A happy return to PO | Guest Column Mary Colborn

Coming back to Port Orchard, the place where my family and I lived for 20 years and where I wrote a column for 10, is harder than I imagined. I see ghosts everywhere. I miss the good hearts of Joe Mogavero, Kurt Wagner, Marie Erdmann, Margie Rees, Al Kono and countless others. I miss Babe Ruth Baseball.

I miss the infectious joy and enthusiasm of early Port Orchard visionaries, some who have left this plane and others whose dreams were dashed – Chuck Jeu, DeDe Teeters of Armchair Books, Richard and Kris Swartz of Amajin Architecture with their vision for a vibrant, sustainably green Port Orchard, Courtney Brown with her beautiful, baby clothes, Delilah with her big-hearted zest for life and unlimited creativity, Dennis Manning, who saw a mobile showboat theater floating in the bay, to name just a fraction of the many who have shared inspired hopes and dreams.

The visions of these dreams and what they could mean for this community and beyond would dance in my head and when they were dashed my heart would break — for the sadness of my friends and the great loss that the people knowingly or unknowingly would endure.

That said, even though a walk through Port Orchard’s Bay Street yields a valley of tears (although, I must say that I adore the Bay Street Bistro and am so grateful for Dragonfly Cinema), I still carry these dreams with me. Since moving back to my hometown in Michigan, I pull them out to share and they always receive wide-eyed enthusiasm and applause. They might not have met with unbridled success in Port Orchard, but they are still brilliant.

For instance, I love Kitsap County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido’s sustainable film series that she hosts once a month at the Dragonfly Cinema. She has brought such amazing films to the community that it was an idea worth borrowing. I thought it would be a little thing — organize a green film fest for my hometown, no big deal. The people there didn’t agree.

They thought it was amazing. “You’re brilliant!” they said and interviewed me for one radio, one cable television and four newspaper stories. Google had eight pages’ worth of websites that linked stories about it. I tried to tell people that I had just borrowed the idea, it wasn’t originally mine. It didn’t matter. “Still brilliant,” they said.

I get more press than I probably deserve reconstituting your ideas and adding touches of my own. Maybe therein lies the secret. Maybe you have to have a little distance and time to see the value of any great idea. Maybe you can’t when you are mired in the deep dredges of the drama that befalls the politics of a small town. (My stomach hurt just watching the horrors of the mayoral race unfold). I don’t know.

I do know that I have learned a lot since I have left and have explored how things are done in Grand Rapids, Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, Milwaukee and Kalamazoo. I thought I was a strong environmentalist here in Washington, but now that I know how food is really grown and how its growth affects our fresh water supplies (especially those held by the Great Lakes), as well as frogs, bees, butterflies and people, my habits and views have changed.

My friend, the late nutritionist, Marie Erdmann used to admonish me for supporting cancer and other fundraising walks, telling me that I was just throwing money at a broken system. People do this stuff to make themselves feel good, she would say, they are not doing anything of substance. I would argue, because my kids and I had always been a staple at the Relay for Life events. For years, Mattie and Andy were part of the team that would light the candles, changing them from saying, “Hope” to “Cure.”

I have learned how broken our food system is as I watch what goes in and on the fields — from Atrazine to Round Up Ready GMO corn, soybeans and wheat. I have become a militant “foodie” and follow a strict (as possible) GMO, meat and gluten-free diet. I am grateful to the more progressive restaurants (I found a lot in Kalamazoo) who label their dishes with the GF/V symbols.

I will tell anyone who will listen that selling cans of soda with high fructose corn syrup from Atrazine laced GMO corn fields along with a greasy hamburger from an inhumanely CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) raised animal at the Relay for Life cancer walk makes you more a part of the problem than the solution. That it makes more sense to push to ban Atrazine than it does to “Bling-a-bra,” but I can’t expect you to listen. Already I am drumming you over the head with an idea that you are not ready to listen to or adopt.

That’s OK. Maybe it will be met with praise if carried by someone new who moves in and maybe even brilliant in 10 or 20 years. In any case, I am grateful as always for what you have taught me. I follow what you all are doing through my old haunt, the Port Orchard Independent, and get excited over all your successes and any new ideas.

You can follow me through my website: or my work at If the best ideas don’t always stick in Port Orchard, may you carry them with you on your travels, too.


We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

Read the Sep 23
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates