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Oak Harbor’s ‘cheerleader’ honored for historical contribution to Whidbey
Oak Harbor’s Helen Chatfield Weeks is probably best known as the feisty octogenarian who rises up to lead a rousing “hip, hip, hooray” at parades, events and even City Council meetings.
She has also been a fixture in local groups, is a prolific photographer and has worked to preserve Whidbey’s history.
Because of her community involvement, Chatfield Weeks is being honored during the Island County Historical Society’s Awesome Auction scheduled from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20 at the Oak Harbor Elks Lodge.
“She’s a major community booster,” said Rick Castellano, director of the Island County Historical Society. “We’re honored to know her.”
His thoughts were echoed by Wallie Funk, who received the same honor from the Historical Society in 2011.
“I am delighted that she is getting this honor,” Funk, the one-time co-owner of the Whidbey News-Times, said. He recalled working with Chatfield Weeks when he was president of the Navy League in the 1970s. Chatfield Weeks would provide photos for a quarterly magazine published by the Navy League at that time.
Chatfield Weeks, who is 87 and has lived in Oak Harbor since 1969, is known as Oak Harbor’s cheerleader for her “hip, hip hooraying” whenever the occasion arises. She was inspired to use the cheer when she saw a British movie years ago.
“I just loved the sound of it. I thought it was the best way to honor someone,” Chatfield Weeks said.
Funk said she has an interest in Whidbey Island history, particularly the north end. She has been involved in everything from organizing Fourth of July celebrations to participating in community theater. He noted that Chatfield Weeks had a unique Shirley Temple impression that she would show at fundraisers.
Castellano also highlighted Chatfield Weeks’ contribution to preserving local history. The former journalist and mother to six children helped preserve the Neal Watertower, which still stands near the Roller Barn in Oak Harbor. Chatfield Weeks was one of four women — Kathryn Johnson, Jan Ellis, and Joan Brosnahan are the others — who formed a group to raise money to save the historic structure. It took the group approximately two years in the late 1980s to raise enough money to preserve the town landmark.
Castellano also said Chatfield Weeks helped on the museum board to guide the organization through some financially difficult times several years ago.
People attending the auction will also see a snapshot of Chatfield Weeks’ skills as a photographer. After working 18 years covering Oak Harbor for the Skagit Valley Herald, Chatfield Weeks accumulated a collection of photos that provides a chronicle of North Whidbey. She said that she was always recognizable by her camera bag and camera she always carried with her.
Castellano said the collection she provided for the event included her years as a journalist along with family photos and art photos. He described her as a “prolific” photographer.
Those photos will be on display during the Saturday auction.
Saturday’s event marks the second time honoring a resident with a love for history.
“We thought Helen would be a perfect followup to Wallie,” Castellano said.
Saturday’s Awesome Auction is the museum’s major fundraiser for the year. The $24,000 raised from the 2011 auction helped sustain the museum through the first part of 2012. This year’s auction is even more important because the county reduced its expenditure for the museum to $8,000 from $15,000.
Castellano said the auction will feature approximately 100 items that are being sold. Castellano highlighted “night at the museum” where parents and their children stay overnight, enjoy a barbecue and a flashlight tour of historic downtown Coupeville.
Another item being auctioned off Saturday is a guided tour of Fort Whitman, which is located on Goat Island in Skagit Bay. Since there isn’t any pier on the island, visitors on the tour will use a landing-craft-style boat to get to the island.
“You get to storm the beaches of Fort Whitman and enjoy a guided tour,” Castellano said.