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August 7, 2016


I was getting ready for an outdoor evening performance. The musicians in the show were huddled off near the shoreline of Deception Pass doing a last minute run-through of some of the songs.  There were wires scattered on the ground near the Amphitheater performance area as the sound tech did mike checks. A little woman (just about Berte’s size now that I think of it!) quietly came up with a book she wanted me to sign. I didn’t recognize her, but she said she was Berte’s sister Inga’s grand-daughter. I was too busy to sign right then, but I promised her that we would meet after the show.

As we started the show, the sun started to go down – and so did the temperature! The audience was dotted with colorful cocoons as people wrapped themselves in coats, jackets, and blankets. But they listened – really well – and laughed in the right places and seemed to thoroughly enjoy the musical interludes in the show. After it was over, the little woman came back. As I glanced at her, something looked vaguely familiar. I thought of all the people connected with Berte who had showed up at one of the fifty performances of this show I have done over the past thirteen years: family members, friends, people who worked for her or rode on her little ferries, people who met her at one of her many personal appearances over the years. There were so many; I began to realize that telling this story was important to other people as well. I was thanked – dozens of times – for simply telling her story; for reviving this forgotten piece of Puget Sound maritime history. And now – here was this little woman.

She introduced me to her family: her husband and children and said that she wanted to give the book I signed to her grand-son. The Deception Pass Bridge was there in the background – a vital part of the story of  her Great-aunt Berte – lit beautifully by the setting sun. Then she told me that she had been at the premiere of this show – at the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley –  thirteen years ago! A vivid image flashed through my mind: the fifteen members of the Olson family that I had invited down to the stage at the end of that show. I will never forget that moment. And she was there… and now she was here…amazing.


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