Mary Elizabeth Hasten It was the first day of spring in 1924 in rural West Seattle when Rebecca Hasten welcomed her sixth child into her family. Life was difficult in the 1920s and 30s for the Hasten clan. With so many children to support, six sons (Eddie, Albert, Glen, Danny, Otis, and Roy) and two daughters (Mary and Margaret), food was not plentiful, a new dress was a luxury and toys were simple or strictly from imagination. Even so, Mary was a blessing. Her older brothers protectively doted on her while her mother taught her to be strong. Early on, Mary was an inquisitive, independent girl with a strong work ethic and knack...
Mary Elizabeth Hasten
It was the first day of spring in 1924 in rural West Seattle when Rebecca Hasten welcomed her sixth child into her family. Life was difficult in the 1920s and 30s for the Hasten clan. With so many children to support, six sons (Eddie, Albert, Glen, Danny, Otis, and Roy) and two daughters (Mary and Margaret), food was not plentiful, a new dress was a luxury and toys were simple or strictly from imagination. Even so, Mary was a blessing. Her older brothers protectively doted on her while her mother taught her to be strong.
Early on, Mary was an inquisitive, independent girl with a strong work ethic and knack for making something out of the remnants at hand. Her best friend and cohort was Genevieve (Tootsie, if you please), a short contrast to Mary's tall, lanky form. If there was a fort to be erected, pennies to be earned in the berry fields or a spider-infested shack to be converted for a barn dance, Mary and Tootsie were the indomitable forces of action. She learned that with hard work and creativity she could accomplish much while enjoying herself. These lessons would mold Mary throughout her life, from a desperately poor childhood to a secure, yet frugal, adulthood.
One time, her brother Glen asked her to come along to pick up a car he had purchased in South Park. The 12-year-old Mary, luckily extra tall for her age, was put in charge of driving the new car home while Glen followed behind. The highly technical instructions before driving off were, "Make sure you push in the pedal when you have to stop." So off they went on her maiden Sunday drive. As they left Marginal Way to climb onto the West Seattle bridge, the light turned to red. Mary killed the car when she braked. Glen ran over to restart the car, this time telling her to push in the big pedal at the same time as the brake. Four times she had to stop for lights. Four times she killed the car. Four times Glen patiently restarted the car and reminded her about the big pedal. Eventually they arrived safely at home, the car no worse from wear. And from that day on, Mary's fascination and love for cars, especially muscle cars, never ceased. Looking at her you would never have imagined she was a gear head, able to tell you every detail about the engine of each car. Later in life she was very proud to say she had saved from her job to pay cash for a 1966 Buick Skylark, 2-door hardtop, with a big, powerful Wildcat engine, teal colored, of course.
Mary Elizabeth Audett
After graduating from West Seattle High School, Mary met James Audett and fell in love with his car with the missing floor boards. They married, and on November 23, 1942, their only daughter, Joanne Marie, was born. Raising a child during the tumultuous years of World War II was challenging, but Mary thrived as a mother. She set her talented hands to work sewing baby clothes and curtains, embroidering kitchen towels, crocheting afghans, canning raspberry jam, baking pies and cakes and bread. As Joanne grew, the sewing projects became more and more elaborate – dresses for dances, graduations and Sunday mass. There were always cookies in the freezer and picnics of fried chicken and potato salad packed in the little red Coleman cooler with a thermos of coffee and jug of lemonade. Sunday drives were spent exploring all of the back roads around Washington, especially if they ended on a river, at the beach or near a patch of wild blackberries.
One drive ended in a wooded park above a river near Snohomish. After eating their picnic lunch, Jimmy strolled down to the river for a look around. As Mary packed away the food she heard a rustling in the trees. Looking up, she was surprised to see a little monkey swinging in the branches. She couldn't comprehend what a monkey was doing there, but there it was. When Jimmy came back from the river she told him her amazing story. "Oh, why are you always making things up? You did not see a monkey," he protested.
"I did too see a monkey. Why would I make that up? You know I never lie." This went back and forth several minutes until they decided to leave. As they walked up the path to their car, a man walked down the trail with a monkey on his shoulder. "I hope I didn't scare either of you," he said. "I bring my monkey down here for exercise because he gets bored in the house." Jimmy didn't say another word.
At first the Audett family lived on Walnut Street on the top floor of a duplex on the hill overlooking downtown Seattle. Joanne went to Holy Rosary School, coming home each day to a home-cooked meal and meticulously cleaned home. Eventually, in 1952, the family moved to SW Mills Street, where Mary would live the next 62 years, seeing countless neighbors come and go.
After Joanne started college, Mary decided she wanted to work outside the home. At 41-years-old she took a secretarial course at the community college, the oldest by far in her class. She applied at Boeing, hoping to practice her interviewing skills before applying for a job she felt qualified for. To her surprise, she was offered a job in the steno pool, where she worked for several years until the executives caught wind of this amazingly organized, professional, honest, loyal, hard-working lady. She was a favorite requested fill-in when any executive's secretary was on vacation. She had such a great reputation that when William Allen, President and CEO of Boeing, retired and needed a personal secretary during his Board tenure, Mary gladly accepted the position. Even years later, Mary was extremely proud that she was able to get her first paid job all by herself at 41 and work her way to the top in her field.
