A Birthday With Strangers, an Unlikely Reunion, and Sam’s Club Shuts Down

Plus, park renovation in Kirkland.

1. A Sammamish grandmother of six and great-grandmother of 10 celebrated her 101st birthday at the Issaquah Highlands UPS Store last Wednesday morning surrounded by friends, family—and quite a few messages from strangers.

Eileen Wilkinson, who was born during the First World War, entered the store and discovered a secret mailbox full of letters, along with a cake and balloons from UPS Store staff. Loved ones and employees sang “Happy Birthday” to Wilkinson.

The unique celebration started with a Facebook page. Set up by grandson Mike Matthews, the page titled “Grandma Eileen” has received more than 4,500 likes. Matthews, who lives in New York City, sets up a stand with his laptop on the city streets and invites passers-by to take part in Skype conversations with his grandmother, which he then shares on the Facebook page. Wilkinson is not shy about giving advice during these conversations, and her witty pieces of wisdom have made her a social media hit.

Wilkinson’s family recently used the page to ask people around the U.S. to send the centenarian letters and cards for her birthday. As a surprise, Wilkinson’s family set up a mailbox at the UPS Store, and during the past month, over 100 letters from all around the U.S. have poured in (and more are on the way from Germany) to congratulate Wilkinson on her big day.

She observed that the letter campaign may have been so successful because “there is so much going on in the world that is so ugly right now, that people want something fun.”

Wilkinson pointed to the dozens of letters and stated, “I really will answer all these—I’ve got the time.” Issaquah Reporter

2. Edith Moulton Park will remain closed through July as the City of Kirkland begins renovations that will add gravel paths, a boardwalk, pavilion, restroom, play structure, and multiple off-leash dog trails.

According to Michael Cogle, deputy director of Kirkland’s Department of Parks and Community Services, the city aims to maintain a balance between developed recreation spaces and natural undeveloped areas; enhance the park for small neighborhood, school or family gatherings; improve park access; preserve the park’s forests; enhance wetland and stream habitats; and provide fenced, off-leash dog trails to prevent negative effects on other users or wildlife habitat.

The park is named after Edith Moulton, who owned the property until her death in 1967. According to the city and assessor’s records from 1939, the property contained 15 fox pens and a combination of orchard, cleared pasture, uncleared stump land, and second growth. Moulton visited and cared for the property throughout her life. After 1954, she even lived on the premises for short periods.

Moulton willed the property to King County as a public park, which now features 26 acres of lawns, forested area, trails, and parking areas. Kirkland annexed the park in 2011. Kirkland Reporter

3.When Robert Terrell, 96, and Margaret (Peggy) Burley, 75, ran into each other at Bonney Lake’s Cedar Ridge assisted living facility last August, neither of them realized they had met before—at an elementary school.

“It was one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve ever had,” Terrell said.

Bob, a five-year resident of Cedar Ridge, and Peggy, who had moved into the facility just four months previous, only ran into each other because they were both walking their dogs at the time.

His Maltese, Gracie, isn’t always the friendliest to other dogs, so as they were pulling her and Peggy’s toy poodle, Buster, apart, they started talking.

They don’t recall the exact conversation, but Peggy said she most likely mentioned her son’s wife was a teacher, to which Bob probably said he was a teacher too.

From there, the two rediscovered their connection: They were both at Pacific Elementary School in 1951—he a teacher, she his student. The memories started flooding back.

Peggy’s class at Pacific Elementary was Bob’s first. He wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to be a teacher, but he said after meeting Peggy and her 29 fellow students, he never looked back.

“That first year with Peggy and those other kids, that was my best year of teaching, because it proved I could do the job,” Terrell said. The Courier-Herald

4. Employees of Sam’s Club in Renton were surprised to learn Thursday that their stores would be closing as part of a larger nationwide shuttering of 63 store locations, including three in King County. The move will affect 495 workers in the county.

An advisory from the Employment Security Department of Washington State detailed that permanent layoffs will be effective March 16 at these locations: 168 in Auburn, 179 in Renton, and 148 in Seattle.

Although the stores are not expected to close permanently until March, all three were closed on Jan. 11 and they have already disappeared from the store locator search on the Sam’s Club website. The stores are expected to reopen tomorrow according to messages on the stores’ voicemails.

Ten of the affected stores will be turned into distribution centers for online orders, and employees will have the opportunity to reapply for positions at these locations, according to a report by KIRO 7.

These layoffs come on the heel of a Thursday morning announcement from Walmart, which owns Sam’s Club, saying that it will be raising its starting wage from $9 to $11, giving bonuses to some employees, and expanding parental leave benefits. In addition to owning Sam’s Club, Walmart is the largest private employer in the country, and these changes affect potentially thousands of workers throughout the nation. The retailer said it would pay for the raises and expansion of benefits with the money it expects to save under the recently passed tax plan. There is currently no clear indication that the store closures and the pay raises are linked. Renton Reporter