PORT ANGELES — It’s been her dream job for 33 years, said Kathy Estes, executive director of the North Olympic History Center.
Now it’s time to move on.
“It’s been so much fun,” Estes said Wednesday. “It’s been a good ride, a good journey, a good adventure.
“But it’s time for new adventures.”
Estes, who turns 67 on Aug. 11, will retire Aug. 31 after 33 years and three months in the role of the leader of the North Olympic History Center/Clallam County Historical Society.
Her replacement, Amy McIntyre, will begin work Aug. 3 so that the two will work together for a month, said John Brewer, the history board’s president.
A retirement party for Estes, contingent on COVID-19 restrictions, is tentatively planned for Aug. 27 or 28.
She plans to travel once it’s safe to do so, spend more time with grandchildren and “add more miles to my daily walks.
“I never had a problem being alone,” she said. “This is an opportunity to sit down and start reading those books that are the bookshelf.”
Estes said she “could never have asked for a better job. I’ve had this tremendous opportunity to work with people who want to be where they are.”
Estes said she plans to keep in touch with the center’s volunteers, some of whom are longtime friends.
“It’s a true honor to work with them,” she said of the volunteers. “It’s what keeps you coming back.
“These are people who love what they are doing. They believe in our mission to share the county’s history. They are so giving with their time and their support.
“They’re my friends, my family.”
Her work has provided her a broad look at both history and the people who live it.
“This job has allowed me to meet such a cross-section of the community,” she said. “This job isn’t just about one group of people. It covers everything.”
The area is rich in history, from ancient tribal history to the creation of Olympic National Park, the Puget Sound Cooperative and many other events, she said.
History often seems to repeat itself, she noted.
“The headlines are no different than they are today,” she said.
Looking at the 1918-19 newspaper accounts of the Spanish flu pandemic, “schools are closed, buses are closed, people are frightened.
“You read what other people have gone through. Other people have gone through horrible times, gone through struggles, gone through things they didn’t want to have happen.
“They’ve gotten through it.”
The biggest difference she sees between earlier times and now is that, although it look longer for information to be disseminated, once it was, “people pulled together.”
During the Spanish flu epidemic, “when people finally realized that if you wore a mask it helped, people did it,” she said.
And during World War II, “there were people who were against the war … but there wasn’t that horrible feeling of me against you.”
Estes, then Kathy Monds — before she married her husband, Larry Estes — began work with the Clallam County Historical Society as an office assistant with no museum experience when the association was housed in the Clallam County Courthouse, using the third floor, most of the second floor and some space in the basement.
The 20-year lease was up and county wanted the space, so the historical society moved from the Lincoln Street site to the old Lincoln School site at Eighth and C streets, later moving into the old Carnegie Museum before returning to the Lincoln School site.
In those early days, she worked with typewriters and copy machines to put out newsletters and answer correspondence.
“We answered mail by typing a letter,” she said.
“Now almost all of our research requests come in through email. We get requests from all over the world.
“Because of technology, we can reach out all over and help people,” she said.
“We help tell a story, fill in pieces of an untold history.”
Estes remembered a man who had been brought to town on his 80th birthday by his children. He came by the historical society office to see what he could learn about the mother he lost when he was 5.
The woman, a teacher at Lincoln School, died in an explosion that also destroyed photographs and family records, Estes said.
Estes was able to find her attendance records from a collection of records that had been donated by the Port Angeles School District a number of years earlier. She also found the woman’s graduation photo form Port Angeles High School.
“It still brings tears to my eyes,” Estes said.
“He got to see his mom and also got to see her handwriting.
“It was something he had been looking for, for over 50 years.
“That is the kind of thing we do …help people make connections to part of their past.”
The incoming director is dedicated to that mission, Estes said.
“Amy calls this her dream job. She believes in story telling. That’s part of what we do.
“She’s going to bring new life to it, expand the direction.
“I’m thrilled to pieces about Amy.”
Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].