SEQUIM — Clare Manis Hatler and Don Hatler, a couple with ties to the region’s most documented archaeological find, were honored Tuesday by the Sequim community for their extensive — and appreciated — volunteer efforts throughout the community.
The Hatlers were named as recipients of the 2018 Citizen of the Year award by the Sequim-Dungeness Chamber of Commerce.
The couple and Nicole Lepping — an advocate for individuals with disabilities who started the Sequim Wheelers program — were the two finalists for Sequim’s top civic award. The winners were chosen by a committee of former award winners.
In accepting the honor at the chamber’s annual award luncheon at the Guy Cole Event Center at Carrie Blake Community Park, Clare Manis Hatler said she and her husband enjoy serving the Sequim community, the “last, best place on Earth.
“We’re embarrassed,” she said.
“I don’t know how to thank you. You are all Citizens of the Year.”
In the summer of 1977, Clare and Manny Manis made world headlines when they turned up the skeletal remains of a mastodon in their front yard.
For the next eight years, the Manis family opened the property to people from around the world to visit the site and watch the archaeological work taking place; it became a major U.S. tourist attraction. A recent study of the Manis mastodon provided proof of the oldest human settlement found to date in the Americas.
The mastodon, through the Manis’ generosity, remains in Sequim, partially reconstructed as part of a large exhibit at Sequim Museum & Arts — a key exhibit at the museum’s exhibit center for years.
“They literally put Sequim on the map,” said Annette Hanson, herself a Citizen of the Year award winner (1997) who was one of three locals to nominate the Hatlers.
Clare Manis Hatler’s other community projects since then have included being a charter member of the Dungeness River Audubon Center founding Board and serving as its nonprofit treasurer for many years; a long-time member and officer of the Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society Board, and working with the Washington Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, which resulted in the 1915 Railroad Bridge being placed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Don Hatler praised his wife’s efforts in the community.
“She’s been a tireless advocate for archeology and for the Sequim valley, and for the resources we enjoy,” he said.
Clare Manis Hatler also has served in board positions and as long-time members of the Clallam County League of Women Voters and Sequim Museum & Arts.
Widowed in 2000, Clare married Don Hatler in 2001.
Since Don Hatler’s retirement to Sequim in 1997, he has played a major role in helping to manage and an important community resource: water.
He has volunteered on several boards and committees to preserve the Dungeness Watershed, including the Clallam Conservation District’s Board of Supervisors, Puget Sound Anglers North Olympic Peninsula Chapter, and the Dungeness River Management Team representing sports fisheries.
He also served on the Clallam County Marine Resources Committee.
“Both Clare and Don have been very dedicated to our community,” Hanson said.
Before retiring and moving to Sequim, Don was involved in real estate, was a business broker, and owned a marina and sailboat dealership.
Lepping is a former special education teacher who worked with mobility challenged children.
At the end of 2017 she saw a video demonstrating use of a specially designed wheelchair bicycle used to provide a way for any mobility challenged individuals to be given a ride in a bicycle.
Recognizing Sequim was an ideal location for such a service — with its demographic of older individuals and the widely-used Olympic Discovery Trail for bikes — she applied for and was granted nonprofit status for Sequim Wheelers.
Since then, the program has grown — adding a board of directors, the purchase of its first wheelchair bicycle and a second on its way — and it launched the first week of July 2018. During the following 15 weeks, Sequim Wheelers volunteers provided 90 wheelchair bicycle rides to individuals in Sequim — some from local assisted living facilities.
Paul Muncey who, along with his wife Susan Hedding, is a board member with the Sequim Wheelers program, spoke for Lepping, who was on vacation and was unable to attend Tuesday’s awards luncheon.
“I know if she was here she’d say she is simply honored to be nominated,” Muncey said.
Muncey and James Castell nominated Lepping for the honor.
Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.