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The Artist Karrie Baas

SEPTEMBER 20, 2017 | CATHERINE NUNNELEY

Karrie Baas’s life working in the Arts is a success story. An artist by nature and profession, Karrie wanted to enjoy her love of painting without the constant pressure of financial concerns. She developed her gallery and framing business to support her artist self.

 

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Karrie has been a Seattleite for over 30 years. When her partner, Margaret, received a coveted job offer, they decided to relocate here. In 1990, as Margaret settled into her new professional life, Karrie enrolled in Cornish College of the Arts. Five years of study yielded a BFA in Painting, printmaking, and photography. Initially, Karrie thought she would pursue photography and was looking for a space that could accommodate a dark room. However, with the advent of the digital age, the dark room seemed unrealistic and she abandoned the plan. Instead, she settled into a painting career.

 

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By September of 1995, a few months after graduation, Karrie had signed the first lease for her Baas Art Gallery and Framing Shop, becoming a member of our Madison Valley community. “It’s a perfect location,” she explains. “So many people come along Madison Street on their way to other nearby destinations that we have a lot of exposure. The space is great as a gallery and has plenty of room for the framing work.”

In 1995, when Baas Art Gallery and Framing opened along East Madison Street, the business community was just beginning to polish its rough edges. The commitment to beginning a business here was a bold move.

Karrie was a founding member of the Madison Valley Merchants Association and continues to participate as an important voice for the organization. It was the work of the Merchants that gave Madison Valley its current identity. Previously, our community was just a neighborhood between Madrona and Montlake. Dilapidated buildings, drug dealing and general scruffiness lent an unwelcoming and sometimes frightening atmosphere here. She and others worked tirelessly to upgrade the business corridor into the pleasant experience we enjoy today.

Karrie says the framing side of her business is rewarding. “It’s a great feeling of accomplishment to begin and finish a project on one’s own. To stand back and see how the framing complements and enhances the art is wonderful!” She explained that it takes at least a full year of training to become a proficient framer. Baas Framing has a terrific staff of three professional picture framers: Julia Ricketts, Peter Kelleher and Heather Wehman. They enjoy a generous benefit package. A teen internship is offered during the summer.

 

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In addition to the framing business, Karrie hosts works from local artists on consignment and provides exhibitions. Everyone benefits—the artists receive much deserved exposure, and community members are able to appreciate their talented neighbors. Karrie has a pleasant place for patrons to browse and get to know her business.

Karrie says that it was difficult to ride out the last recession. Several businesses were forced to close. However, she has a loyal clientele that trusts her eye and she was able to survive. Experiences like the recession have deepened Karrie’s commitment to patronizing small, local businesses. She is an avid proponent of seeking out independent merchants that survive on their community’s appreciation of great quality and service.

Karrie Baas has had an integral hand in the development of our vibrant shopping district. As a community, we applaud her work for the betterment of everyone in the neighborhood. Thank you, Karrie!

 

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Ned Knows It's Never Too Late

JULY 10, 2017 | CATHERINE NUNNELEY

Ned Porges has never recovered from missing the deadline for becoming an Eagle Scout. One badge shy of the requirements, he turned 18 and aged out. He doesn’t do well with incompletion. For the last two years, Ned has worked doggedly to complete his education. At the age of 76, he received his PhD from the University of Washington, 38 years after beginning his studies there.

Ned’s educational trajectory did not flow easily. As an undergrad at the University of Denver, he didn’t finish his degree in hospitality/tourism but learned enough to be hired in the industry. A few years later, family encouraged him to complete the last few quarters. With his newly minted B.S. degree in hand, he hopped aboard his motorcycle and hightailed it for California.

In Los Angeles, Ned landed a job with the food service department of United Airlines and got married. He followed his new wife to Virginia for her MSW studies and decided to pursue a MBA degree. Part of his experience in grad school was working as a teaching assistant for the 101 business class and he realized teaching was a good fit.

Family in Seattle beckoned the couple and Ned began his teaching career. Initially, WSU hired Ned as an assistant professor for their Seattle extension and later he moved over to Highland Community College. He would stay there for 16 years. During this time, the college insisted on a PhD to continue in his position. The University of Washington admitted him as a doctoral candidate and he began his studies anew. However, life intervened. With 4 kids and a mortgage he could not finish his degree. Ned had completed all of his course work but was lacking the dissertation.

After a time, Highland discontinued the program he was teaching and Ned found a new career in Real Estate. Twenty-two more years passed.

