SEATTLE — If he wanted a birthday cake with all 100 candles, it would have fit here with ease.
Last week, Sequim’s Vern Frykholm Sr. got a one-of-a-kind birthday celebration among friends, family and about 15,000 newfound friends.
The World War II and Korean War veteran turned 100 on Sept. 6 in Seattle as a guest of the Seattle Mariners.
He was honored by the Mariners with gifts, special seats for a contingent of Sequim and Seattle-area family and friends, and even received an on-the-field presentation of a personalized jersey from team president Kevin Mather.
Oh, and a standing ovation from the thousands of Mariners fans, stadium staff and even the Mariner and Texas Ranger players.
“Didn’t expect that,” an awed Frykholm Sr. said. “People have been so nice.”
The evening came about after the family’s chance encounter in St. Louis in May 2014 with Tim Cox, a team captain who works Mariners games and other special events at Safeco Field.
The Frykholms were greeting family friends getting in from a flight, and Cox struck up a conversation and an eventual friendship. Cox offered to help the family take advantage of special club offers, recalled Vern Frykholm Jr., which led to a special family outing at Safeco in August 2014.
As his father’s 100th birthday loomed, Vern Jr. — familiar to many locals as George Washington during the August Northwest Colonial Festival at the Washington Lavender Farm in Agnew — thought the idea of celebrating at Seattle’s grand major league park seemed a perfect fit.
Originally, the group had planned something to show off Vern Sr.’s athletic prowess by having the centenarian-to-be run the bases following the game; he’d been “practicing” with laps on the Sequim High baseball diamond and staying fit on the treadmill at The Lodge, an independent living facility.
Oddly enough, his birthday fell on a celebratory night at Safeco … of the four-legged kind. Sept. 6 was Bark at the Park Night, when Mariners fans could bring their dogs for a stroll around the bases following the Mariners-Rangers matchup.
Frykholm Sr. and the majority of the family left before game’s end — by the seventh inning, they were running out of time to catch a ferry that departed about 10:30 p.m. — but got a memorable treat anyway.
As part of the Mariners’ Salute to Those Who Serve program, ballclub representatives literally rolled out the red carpet for Frykholm Sr. to pay tribute to the U.S. Army veteran.
“Wait till you see what we have in store for you for your 200th birthday,” Cox told Frykholm Sr.
After joining the National Guard in 1940, one year before it was federalized, Frykholm Sr. was stationed stateside at Fort Benning, Ga., Fort McClellan, Ala., and Camp Robinson, Ark., before serving in the Philippines, Germany and South Korea.
He stayed in the military following the wars as regional director of off-post facilities at Fort Knox, Ky., and military housing officer for the state of Alaska at Fort Richardson.
Frykholm Sr. retired as a lieutenant colonel in May 1963.
Vern Sr.’s family settled in the Poulsbo area in the late 1880s. His father sought work and found it in Port Angeles in 1915, when and where Vern Sr. was born, but the family moved back to Poulsbo a year later.
Vern Sr. met Ethel Anna Marschall at Seattle’s Pike Place Market, and they married in 1943. They were married for 72 years until her death in November of 2015 at the age of 91.
See a video of Vern Frykholm Sr.’s on-the-field honors at the Seattle Mariners’ Facebook page, www.facebook.com/Mariners/videos/10154530927978979.
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 [email protected].