Top 10 stories of 2021 as voted on by readers

Readers voted recently on the top stories MLTnews published in 2021. Here are the top 10 vote-getters:

The overwhelming favorite was an article about C.J. Monaghan, a local resident who used his newly acquired woodworking skills to help other people – which garnered 30% of the total votes cast in the poll.

CJ Monaghan got into woodworking last year while his work was shut down during the pandemic. “There was no way I could just sit at home and watch TV for months, so it was definitely an outlet that turned into a new passion,” he said. (Photo by Nathan Blackwell)

Monaghan got into woodworking while his work was shut down during the pandemic. Using a slab of donated wood, he custom-crafted a large table, approximately 6 feet in length, and in turn presented $1,000 from its sale to the Everett Recovery Café, which helps people struggling with substance abuse and related mental health challenges. The idea represented “a perfect opportunity to do something good and give back,” Monaghan said.

Coming in at second place in the reader poll was an article about locally-raised artist Andrew Morrison’s Native American mural that greets passersby on the corner of 236th Street Southwest and 58th Avenue West and also serves as a long-time community landmark. The mural, which he painted more than 20 years ago on the garage at his family’s home, continues to reflect a vision and legacy of culture, heritage and pride.

Andrew Morrison painted the mural on his family home while a student at Mountlake Terrace High School. (Photo courtesy Andrew Morrison)

Morrison, whose family has both Haida and Apache tribal roots, recalled he decided to paint the mural on his parents’ house as a way to inject some art into the area that residents and those visiting the area would easily be able to view. “The Native American imagery is the theme because that’s the original people here in America, so I wanted to stay true to that,” he said. Morrison added that his family, friends and others in the area have “grown to see it as a form of identity and a landmark and a source of energy,” to be “something very intriguing and positive.”

A July article about the Mountlake Terrace Police Department referring charges to the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office following its investigation into a rash of crow shootings by a male suspect earlier this year was the third most popular choice of readers.

Those charges included reckless endangerment and discharging a firearm in the city limits. Surveillance videos obtained during the investigation showed incidents of crows appearing to be shot in public areas, such as streets and intersections, in which the suspect’s red Ford Ranger was visible. Additional charges from the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife’s law enforcement program were also expected to be forthcoming against the suspect for violating state laws.

Two articles each garnered the fourth most amount of votes in our poll.

One of those was the recovery of the Concern for Neighbors Food Bank van that had been stolen last February. It was subsequently found approximately three days later when a local resident spotted it on the street and contacted the food bank. The van’s logo had been painted over and the interior was damaged, but Andy’s Auto Repair in Lynnwood donated its services to check the van out and gave it “a clean bill of health” mechanically. As a result, the van was quickly back on the road again picking up food donations.

The September ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new Mountlake Terrace Civic Campus also took fourth place. The Civic Campus was formally unveiled at an outdoor dedication ceremony that included approximately 100 people, including city officials and staff, federal and state representatives, community members who served on the project’s advisory committee, various residents who serve on volunteer municipal boards or commissions, and several former city officials and staff.

Mountlake Terrace Mayor Kyoko Matsumoto Wright (center), with other local officials, prepares to cut the ribbon officially opening the new Civic Campus. (Photo by Larry Vogel)

“We are extremely proud of our new Civic Campus that is welcoming and reflects the residents’ ideas on design and cost,” Mayor Kyoko Matsumoto Wright said during the dedication. “It has taken more than a decade to get to this point, but the community’s patience has paid off with this beautiful campus.”

The sixth most voted-on story was also a tie between two articles.

Brier resident Hisham “Sham” Othman’s unique hobby of making hats for squirrels and then photographing them attracted national attention after one of his photos was selected for inclusion in the Washington Post’s “Squirrel Week” photography contest. He first started crafting the squirrel headwear and taking photos in May 2020 after a lengthy stint at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hisham Othman’s photo of Ms. Winky as the Cat in the Hat was included in the Washington Post’s “Squirrel Week” photography contest. (Photo courtesy Hisham Othman)

Othman then found different types of designs online, shrunk them down to a size appropriate for a squirrel’s head and fired up his 3D printer. He has enjoyed sharing his squirrel photos on social media and said his effort was aimed at providing a distraction and “something else to brighten spirits” during the past year.

A brief preview of the waterfront changes coming to Lake Ballinger via the construction project there that began last summer also tied for sixth place. The upgrades at Ballinger Park include a new fishing pier, boat dock, boat launch, and shoreline improvements. Due to the construction work, the southeastern portion of the park including the boat launch, beach, and parking lot has been temporarily fenced off and closed.

Two articles tied for eighth place in the poll of readers.

Friends and family of longtime Mountlake Terrace resident Mickey Schwald celebrated her 90th birthday in August by throwing her a surprise party. Organizers put together a socially distanced party during which people drove by Schwald’s residence to wish her a happy birthday and attendees were also treated to cupcakes.

Mickey “Da Mama” Schwald beams from the floral throne her granddaughter made for the surprise party celebrating her 90th birthday. (Photo by David Carlos)

Schwald, whom many people refer to as “Da Mama,” has long been involved in the community and loves to help out other people – so organizers wanted to make sure she knew how much the community cared about her. “This community’s been very, very supportive to me, I’ve lived here 60 years, and they just take care of me,” Schwald said. She added, “I will savor this for a long, long time.”

News in December that a site previously identified in Mountlake Terrace for the possible location of a work-release facility wasn’t feasible also garnered enough votes to tie for eighth place. “After receiving feedback from the pre-application process with the City of Mountlake Terrace and in consultation with the property owner and our contract consultant, KMB Architects, our evaluation of the site at 7125 224th St. S.W. and the associated requirements indicates that the site cannot be improved to the extent necessary to result in a DOC work-release,” said Mark Kucza, who is a senior administrator with the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) and project lead for its work-release expansion project.

Rounding out the top 10 vote-getters was an article about Lynnwood resident Mel Nason, who discovered a new passion during the COVID-19 pandemic: finding and repairing bicycles and then donating them to kids. Nason dubbed his operation Holy Spokes and the cause has even inspired other people including family and friends to help him too.

Mel Nason fixes up bikes in his home workshop that he then donates to kids in need. (Photo by Nathan Blackwell)

Nason allows children to select a bicycle from his home workshop’s inventory. Before the user returns later to pick it up, “I clean it up, tune it up and make it safe,” he said. Nason noted that he particularly enjoys seeing the joyous reactions of kids when they come to pick up their bikes. “It is very rewarding just to make a child happy and a lot of them it’s their very first bike,” he said, adding it reminds him of the fun and sense of freedom associated with owning his first bike.

— By Nathan Blackwell

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