The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Downriver Dispatches

News of Western Wahkiakum County and Naselle


Seal River Cemetery Association members cleaning graves.

Gone but not Forgotten...Conclusion

Anyone who has traveled west of the KM at this time of year has seen the many wonderful varieties of rhododendrons along the way. I knew almost nothing of these beautiful flowers except that there are different colors. I saw a huge one at the Seal River Cemetery that aroused my curiosity about this marvelous flower. I have discovered to my surprise that there are over a thousand species of rhododendrons worldwide and only 27 native to North America and many of these are hybrids. It was discovered by the 16th century Flemish botanist, Charles l'Ecluse. It was the first species of rhododendron in cultivation introduced to Britain in 1656 from Europe.

May 11, 1889, Seal River cemetery was formed with 1½ acres of land that was purchased from Anders and Briita Anet for the price of $1,500 and extra land for the cemetery was purchased from Pete Tervo on February 14, 1935. Four hundred and thirty-one memorials are found there representing many Finnish and Swedish families who settled here in the Westend.

I stopped by the cemetery to take photos of the rhododendrons while the Seal River Cemetery Association was on hand to give the place a clean-up in preparation for Memorial Day. These volunteers have family members buried here. Carol Ervest shared with me pertinent information and guided me to Kari Kandoll, the Seal River Cemetery secretary, who was instrumental in helping me with this story.

It started because of my curiosity of this giant pinkish white rhododendron that dominates the cemetery landscape. Although there are other beautiful rhododendron plants at the cemetery, this one would catch anyone's eye. Kari told me that it was planted by a woman named Pearl Olson who did not want to leave flowers but wanted something that would last longer. I am not sure when the rhododendron was planted, but a much smaller red rhododendron was planted in 1963, so my guess is that this giant one had to have been planted at least two decades before.

This woman, according to Kari, was Helmi "Pearl" Kaukua-Olson, born 10 March 1909; died 24 Nov. 1994 in Wahkiakum County. Her parents were Lars Peter Kaukua-Olson and Margareta Manninen. Lars "Louis" Peter came from Taivalkosi, Oulun Laani, Finland and Margareta was also from Finland. He had eight children with his first wife Latarina Anetjarvi who died in 1902 and then five children with Margareta.

When I was there Saturday afternoon, they had not cleaned off her headstone, and Kari indicated that Peter Vik probably cleared it because when Kari went looking for it she found it about 6-8' towards the road where the white rhododendron stands. She informed me that the "moles were really bad this winter and headstones get covered up easily with dirt then grass clippings and weeds." Pearl has left a lasting legacy of herself and her family merely by planting a simple rhododendron.

American Legion Pancake Breakfast

Come to the Rosburg Hall and support what the American Legion is doing right here in the Wahkiakum community and enjoy yourselves this Saturday from 8:30-11:30 a.m. This is an awesome way to enjoy a delicious breakfast consisting of pancakes with a side of ham or sausage and eggs fixed the way you like them, with coffee, orange juice or milk. All this is for the low price of $6 for adults and $4 for children under 12. For over two decades American Legion has served the local community dependably with the purpose of satisfying the American Legion's 1919 Mission Statement that was founded on four pillars: Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation, National Security, Americanism, and Children & Youth. Each of these pillars incorporates a variety of programs that benefit our nation's veterans, its service members, their families, the youth of America and ordinary citizens. These programs make a transformation in hundreds of thousands of lives each year coast-to-coast.


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