Citizen of the Year

Jan Silvestri

 

Diana Zimmerman

Jan Silvestri was named the 2024 Citizen of the Year by the Cathlamet Womans Club.

Jan Silvestri is a bright and energetic woman, and as a friend so succinctly put it, "a doer." Though these days, she says she's "in second gear, in idle."

This doer has led an adventurous life, caring for friends and family, and most anyone else who is lucky enough to cross her path. She's traveled extensively, and had many adventures, including descending deep into an opal mine in Australia. She is also the President of the local chapter of the Sons of Norway, and wholly dedicated to the Norse Hall.

"I gotta be moving," Jan said. And now she is the Womans Club Citizen of the Year. Soon Silvestri will be honored with a planting of a rose at the Julia Butler Hansen home. Later this summer she will attend Bald Eagle Days perched in a classic car and waving at people along the parade route, instead of watching street side, selling lefse and krumkake with friends, ever raising funds for Sons of Norway and her beloved Norse Hall.

Silvestri, the daughter of Peter S. Pedersen, grew up on East Sunny Sands a few houses down from the ferry landing. She has many memories of her youth, walking to the nearby store, racing with her cousin to the island school to ring the bell each day, and the many hours spent in the Norse Hall. The nearby store on East Sunny Sands was run out of the front of a neighbor's home. Her mom made bread, but sometimes young Jan would be sent on an errand to pick up another loaf, and come home with it under her arm, a bit squished in travel.

Jan milked cows early every morning before jumping in the shower and running to the ferry landing to meet the bus, which took the kids to the school, located on Schoolhouse Road.

As soon as the bus doors opened, it would be a daily race with her cousin Phyllis up the stairs to ring the bell. "Nobody could beat us," she laughed.

After Jan graduated, she moved to Seattle, where she worked in insurance and met her husband, a sailor from Salt Lake City, while his ship was in Bremerton for repairs.

She and a friend were at Green Lake listening to the radio, when a bunch of fellows sat down with them. They told the two women they were from Boeing. "No you're not," Jan said. "You have Navy shoes on." One of those fellows was Jim Webb. Eventually the pair would marry and raise three girls and a boy. A journalist, Jim worked at the Pentagon. The family lived in the Washington, D.C. area and traveled all around, visiting the historic sites, and enjoying a bit of fishing when they could. Eventually, they would move to Salt Lake City, before finally relocating to Cathlamet in 1969. After Jim was killed in a car accident, members of this community stepped up to help, but Jan was determined to be self-sufficient, with chickens and a garden, and working part-time for Bob Hendrickson, who had a meat locker business. She hauled cattle and trimmed, cleaned, and wrapped meat. It was especially busy during hunting season. "I made it work," Jan said. Puget Island was almost all Norwegian, and as a child, Jan spent a lot of time in Norse Hall. It's probably why it remains so important to her now. "I was raised in the hall," she said. "During meetings, we'd be on the bench with the coats over us, sleeping. The adults would go downstairs to have coffee and cookies. And then we'd wake up and there would be other kids there, and all the sudden it would be like elephants running around, so they knew we were up and would come up and check." "At dances, when I was like seven or eight, I would stand on my dad's feet, and after an hour, someone would take us home," she reminisced. "Nobody comes to those dances any more," Jan said, a little sadly. Jan is buoyant, generous, kind, hard-working, and fun, and a much deserving Citizen of the Year. Congratulations!

 

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