Diane Fatzinger uses the wind phone in Sequim, located just north of the Olympic Discovery Trail on West Hendrickson Road. (Elijah Sussman/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Diane Fatzinger uses the wind phone in Sequim, located just north of the Olympic Discovery Trail on West Hendrickson Road. (Elijah Sussman/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Wind phone offers a place for therapeutic discussion

Sequim woman constructs unwired booth to speak to lost loved one

SEQUIM — If one travels west on the Olympic Discovery Trail from North Sequim Avenue, across from the Sequim School District soccer field they will come upon a small, open field on their right. Settled against a fence on the west side of the field, one will see a curious structure.

On a small stand, what could be a community book box, or a free food pantry, is a structure which serves a different purpose. An old rotary phone sits in a booth. It is a phone with wires running to nothing.

It’s a wind phone, a device and a space for someone going through a loss to speak to their deceased loved ones.

“It’s a phone for anyone who wants to use it and it’s not connected to any wires; it’s connected to the wind,” said Diane Fatzinger, who had the phone installed.

“I lost my partner Pam in January a year ago, and I could sit in my house and talk to her or sit in my car and talk to her, but there’s something about picking up that phone and talking to her that’s different.”

Fatzinger and Pamela Larsen shared 23 years together before Larsen died suddenly from bleeding in her brain in January 2023.

This past March, Fatzinger saw something on Facebook that reminded her of wind phones. She recalled that she had originally seen a story about wind phones on a 2021 CBS segment several years before with Pam, and she was moved to tears.

She soon enlisted her brother-in-law Lowell Dietz, a contractor, and sister Audree Dietz to repurpose a structure, previously used to sell her birdhouses, into a wind phone.

She then found a rotary dial phone and painted the inside of the booth.

Dedicated to Pam, it has been serving as a medium for connection with lost loved ones since then.

“When I’m in the car or in the house, it feels like I’m talking to space, I’m pretty sure she’s out there somewhere,” Fatzinger said.

Connections

“I’m lonely because I miss talking to her,” Fatzinger said.

“She was my best friend, and there’s something about the phone that makes it feel like I’m talking to her, not just to the sky or the air.”

At first it felt odd, and she doesn’t talk long, but for Fatzinger, there is something comforting about it.

“What do I talk about when I call Pam? I talk about life,” Fatzinger said. “Daily life. Hopes. Dreams. Joys and sorrows. The feel of the warmth of the sun. The incessant wind. The smell of rain.”

Fatzinger said she can’t see it from her house, and has located it a distance from the Olympic Discovery Trail for privacy. While she doesn’t know what use it has received, there are signs that at least a few have engaged with it. Painted rocks have shown up in the booth, evidence that it has been visited.

“I thought, ‘This is something concrete I can do, not just for me, but for a whole lot of other people who have loss,’” Fatzinger said.

Fatzinger has gained so much value from it, she uses it every night, if only for a few moments. Often she shares details about her day, like how the garden is falling behind, less well-kept than when it Pam managed it.

Following Pam’s death, Fatzinger said her friends were very supportive, but eventually it started to feel like she needed more support as she was not simply moving on from the grieving process.

“I saw a therapist because I couldn’t cope,” she said. “I went almost a year and started talking to a therapist, and that was probably the best thing I ever did for myself because I thought I was strong enough to handle the loss. I kept working and I couldn’t get over that hump of loss.”

Developed in Japan

Wind phones have become an international phenomenon with hundreds installed across several countries. Many who visit them describing their effect as meaningful.

The first wind phone was installed by Japanese garden designer Itaru Sasaki in 2010. His cousin received a terminal cancer diagnosis and died after three months.

Following his cousin’s death, Sasaki felt the need to talk to his cousin, so he installed a phone booth in his garden overlooking Ōtsuchi, Japan, to talk to the wind.

In 2011, the Tōhoku region in northern Japan was hit by a 9.1 magnitude earthquake and tsunami, killing almost 20,000 people. The catastrophe killed at least 1,200 in Ōtsuchi, 10 percent of the regional town’s population. Sasaki opened the Ōtsuchi wind phone to the public following the disaster.

People soon began visiting, speaking with lost loved ones, and others began to install their own phones.

The website at thetelephoneofthewind.com catalogues many wind phones internationally and across the USA. It shows the locations of two other Washington wind phones, one in Olympia — featured in the CBS segment — and one in Battle Ground.

Fatzinger recently reached out to register her wind phone on the site, where it could be featured soon.

________

Elijah Sussman is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him by email at elijah.sussman@sequimgazette.com.

Diane Fatzinger stands near her wind phone located across from the Sequim School District soccer fields on the Olympic Discovery Trail. (Elijah Sussman/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Diane Fatzinger stands near her wind phone located across from the Sequim School District soccer fields on the Olympic Discovery Trail. (Elijah Sussman/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

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Diane Fatzinger uses the wind phone in Sequim, located just north of the Olympic Discovery Trail on West Hendrickson Road. (Elijah Sussman/Olympic Peninsula News Group)
Wind phone offers a place for therapeutic discussion

Sequim woman constructs unwired booth to speak to lost loved one