Harada comes to Oak Harbor

Whidbey Island’s best known physical therapist has set up shop in Oak Harbor after a long tenure as head of Whidbey General Hospital’s physical therapy department.

“I took over the physical therapy department at Whidbey General 17 years ago,” said Steve Harada last week, at his new business on Pioneer Way in Oak Harbor. “Then I took early retirement.”

The hospital offered veteran employees incentives to retire early last year as a money saving endeavor. Harada accepted the offer but had no plans to permanently retire. He started looking around for a place to go into business.

“I could have set it up anywhere,” he said. He found there wasn’t a suitable space in Coupeville, but there was in Oak Harbor. “This location is great,” he said, referring to 210 SE Pioneer Way, near Island Drug and Ace Hardware. He actually opened during the summer, but is finally settled in with all equipment and staff in place. The Chamber of Commerce will officially welcome him to town next Wednesday.

Harada first came to Whidbey Island in 1979 with his wife Kathy, who is now special education director for the Coupeville School District. They have three sons, the youngest of whom is a senior at Coupeville.

Like many island residents, Harada first discovered the area by visiting friends. He was born in Arizona in a Japanese internment camp in the last year of World War II. Upon release, his family, which had been uprooted from its California home, headed for Chicago. Harada explained that his mother had seen a large billboard with a picture of a train on it, inviting people to come to Chicago. The family prospered in that city, and Harada graduated from Northwestern University in 1968.

Harada started a physical therapy practice, then traveled to Japan where he studied acupuncture, a skill he later brought to Whidbey Island. He started work with a home health agency which was later purchased by the hospital.

His mother, Sadako Harada, eventually joined him on the island, living in Dean Manor in Coupeville for several years before her death two years ago.

Harada practiced acupuncture in Coupeville and Langley at a time when it was just catching on in this country. Eventually, he gave it up when he became so busy as director of the Whidbey General department. But he said many of his old patients are asking for it, and he’s thinking of returning to the practice. “I was the first acupuncturist on the island,” he said.

Welcome to town

A ribbon cutting ceremony welcoming Harada Physical Therapy and Services will be held Wednesday, Nov. 12, at 4:30 p.m., sponsored by the Greater Oak harbor Chamber of Commerce. “We are excited to welcome this new business to Oak Harbor,” said Priscilla Heistad, executive director of the chamber. The business is located at 210 SE Pioneer Way, Suite 2.

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