As Ned journeyed into his 70s, he began to look at his life’s legacy. He compiled a bucket list of goals. One seemed insurmountable: the completion of his PhD. Undaunted, he spontaneously met with UW Dean Marty Howell and found a supportive advocate. The College of Education accepted his previous coursework and formed a doctoral committee to guide him.

Although UW waived the usual requirement of seven years limit for doctoral completion, Ned was given no additional special treatment. He toiled endlessly with revisions for two very long years. He struggled with the limited stamina of older age. He learned that students no longer used index cards and yellow stickies to organize notes. Microsoft Office was a mystery. Guided through a tutorial by his daughter, Norah, he finally got onboard as a “Modern Student.”

On June 6, 2017, Ned, accompanied by his supportive wife, Phyllis, presented his dissertation to his committee. His research paper looked at the political impact of international travel as an educational experience. Specifically, he studied “The Grand Tour” of Europe popular in the 1800s, the Birthright tour of Israel, and the experience of World’s Fairs. He was grilled with questions and comments and then told to wait outside while they discussed their decision.

Ned and Phyllis paced the hall with nervous anticipation. The door opened. His advisor, Dr. Joy Williamson-Lott smiled. “Please come back in Dr. Porges.” He had done it. 

 

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Ned and his advisor, Dr. Joy Williamson-Lott at his graduation

 

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The Rautureau Family: An Immigrant's Journey

JUNE 8, 2017 | CATHERINE NUNNELEY

It’s not widely known that the Rautureau family lives in our neighborhood. Yes, the husband in this family is Thierry Rautureau, the famous “Chef in the Hat” and with his wife, Kathy, owner of the restaurants Luc and Loulay. The couple have lived in Madison Valley for 30 years and raised their two sons here. Their contributions to the community extend far beyond the restaurants.

Although Kathy is a homegrown American from L.A., Thierry, as everyone knows, is French. He has had an adventurous life on his journey to Seattle.

In France, at the age of 14, one chooses a career path: academic or trade. Thierry chose cooking. He worked in three restaurants learning the necessary skills and then he was off to serve his mandatory stint in the army. By 19, he was done. What to do next?

Thierry was raised in a very rural and poor part of France. His grandparents were farmers at a chateau and his parents worked locally. Although romanticized by many, rural France can be a confining environment for a curious young man. Thierry wanted a broader experience. An opportunity awaited him.

A sponsor gave him some money for travel and Thierry arrived in Chicago with $12 in his pocket. A job was waiting and he worked and lived illegally for 3 ½ years. Thanks to the other restaurant employees, Spanish became his second language. Although initially he hadn’t planned to stay in America, an opportunity to travel west and explore prompted him to obtain his green card.

He and a friend bought a car for $500 in San Francisco and began a fun-filled California road trip. He worked for a pittance in his first job in Los Angeles, where wages were too low to pay his rent. Next, he landed at an Italian restaurant and there his fate was sealed. The pretty waitress asked him out and he and Kathy have been together ever since.

 

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Kathy was dabbling in school and learning the flower trade. She was supporting herself with waitressing while developing a flower arranging business. Today, she’s become an accomplished designer with natural talent.

In 1987, they came up to Seattle to visit friends and ate at Rover’s in Madison Valley.  It was a serendipitous event. Rover’s owner was looking to sell the restaurant. Thierry and Kathy obtained funding from a partner, bought the restaurant and moved a few blocks away.

The convenience of living so close to the restaurant was wonderful for family life, but they were particularly drawn to the neighborhood. They loved the diversity and the vibrancy of Seattle. L.A. hadn’t felt like the right place to raise a family.

When the couple’s two children entered school, they were able to squeeze a bit of time from the 24/7 restaurant obligations to lead fundraising efforts. The first Auction/Dinner at McGilvra elementary raised $140,000. They continued fund raising efforts at Washington Middle School and Garfield as their sons progressed through public education.

Thierry works tirelessly giving back to Seattle. Coming from such modest means in France, he expresses amazement at his lucky life. This insightfulness keeps him going. He is a member of the Food Lifeline board and supports many other efforts to assist Seattleites experiencing food insecurity. Hunger relief is very dear to him.

Thierry is a member of the Alliance Françoise to promote French culture and has been knighted by the French government. He actively participates in Madison Valley community life through the Madison Valley Merchants Association. He is always willing to donate to neighborhood events. His many involvements in the Seattle food scene are simply too numerous to list here!

Nowadays, Rover’s is closed and the new (7 years, already!) café, Luc is their neighborhood baby. Three years ago, Loulay opened downtown. Thierry oversees the food, etc. Kathy designs all the flower arrangements and you can find her as Luc’s hostess on Friday and Saturday evenings. She continues to design flowers for weddings and other special events though her company Flowerworks.” You can check her out online for your next party!

