by Kirby Lindsay, posted 5 October 2012
It started with an article, clipped from who-knows-where (please, for posterity, next time you clip an article – make sure the publication name and the date are with it,) written under the by-line ‘Millie Klassert.’ The piece, handed to me by History House Operations Director John Nordstrand, contained information I’d never encountered before about the original names of many Fremont streets.
I researched the information the article contained, and ‘wrote’ a piece that liberally borrowed from the details Klassert had revealed – so I included a note, in the author’s bio, asking that if a reader knew the original author, please, let me know. I wanted to apologize.
Thanks to electronic media, and the original author’s continued fascination with history and Fremont, I did – recently – meet her, and apologize in person.
The meeting required a visit to Clallam County, to a farm near Sequim. “I’m here because I can have acreage here,” explained the writer/teacher/farmer, now Millie Marzec. She has recently retired from a satisfying career as a Special Education peer educator and teacher’s aide, and turned to helping her husband full-time with their business – Hydrangea Rangers –selling hydrangeas and fruit.
Still, even many years later, her time spent in Fremont shines brightly in her memory. A neighbor near where she lives now shares her fondness for the neighborhood they both left long ago. Marzec believes the place remains so dear to them, “because we felt at home in Fremont. I could be myself in Fremont.”
Her life now is fulfilling, and shared with her husband of thirty years, but she hasn’t felt the freedom of expression that she once found in Fremont. Despite the open space of the peninsula, she’s felt hemmed in by the politics and pressures of adult life. “For city living,” Marzec asserted about Fremont, “it felt like home.”
Finding A Volunteer Place
Her work as a Fremont journalist began as a strictly volunteer gig. “I wanted to meet more people,” Marzec explained. She’d moved to Seattle after college, in 1974, and to Fremont in 1975. In 1979, she sought a volunteer position that would take her out into the community, and get her more involved.
One of her passions, then and now, is recycling, so she volunteered for Fremont Recycling Station #1, the very-progressive recycling effort started by Armen Stepanian. Marzec never got to meet him, though, in the entire day she worked the phones there. After calling a few area folk, to convince them to give recycling a try, she remembers being told she was, “too tentative.” She decided to go try something else, and “then I found The Forum,” she said, “It was a better fit.”
She started writing for The Fremont Forum, and began with human interest pieces, including a profile of a Fremont resident, Isabel Currin, on her 100th birthday. “I tried to do something once every two months,” she explained, as her contribution to the monthly newspaper, published by the Fremont Public Association (now Solid Ground.)
As a volunteer, Marzec felt okay if she turned down the occasional assignment given her by the Editor, Henry Gordon. She also got to have some fun – including writing a piece called ‘Irate Fremonsters Clog Bridge,’ that reported on an angry mob of boaters that blocked up the ship canal and impeded boat traffic, and was an entirely fictitious piece written as an April Fool’s gag. “Henry just let me alone,” she reported recently, “and let me do things.”
Finding The Fremont Forum
A certain casual attitude does permeate the pages of The Fremont Forum, mixed with a lot of pride and passion for this community. The newspaper frequently featured ‘cartoons’ by Rich Beyer, and profile pieces on everyone from the owners of Marketime Foods to the former caretaker at the Odd Fellows Hall.
Marzec preferred to write about the history of Fremont, including a piece on early North Lake Union settler and street car developer Edward Corliss Kilbourne, but today her human interest articles (published from 1979 – 1982) also capture history in the making. Reading issues of The Fremont Forum she preserved gives an account of Fremont with dates and details (and numerous incriminating photos) that have been frequently guessed at and even in dispute.
Marzec wrote for the newspaper until she moved away (to the U-District,) and got married (to Bob Marzec) in 1982/83. By then she’d moved fully into the position of history writer for the publication, and very occasionally borrowed from the research of S.P. Dixon in a manner remarkably similar to the way her own work would be borrowed a decade later by another dedicated Fremont writer.
Recently, from a farm near Sequim, she recollected fondly the time she spent making calls to the City of Seattle, and visits to the University of Washington library, to research an article. Time she spent largely as a volunteer, but also as a determined and enthusiastic writer finding and reconstructing history for readers then, and readers now.
Thank you, Millie Klassert-Marzec!
- The Street You Live On: An Abridged History Of Fremont Street Names
- by Kirby Lindsay, December 29, 1999 for The Seattle Press
- The Streets We Live On
- by Kirby Lindsay, May 2004 for Fremont.com
- History House Seeks Fremont History From ‘Timber To Troll’
- by Kirby Lindsay, August 3, 2012
- Another Look At The ‘People Waiting,’ And Rich Beyer
- by Kirby Lindsay, September 7, 2011
- Long Live The Mayor of Fremont
- by Kirby Lindsay, July 16, 2010
- FNC Highlight Reel: Cancelled
- by Kirby Lindsay, December 1, 2010
- Meet The Odd Fellows Hall, a.k.a. the I.O.O.F. Building
- by Kirby Lindsay, October 7, 2011
©2012 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.