War Bonds

She found love in the right place

When Janet Hegdahl, 16, found out her family was moving from Portland to Spokane in the fall of 1955, she didn’t jump for joy.

“I’d just gotten a job at the library,” she recalled.

She’d also discovered boys.

“I was really interested in boys, a little too interested,” Janet said. “I was looking for boyfriends in all the wrong places.”

Her unhappiness about the move melted away the first Sunday her family attended Trinity United Presbyterian Church. That’s when she saw Jack Arkills singing in the choir and thought church just might be the right place to meet a guy.

Jack noticed her as well and made a beeline for her as soon as the service ended. He was the youth director and Sunday School superintendent, and he wanted to invite her to the youth meeting that evening.

“The Italians have what they call a thunderbolt,” Jack said. “It’s when you see someone, and it’s instant recognition.”

He smiled at Janet.

“It was instant for me,” he said.

She felt the same way.

They both attended Lewis and Clark High School and saw each other between classes and after school. On one of their first dates, they saw the movie “High Society,” and when Bing Crosby crooned “True Love” to Grace Kelly, it became their song.

From their Riverview Retirement Community apartment in Spokane, Jack sang, “I give to you and you give to me, true love, true love …”

Jack already had a connection to Bing Crosby – he’d caddied for Crosby at Indian Canyon in the late ’40s.

“Bing was a big tipper,” he recalled.

In May 1957, Jack dashed into the downtown library where Janet was working. It was the day of the Armed Forces Torchlight Parade, and he was scheduled to march with his National Guard unit.

It was also Janet’s 18th birthday.

“I had a ring in my pocket,” Jack said.

He proposed.

She said yes.

And off he ran to march in the parade.

Jack had graduated from high school and was working for the Great Northern Railroad.

“I wanted to go to Whitworth and be a minister, but pretty soon I was making more than my friends who were teachers,” he said.

Janet had received a scholarship to Eastern Washington University, so they married March 21, 1958, during spring break.

She sewed her tea-length lace wedding gown, and they said their wedding was the last one held at Trinity United Presbyterian, which soon closed its doors.

They settled in an apartment in Browne’s Addition, and almost a year after their wedding, their son, Chris, was born.

“We had a 2-week-old on our first anniversary,” Janet said, smiling.

Thirteen months later, son Scott arrived and Janet’s college education was put on hold.

Daughter, Amy, completed the family in 1962, and they settled into a house in the Garland District.

The family made First Presbyterian their church and it quickly became the center of their lives. Janet became the church librarian, a position she still holds, 55 years later, and Jack joined the choir, and yes, he still sings in it.

Their lives took a drastic turn in 1966 when Jack was severely injured in a train derailment. He was on top of the train to tie a handbrake and got knocked off during the derailment.

“I landed on my back on the track,” he said.

He broke his arm and had six fractures in his sacrum. For two long weeks, he had no sensation in his legs.

“They said I’d never walk again.”

Janet, 25, didn’t know how to drive, but a neighbor taught her during her frequent trips to the hospital.

With three children, a mortgage and her husband’s recuperation uncertain, Janet returned to work at Spokane Public Library. She ended up working at all three Shadle branch locations, as well as the Indian Trail branch.

“I’ve always been addicted to reading and to studying,” she said.

Indeed. She started night school, picking up a class here and there, until 25 years after she began her college career, she graduated from EWU.

Meanwhile, Jack was able to return to work on the railroad. Not only was he able to walk, he started to run. And run. And run some more. Eventually, he ran five marathons.

The family moved to the South Hill in 1979, and when the kids flew the nest, Jack and Janet built their dream house – a passive solar home on Moran Prairie.

In 1987, Jack was diagnosed with polymyostis, a rare inflammatory disease that causes muscle weakness. He retired from the railroad in 1991, though the disease eventually went into remission.

He’s always been the head cook in the family.

Janet laughed.

“I’d put something on and go off and read and wouldn’t you know it? It burned,” she said.

She retired from the library in 2004. Her career spanned the years from handwritten check out cards, to bar codes. From card catalogs to digital catalogs, and she relished every minute.

For many years, the couple have been members of Friendship Force International, a nonprofit organization and hospitality service with the mission of improving intercultural relations, cultural diplomacy, and intercultural competence via homestays.