Joanne met Michael Griffin at Seattle University, fell for the quiet, dark-haired man and they were married August 8, 1964. On May 30, 1965, Joanne presented Mary with the first of five grandchildren, Christine Louise. Grandma was elated. Jeff, Shelly, Kerry and Beth arrived over the next seventeen years. All of the talents Grandma practiced as a mother were put to use doting on her grandchildren. Once again her Singer was humming, churning out dresses, Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls, smocks, pantsuits and western shirts with pearl buttons. She baked pies, most famously pumpkin and butterscotch. She baked bread, which she would bring up the hill hot out of the oven on a Saturday, placing it on the kitchen table with a knife and butter, knowing full well it wasn't going to last until dinner. Later, when her grandchildren were old enough to drive themselves for an unannounced visit, Grandma would invariably ask if they were hungry, each one hoping it was tuna fish with pecans and bread and butter pickles or fried chicken dinner with green beans, mashed potatoes with gravy and biscuits with raspberry jam she would offer.
Though Mary lived her childhood during the depression, her mother's habit of taking in souls for a warm meal and safe sleep taught her generosity and compassion. She often told her grandchildren, "If I have a crust of bread, you have a crust of bread. As long as I have a roof over my head, you will have a roof over your head." This generosity and loyalty were comforting, knowing that no matter how tough life got, there would always be a safe welcome in Grandma's home.
During this time, she and Jimmy made their almost yearly trip down the coast to Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm. She loved singing along with the flowers and birds in the Tiki Room, watching the fireworks every evening, having her picture taken with Sad Eyed Joe and eating fried chicken dinner at Knott's Berry Farm. There are countless slides of her walking up the bridge to Sleeping Beauty's castle and screaming her way down the big drop of the Log Ride. They even brought Chris to those magical places when she was five, twirling her around on the Teacup Ride, having her portrait made at the same shop Joanne's had been done years before and introducing her to Knott's Berry Farm biscuits.
She remembered to spend special time with her daughter, too, going to auctions and garage sales together. They created a game about Her House. Whenever they would see anything truly hideous or gaudy, such as a massive rusty bird cage or six-foot-tall gilded chair with buxom women carved into the legs, they would say to each other how great the item would go in "her house." This was their code for how atrocious something was without offending anyone around them. It became a challenge to see who could come up with the most outrageous addition for "her house."
Besides spending time with Joanne, Mary enjoyed activities with her buddies. She did water aerobics with a group of ladies, stopping at the bakery for coffee together after class. She also took a monthly bus tour to various casinos so she could play her nickel slots, especially Milk Money, and eat lunch out. And if you needed to know the finer points of poker games such as Baseball or Spit in the Ocean, Grandma was the one to ask. Then there were all of the mystery trips and cruises throughout the United States with Vernice and Allan. And Moose McGillicuddy's balcony on Maui was her special spot for letting loose with a Chichi after a day at the beach.
Grandma was also an avid story teller – Mr. Green; the mouse crawling up Mr. Wietzel's pants leg while he was driving; the nurse landing on the beach in France with her toilet paper stash; Mr. Allen's driving skills; picking strawberries to buy ice cream; the streetcar bridge over the mudflats; walking the culvert pipe over the swamp in White Center; buying coffee for her brother's Christmas present. As she liked to say, "I can't help it if interesting things happened to me. I'm not making any of it up."
Grandma added quilting to her list of talents. Bright teal and purple were favorite combinations, as well as teal with orange and chocolate brown. Meticulously pressing each piece of cloth was essential, as was perfecting mitered corners. Each quilt was unique and drenched with love, plus a pin prick of blood.
She was ahead of her time on social justice issues, such as women's rights, gay rights, financial inequality and basic human dignity. Being of the older generation, she could have toed the conservative line, saying she was too stuck in her ways to change. Instead, she chose progressive attitudes and actions. She often announced that she wished she could be named Popess so she could help turn the world around, mandating equality, stomping out bigotry and encouraging compassion. No matter who you were and what your situation, you deserved a chance to thrive and make something of yourself. During the last papal enclave she was very upset that she couldn't be chosen as Popess because she was finally too old.
She recently was waiting for a bus downtown to go home from a doctor's visit when a 20-something-year-old girl walked up to her, stuck her face in Grandma's face and spat, "You b****!" then strode away. Another young girl at the bus stop witnessed the interaction and was horrified, apologizing to Grandma for the unexplained encounter. "Someone must have really hurt that girl to make her so angry," Grandma responded. That was the type of gentle, kind, optimistic attitude she embodied that this world could use more of.
Grandma Coo Coo
Finally great-grandchildren joined her family – Jacque, Maddie, Griffin and Ruxin. Each of them was precious to Grandma Coo Coo. She loved quietly holding their little heads under her chin as she rocked in the chair or reading books to them. As they matured she enjoyed watching them dive, do Irish dance and teaching them solitaire games. Holidays were a special time to gather for food and fun – Pie Day before Thanksgiving; long games of Wise and Otherwise; searching for Easter eggs in the back yard; dressing in costume at Sunland. She was willing to have fun and be silly with her family.
Though she was nearly 90, she never was an old lady. When her Toyota Camry started aging she dreamed of a new car – a big engine, spinners and a spoiler with LED lights embedded along the back – not something you'd imagine a white-haired old lady driving. But that was the point.
Even near the end she maintained her spunky attitude. When physical therapy finally paid off enough for her to walk to the end of the kitty hall and back, she proudly said, "I kicked butt!" She said this over and over to each new person who asked how she was doing.
I would have to say, she always kicked butt!