How many of you Queen Anners felt a personal sense of loss when our beloved Queen Anne Books closed its doors? Did anyone think wistfully, as I did, “I wish I could buy the store and keep it alive?” We fantasized, but not too many of us could realize the dream for any number of reasons. 

There are certain buildings, establishments and locations that capture the spirit of a community. There is almost a sacredness about, for example, a school, a library or a place of worship. And certain stores keep the pulse of a neighborhood beating. Queen Anne Books was one of those places. 

 

Supporting the community

I lived on Queen Anne when locally owned, neighborhood institutions such as Salladay’s Pharmacy, the Standard Bakery and Ron’s Cobbler Shop were the norm. One by one, the “mom-and-pop” stores closed to make room for the corporate businesses that now line our main street. 

But then came Queen Anne Books. Owners Patti McCall and Cindy Mitchell “got” who we are as a community and not only provided a service but became stewards of our neighborhood. School kids, book clubs, gift buyers, avid readers, and writers found a hub in this cozy, warmly lit shop. 

Books provided a natural sound dampener, making the bookstore a quiet refuge from the bustle outside. The sizeable children’s section welcomed our kids and families. It felt safe there, a place we could browse all day if we chose, where we invariably ran into a neighbor or friend. 

When Coe school burned down years ago, it impacted all of us, regardless of whether we had children attending the school: It was a tragedy of communal proportions. But we came together as a community and made it through. The Magnolia community opened its arms to us, and the Coe students rode the bus to their interim location for a little bit longer than expected.

David Elliot, our principal, asked us on the Monday morning following the fire, “How many of you feel like you are part of Coe school?” Children from all grades, as well as tearful parents in the back of the room, raised their hands. 

“WE are Coe school,” Elliot said. “Coe is not a building. Coe is the people who inhabit the building and give it life.” 

Grateful for the fact that our children were not in the school during the fire, we came together stronger than ever and moved forward. Despite our shock and sadness, our community, quite literally, rose from the ashes stronger than ever. 

When word got around that the bookstore was closing, it felt similar, like a death in the neighborhood. People were shocked and grief-stricken. It was difficult to walk by the site, look past El Diablo and see the closed doors and the blank windows. 

I stood at the window one day and looked in as a few people packed up the last of the books and moved boxes toward the back door.

And just when we were beginning to resign ourselves, three of our neighbors swooped in and gave it back to us! Three cheers for Judy and Krijn de Jonge and Janis Segress. They stepped up and saved a piece of our community, giving us back something we thought was gone forever. 

And, to be sure, our community will support the store and its new owners for as long as they are in business.

 

Affecting change

On a tiny island in the Pacific Ocean, just across the bay from Panama City, there are 900 year-round residents, living as they have done for generations: simply and joyfully. Although popular with city folk who long for its cool breezes and lovely beaches, the island is not, by any stretch of the imagination, luxurious or fancy. 

When a small group of North Americans who either live on Isla Taboga or spend time here, including my husband and myself, learned that 25 residents of the island suffer from diabetes but cannot afford the equipment necessary to manage their disease, we decided to do something. 

We chose to use our creativity to help the people who are generously sharing their community with us by writing about the island. Six of us wrote chapters for an e-book titled, “My Ticket to Paradise: Expat Snapshots of Isla Taboga, Panama.” 

Although we can never hope to fully assimilate into their community, we want to contribute something. To participate in the community in a way that might help. All proceeds from this little e-book (available on Amazon) will go to the Centro de Salud on Isla Taboga, for the purpose of buying glucose meters and supplies for these gentle, joyful people who are our neighbors.

As one of the book’s contributors said, “Whenever a human need is discovered, and others attempt to meet this need in the spirit of community, the world becomes a better place, no matter how large or small the initiative may be.”

Affecting change can be daunting. But if we remember how important community is, whether a community of two or three or a community of thousands, if we start small and follow our heart’s impulse, we will be stronger and better for the effort, regardless of the result!

IRENE HOPKINS lived on Queen Anne for 20 years and now lives on a sailboat in Ballard and, sometimes, on Isla Taboga. To comment on this column, write to QAMagNews@nwlink.com.