The Arkills have traveled across the globe, including stops in Australia, France, Germany and Tasmania.

“We love to travel,” Janet said. “We’re both extroverts, so we love to host people here, too.”

Jack survived a bout of esophageal cancer, and 14 years ago they moved to Riverview, where they continue to be active and involved.

Janet marvels that the move to Spokane which she so despaired of, ended up giving her the love of her life, and she sees the hand of the Divine at work.

“The Lord led us together and He’s kept us together,” she said.

Looking at Jack, she smiled.

“We’re best friends.”

As for Jack, the thunderbolt that hit him more than 60 years ago, hasn’t worn off.

“So many couples say they fall out of love,” he said. “I don’t get it. I guess I never fell out of love.”

War Bonds

Patriotism on Parade

In 2010, I accompanied a group of Pearl Harbor Survivors during an annual Armed Forces parade in my hometown. The reaction of the crowd to this small group of heros showed me just how much Americans value the men and women who served our country during WWII and solidified my desire to write War Bonds.

Here’s the column I wrote about that event. Ray, Cindy and DenisRay Daves, Cindy Hval and Denis Mikkelsen

When I received an invitation to appear in this year’s Armed Forces Torchlight Parade, I had mixed feelings. My only previous parade experience hadn’t gone well.

In seventh grade I rode on our church youth group’s float in Moses Lake. The theme? Daniel in the Lion’s Den. I had a major crush on the guy chosen to be Daniel, so I agreed to ride on the float. I pictured myself as one of the angels sent by God to shut the lions’ mouths. Instead, they made me a lion, complete with furry suit and painted-on whiskers. My mane was made of cardboard, and I kept poking my fellow feline’s eyes with every turn of my head.

Did you know Moses Lake gets very warm in the spring? I sizzled and sweated through the parade and my black whiskers ran like polluted rain down my cheeks. Then I started sneezing. The “den” was made out of hay bales, those being plentiful in Moses Lake. That’s how I found out I’m allergic to hay. By the end of the parade my eyes were swollen shut, and “Daniel” hadn’t even noticed me growling at his feet.

However, the Torchlight parade would be different. The theme was “Freedom is not Free,” and instead of a float made of hay bales I’d been ask to accompany the Pearl Harbor survivors on a military truck. I’ve written several stories about these incredible folks over the years, and they’ve kind of adopted me. I was so honored by the invitation, I would have said yes even if they wanted me to wear a lion costume.

So on parade day, I boarded the truck with five Pearl Harbor survivors ranging in age from 86 to 93. Among them: Warren and Betty Schott, who were both on Ford Island when the bombs began to fall.

Denis Mikkelsen who was sleeping aboard the USS West Virginia and woke to the sound of chaos. When the order came to abandon ship he dived into the harbor.

Sid Kennedy at the Naval Air Station Kaneohe, watched the planes swoop in. “Look at the show the Army’s putting on,” he’d said. Then he saw the red circles on the aircrafts’ wings.

And Ray Daves was on his way to breakfast when he looked up to see the first bomb hit Ford Island. He prayed, “God, don’t let it get my friend, Jim.”

The memories of Dec. 7, 1941, are seared into the minds of this small band of survivors. Each year their number dwindles, yet those who are able agree to appear in the parade, not for cheers or accolades, but to honor the thousands of Americans who did not survive the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Joining us on the truck were the survivor’s family escorts and Jean Flechel, widow of a Pearl Harbor survivor. The sun warmed us as we waited for the start of the parade and at last we began our slow trek through city streets.

Much has been said and written about the decline of patriotism in America and how younger generations don’t seem to honor the flag and our country the way our forebears did.

This may be true, but it certainly wasn’t what I observed that night. Almost without exception men, women and children leapt to their feet as our truck went by. Teenage boys took off their ball caps, men saluted or put their hands over their hearts and the applause was deafening. Amid the clapping I heard shouts of, “God bless you!” and “We love you,” but mostly what I heard were these words shouted over and over again: “Thank you! Thank you for your service.”

I heard teenage girls scream as if Justin Bieber was in town. I watched grown men weep and small children wave and clap while others stood somberly at attention as the truck passed.

Some may believe our country has lost its way and its citizens no longer value the tenets upon which our nation was built. But what I experienced in the company of American heroes that night, filled me with hope.

Maybe we haven’t forgotten what is most important, after all.