began a donation drive to raise money to restore the monument and to add additional names—one was the name of a WWII casualty who had been overlooked. Also a new section was added to the monument for the names of those who were lost in the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam. Following 9/11, another name was inscribed to honor Larry Strickland, an Edmonds High School graduate and career Army Officer killed at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001 during the terrorist attack. Added a few years later was the name of Steven A. Rintamaki, a graduate of Lynnwood High School, killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom on Sept.16, 2004.
In 2005, Lynnwood and Edmonds veterans organizations gathered to rededicate the memorial monument.
Since the birth of this well-traveled memorial monument in the former community of Alderwood Manor, the list of names carved into the stone has grown and now totals 79. There are others whose names were overlooked and should be added, and as our involvement in the war against terrorism continues, other young men with ties to School District 15 have been lost to us in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Today the 65-year-old memorial to the young men of School District 15 still keeps its vigil beside the tall steps to the Edmonds Museum, reminding us of the sacrifices made by our young men and women in time of war.
An 80-year resident of Lynnwood, Betty Lou Gaeng is a genealogist, historian, researcher and writer who is active in volunteer work for Lynnwood’s Heritage Park Partners Advisory Committee and the Alderwood Manor Heritage Association at Heritage Park. She is also a member of the League of Snohomish County Heritage Organizations (LOSCHO) and the South County Historical Society and Museum. Gaeng is the author of two books: “Etched in Stone,” which is the history of the Edmonds Museum memorial monument, and “Chirouse” about a Catholic missionary priest who came from France to Washington Territory in 1847 and became a father figure and friend to the Puget Sound area’s Native people.