Just before 8am on December 7, 1941, a cacophony erupted below young Maryann Ward’s home in the hills of Oahu. Bombs blasted, and kamikaze planes dove at ships.
A first wave of Japanese fighter planes began the two-hour process of decimating America’s Pacific Fleet. Thankfully, Maryann’s father’s vessel was out on maneuvers.
After a long, blessed life, Maryann’s thoughts rarely flicker back to the day when part of paradise burned.
Soon the woman whose youth was witness to battle-thrown waves will settle—along with her beloved husband, Harold—near our community’s still waters.
Their destination? A phenomenal dwelling in a new neighborhood, Heron’s Key.
When “Hal” and Maryann say goodbye to their current property in Kamuela, Hawaii, it will be for the best of reasons… reuniting with precious kin.
Married for 26 years, the Wards cherish a combination of eight children, fifteen grandkids, four great-grandchildren, and a smattering of other relatives.
Best of all, most of these folks live within driving distance of Gig Harbor. Nearest in proximity will be Maryann’s sister’s family – Jane Thompson’s brood in Longbranch.
It won’t be the first time that the Wards come “home” to the area. Years ago, before the government took over McNeil, Hal’s grandparents homesteaded on the island.
Ultimately, Harold grew up north of Seattle’s Lake Union, but often spent time in the South Sound tagging along on his father’s tugboat.
Ward’s baritone chuckle recently intoned, “We went between Seattle and Steilacoom and spent summer days at our cabin on Chambers Bay. There, we dug for gooey ducks and clams. I really do have ‘saltwater in my veins.’”
While Hal was a local boy, Maryann’s father’s service kept her family in motion.
“I went to 12 schools,” she giggled, “so my goal for college was to attend one place for four years straight!”
As an adult, Mrs. Ward became acquainted with Puget Sound. In fact, while sailing to see the clan at Longbranch, her family once anchored in the middle of picturesque Gig Harbor.
Alas, a slight misunderstanding of the tide table left their vessel increasingly “high and dry” during a progressing ebb.
Mrs. Ward sounded relieved as she gushed, “Thankfully, we yelled over to a powerboat and they pulled us off of the mini-sandbar.”
This past year, niece Margaret (Thompson) Heidel, who works at Close to Home Espresso, in Key Center, encouraged Hal and Maryann to come back for good and shared information about Heron’s Key.
In that domicile, folks ages 55 and up can choose between “leading an active, independent lifestyle in a cottage-style home,” dwelling in an assisted-living suite or graduating to a private, skilled nursing room.
Moreover, all residents have access to on-site healthcare at a private clinic, and folks with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s may receive treatment at a comforting memory care center. Along with those amenities, the location itself is an added bonus.
The property lies amidst a triangle of community attractions: First, charming, old-town Gig Harbor; second, Uptown’s newer boutiques and movie complex; and third, the larger stores on Burnham Drive.
By this time next year, Hal and Maryann may be walking on the property’s wooded trails, or better yet, watching their kin swim in Heron’s Key’s refreshing pool.
Perhaps the scent of inlet saltwater will waft up the hill, bringing back memories of tugboats, sailing trips and not-too-distant days in Kamuela. Perchance they’ll even get an opportunity to entertain new neighbors – locals like Don and Claire Egge.
These longtime, downtown Gig Harbor residents are also heading to Heron’s Key. From what I hear, every little one should be as blessed as the Egge’s grandchildren.
Though the retired educators, who once spent a few seasons teaching English in China, recently celebrated a wonderful 60th anniversary party (way to go!!), their joy is not limited to occasional soirees.
Rather, they’ve lived out a series of smaller, family-centered fêtes for a number of years.
Their specialty? Unique, exciting vacations, with each and every grandchild… seven in all.
After learning where individual grandsons or granddaughters would most like to visit, the Egges prepared all arrangements – airfare, accommodations, meals, and excursions are provided while Grandma and Grandpa serve as doting tour guides.
Each snack or feast is an intimate moment of fellowship, never to be forgotten. Every main, daily activity is usually documented via Don’s photos and video recordings, easily enjoyed in perpetuity. And no interruptions from the child’s siblings (or parents) occur, as only one boy or girl is allowed on their very own trip.
These visits, while surely fun, serve another purpose; with the Egge’s teaching backgrounds, grandkids are sure to find that applicable moments are also educational.
When one considers both the Egge and Ward families’ love for relatives and adventure, Heron’s Key offers one more advantage… freedom from property upkeep.
After leasing into the company (a sum which will largely be returned to their heirs), Hal and Maryann, and Don and Claire will enjoy the benefits of others doing the upkeep on their investment.
With no time needed for yard work, a greater number of precious minutes will be spent with grinning descendants with more daytrips around Pierce and King counties to see their clans, and more far away vacations.
What a wonderful way to live.