Helen and Greg Starr, executors of James Minsky’s estate, cut the ribbon for LtCol James Minsky Place on May 17 with Cheri Tinker, executive director of Sarge’s Veteran Support, right, and Sarge’s board president Lorri Gilchrist, and city council members Harmony Rutter and Rachel Anderson. The facility will permanently house six disabled and/or elderly veterans in Sequim. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Helen and Greg Starr, executors of James Minsky’s estate, cut the ribbon for LtCol James Minsky Place on May 17 with Cheri Tinker, executive director of Sarge’s Veteran Support, right, and Sarge’s board president Lorri Gilchrist, and city council members Harmony Rutter and Rachel Anderson. The facility will permanently house six disabled and/or elderly veterans in Sequim. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Minsky Place opens to support elderly, disabled veterans

Sarge’s Veteran Support seeks five veterans for permanent housing

SEQUIM — About five years after she started as executor for the estate of siblings James and Mary Jo Minsky, family friend Helen Starr of Agnew said she had no idea the undertaking it would be nor the potential impact it would have for veterans.

On Mother’s Day in 2019, Starr said she was contacted about Mary Jo being taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle and James to Avamere Olympic Rehabilitation of Sequim, where James later asked Starr and her husband Greg to help him with his estate. He asked the couple that it benefit charity.

“He wanted to be assured he’d have a proper military, full-honors funeral,” Greg Starr said.

“And he always wanted to be remembered, and boy is he ever.”

Through the Minskys’ donations to Sarge’s Veteran Support — more than $922,000 total — the nonprofit veterans agency was able to purchase, remodel and hire a case manager for five years for LtCol James Minsky Place, a permanent housing facility for six elderly and/or disabled veterans in Sequim on the 400 block of Salal Place off McCurdy Road.

Staff and volunteers held a dedication on May 17 and an open house on May 18.

Cheri Tinker, executive director for Sarge’s Place, said the Minskys’ donation was the largest ever for the agency and “truly an agency altering amount of money.”

The Minskys’ donation also helped Sarge’s Veteran Support pay off a mortgage in Forks where two veterans reside, place asphalt on three housing parking lots, purchase the former VFW building in Forks for the agency’s secondhand store The Attic, and place new carpet in its Forks shelter.

Sarge’s leadership also received $50,000 from the Clallam County 2060 grant for the Minsky Place remodel, done by Jones Custom Contracting of Carlsborg, and a $900,000 appropriation requested by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Seattle, as a Community Funded Project to cover some of the remodel and help with hiring a case manager.

The home was purchased for $520,000. It features six bedrooms named after local military installations, an enclosed backyard space, a kitchen where veterans can cook for themselves, a case manager’s office, an intercom, and monitoring and sprinkler systems.

So far, Sarge’s has had veteran referrals for the five residents, Tinker said, and a home manager — also a veteran — is moving in this week.

She said she hopes other veterans will begin moving in by June or July.

“Lt. Col. James Minsky’s legacy lives on within Sequim, and this home will be a safe and secure refuge for the elderly veterans who will reside here,” Tinker said.

Volunteers are sought for landscaping and planting installations, she said, and community members are also welcome to donate casseroles or group meals.

“We want as much community engagement as we can do,” Tinker said.

Sarge’s leaders are next looking to bring a women’s veterans housing project to Sequim, they announced May 17.

For more information about Sarge’s Veteran Support, visit SargesVeteranSupport.com or call 360-374-5252.

Minskys’ history

Lt. Col. James “Jim” Minsky served 22 years in the U.S. Air Force and later at the Pentagon and overseas in London and Morocco. Mary Jo retired as a lab technician in Port Angeles.

They lived quiet lives in Sequim together, befriended the Starrs at St. Joseph Catholic Church over many years, and after their passing, Helen Starr said the Minskys’ various bank accounts, insurance policies, possessions and home were valued at about $2.4 million.

Along with Sarge’s donation, Helen Starr gave donations to many different veteran and service organizations after expenses.

She initially contacted United Way of Clallam County about donations, who in turn referred her to Tinker.

They agreed to meet, and Tinker said she was hopeful for a $500 donation.

“I nearly fainted when she gave us a check for $200,000,” she said.

As Helen Starr worked through the Minskys’ finances and policies, she was able to donate more and more.

Through different bank accounts and insurance policies, she was able to get about $1.5 million, and it was more once she was connected with the Air Force, whom she referred to as “phenomenal.”

Neither Jim nor Mary Jo ever married.

The Starrs never went into their house until Jim’s passing, and they discovered they were collectors and had about 4,000 Hummel statues.

Greg Starr said Jim had a good sense of humor, and when he first asked him what he flew in the Air Force, he replied, “a desk.”

His career took him around the globe and he worked notably at the Pentagon and in Morocco, Helen Starr said.

“When I asked him what he did (there), he was very serious and said, ‘I’d rather not talk about it,’ and that was it,” she said.

The Starrs and Minskys would sit in church together and met about once a month for a meal and first invited Jim over for his 80th birthday.

“We made sure they were always invited over to our place on weekends for dinner,” Greg Starr said.

“One time Helen called Jim saying, ‘I’d like to have you guys come over again,’ and with his sense of humor, he said, ‘I would never miss one of Helen’s meals.’”

Through her friendship with the Minskys and work on their estate, Helen Starr said “she’s very pleased with what came of it.”

________

Matthew Nash 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 at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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