Life on Whidbey: 'I'm one proud mama'

A stubborn fog bank on Ault Field’s western edge refused to budge, meaning there would be no flyover of EA-6B Prowlers to kick off the July 4th parade. Spectators along Pioneer Way stood in brilliant sunshine, unaware that conditions a few miles away caused the cancellation.

That’s too bad, because one local mother was hoping to blow a kiss to the aircraft as they thundered past. You see, her daughter, LT. VIKA RUSSELL, an electronics countermeasures officer with VAQ-141, was scheduled to be part of the crew.

MARY RUSSELL works as a cashier at the 7-Eleven store next to Burger King. For some customers, her question, “How are you today?” is the only friendly greeting they’ll hear that day.

Franchise owners GREG and LINDA WASINGER say Mary is “absolutely dependable.” She is never absent, Greg noted.

Her day begins early, at 5:30 a.m. to be exact. The single mother of two daughters has never had a car and walks to work from home and back. She occasionally takes an Island Transit bus, but mostly she walks.

You’ve probably seen her along Pioneer Way or Barrington, head held high, a Mona Lisa smile on her face. In those moments, she must be thinking of her girls, now grown women, and the pride she feels in all they have accomplished.

Her daughter Vika was in NJROTC all through high school, graduating with the Oak Harbor High School Class of 1997. She was awarded an NROTC scholarship to attend Iowa State University, where she graduated in 2002. After receiving her commission in the U.S. Navy, Vika went through more schooling, got her Wings of Gold and reported to VAQ-141 here at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. She was promoted to lieutenant in June.

Her other daughter, MARA RUSSELL, graduated from Oak Harbor High School in 1998 and is currently a physical therapist in Spokane.

Over the years, Wasinger said, “The girls helped out as much as they could. I marvel at Mary and her daughters and how well they’ve done. It’s amazing. Mary is a giving person, always helping out or feeding someone.”

Mary respects the Wasingers as her employers and feels close to them as part of her extended family. They will always be important in her life.

There are many parents raising children alone on North Whidbey. Like Mary, they are proud and will likely decline your offer to fix a leaky faucet or share the bounty of an overstocked pantry. Don’t let that stop you. Acts of kindness done anonymously create a domino effect. Try it on friends and families, too. They also need intentional demonstrations of caring.

Where in the world are ...

There’s a reason why you haven’t seen BETH and LARRY MUNNS around Oak Harbor, their home of the past 10 years. They have temporarily moved to the other coast, specifically Maryland.

Beth writes they are settled near Annapolis, just 20 minutes from Baltimore Washington International airport, so Larry, a pilot with Southwest Airlines, has a shorter commute to work while on reserve duty as a junior airline captain.

In talking to members of the Oak Harbor Area Council of Navy League, where both Larry and Beth were presidents (2003 and 2004, respectively), people had nothing but glowing praise for each of them, especially Beth, who was described as tireless and unstoppable.

Beth may be back for Race Week, and they will both be back in Oak Harbor sometime after Christmas.

Just wondering ...

What did I think of the July 4 parade? Glad you asked!

Thumbs up on the weather; shouts of thanks to men and women in uniform; firm handshakes of eager political candidates; the Pioneer Tree Service outdoor scene on a flatbed trailer.

Thumbs down on unidentified marchers; go-karts coming too close to little fellas on the curb; absence of the Shriners’ tall genie with the bejeweled navel; folks who failed to remove their hats as the flag passed by.

Overheard: “Son, don’t let the flag touch the ground.” He’s pretty young to know about respect for the flag and why we celebrate the signing of the Constitution, but he’ll learn.

See you next week. Please call me at 675-6611 or write

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