And, by the way……What’s with the Chef in the Hat” handle?

Kathy explains: Looking for a different Christmas gift one year, she happened upon a nice Fedora in one of the neighborhood consignment shops. Thierry loved it. Wearing it as he emerged from the kitchen at Rover’s to greet his guests, as is his custom, someone called out: “It’s the Chef in the Hat”!  The hat has become his trademark since that day.

It’s wonderful, of course. Thank you, Kathy! And thank you both for being such great neighbors.

 

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Notable Neighbors: Our Jerry

AUGUST 5, 2016 | CATHERINE NUNNELEY

Dear Neighbors, when I was editing the Valley View Newsletter 10 years ago, I wrote a popular column titled "One of Our Neighbors." The articles told the stories of the everyday accomplishments and interests of our own people. As an effort to rekindle some enthusiasm for knowing about our neighbors, I am revitalizing the column for the Madison Valley Facebook page and the Madison Valley website.  They should appear monthly or thereabouts. Please contact me if you know of someone who would agree to be featured! —Cathy Nunneley

 

Those of us who have lived in the neighborhood for many decades know Jerry Sussman as a community icon. He has worked as a social activist for most of his 89 years. Jerry was the founding co-president of the current Madison Valley Community Council and savior of the Harrison Ridge Greenbelt. He organized our traditional annual spaghetti dinner and rummage sale. Together with his wife, Peggy, the Sussmans were the “go-to” people for getting anything done in the neighborhood. Their home was a hub of community activity for all of us. What dinner parties we had!!

 

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Many of those efforts are in the past. This year Jerry transitioned from a post he has held for many years.

When he retired from a long career in schools around the Puget Sound, Jerry Sussman thought he was through with teaching. However, a call for volunteers caught his attention and he was once again immersed in the class- room. After over twenty-five years, and at the age of 89, Jerry has said a poignant farewell to his students

In the early 1990s, the Soviet Union dissolved and our country was flooded with Russians, many of them Jews desperate to flee the ensuing chaos. The United States primarily honored visa requests from applicants who were joining other family members. Many of these immigrants found themselves in Seattle and were anxious to begin life again as useful citizens. However, the Russians lacked an integral factor for an independent life: English language skills. Jewish Family Services put out a request for “English as a Second Language” (ESL) teachers and Jerry volunteered. 

Jerry had had previous experience teaching ESL in our public schools and also taught high school history. His grandparents were Jewish Russian immigrants and this coupled with his extensive knowledge of that country’s history helped him establish a bond with his students. 

Initially, the students were young adults eager to join the work force with acceptable language skills. As they found employment, this population gradually gave way to an older group who wanted to function well in the new society but for many reasons were unable to find jobs. Many of the older immigrants were professionals who did not have acceptable credentials to resume their past jobs in this country. Physicians, musicians, engineers, and scientists were among Jerry’s pupils. 

Jerry found that all his students had some English language education in the Soviet system. They knew the alphabet and understood the basic structure of English. However, they lacked vocabulary and grammar skills and their heavy Russian accents made it difficult for them to be understood. 

To build vocabulary, Jerry encouraged discussion of the students’ experiences in the Soviet Union. They had great fun recounting their childhoods. More seriously, the men told stories of World War II and their time as soldiers in the Red Army fighting the Nazis. Everyone had a tale to tell of life in the Soviet era. Education and housing were guaranteed but they all experienced widespread anti-Semitism. Fear of the secret police made any political discussion dangerous. There was no tolerance for dissent. 

Life in the American city of Seattle has also been a topic of great amusement. The students were often baffled by American liberalism especially concerning the upbringing of children. As with many other immigrant cultures, the Russians felt that Americans are too lenient and that the young are far too independent. 

Jerry and the students read books together, especially ones that chronicle immigrants journeys in American. They appreciated the shared experience and the points of discussion it engendered. 

After 25 years, Jerry has grown old along with his students. Several have passed away. The few remaining students are now all in their late 80s and beyond, and the group has become an extended family to each other. Children, grandchildren and life’s everyday tribulations are shared. In this way, their lives have become intertwined. 

The Russians’ “school year” coincided with the Seattle district’s and Jerry’s students put on a great lunch in June to celebrate the end of each term. The women cooked a multitude of traditional dishes loading the table with Russian specialties. The musicians played their old favorites and sang folk songs. This festive luncheon was their way to pay tribute to Jerry for his steadfast commitment to them over the years.

He had become one of them. 

 

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