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Pioneers celebrate 97th picnic

ARLINGTON — The Stillaguamish Valley Pioneer Association re-elected their slate of officers and discussed the future of the organization at the local historians’ 97th annual Pioneer Picnic.

But mainly, the group of about 40 Arlington-area residents informally shared stories with each other at the Aug. 16 potluck — about their health, their families and their memories of the area.

“I wish I had listened to more old people and recorded their stories because every time someone passes away, it’s a resource that’s lost forever,” said pioneer Loren Kraetz, who was born in Arlington and lives on his family farm that celebrated its centennial several years ago. “My grandfather came here in 1888, my grandmother in 1891. I think we have about six generations in the valley now.”

But though Kraetz lives on the road named for his family, he is childless. His stepchildren reside outside of the Arlington area and he expressed concern that the next generation is too busy to learn the local history passed on through stories shared by members of the Pioneer Association and on display in the Pioneer Museum located behind the organization’s rental hall on 67th Avenue.

The Pioneer Association welcomes members and volunteers not born in the area — the group’s president, Myrtle Rausch considers herself relatively new to the Arlington area — but the mobility of 21st century living has left a small number of people in the community with direct family ties to the local history.

“There’s getting to be less and less native people,” said Arlington native Sylvia Dycus, who along with husband Julius, was recognized by the assembled crowd as the longest-married local couple, together for 65 years. “We’ve had so many people move into the area and a lot of our people have moved away.”

Although Dycus said she remembers coming to dances at the Pioneer Hall as a young girl, she didn’t get involved with the historical organization until they began hosting garage sales to build the museum, which opened in 1997.

Kraetz, who happens to by Dycus’ second cousin and remembers her wedding, said that part of what makes his Arlington home and history so important goes back farther than his family’s establishment in the area over 120 years ago. His family came from the Bavaria region of Germany and settled near Arlington because of its resemblance to the southern German region.

“Well, if you grow up in a place, it’s just home. I’ve been all over the world,” Kraetz said, sharing his grandfather’s words, which also seemed to speak for him. “He said, ‘This place looks so much like home, this is where I’m going to stay.’”

At the meeting, the pioneers recognized the oldest native-born man and woman. Once again, it was 96-year-old Helen Starr and 91-year-old George Grimm. Walter Haas, an Arlington native who currently lives in Priest River, Idaho, traveled the farthest to attend.

Rausch said she is looking for volunteers to lead tours through the Pioneer Museum. For more information, she can be reached by e-mail at stillypioneers1@juno.com.

Click here for more photos.

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