SEQUIM — A proposal is on hold until the new year to rename a portion of West Hendrickson Road after the late Joe Rantz, a former Sequim resident who helped the University of Washington’s rowing team win gold at the 1936 Olympic Games.
Representatives with the Sequim Sunrise Rotary’s Joe Rantz Rotary Youth Fund asked the City of Sequim to withdraw their request after speaking with residents about renaming Hendrickson Road from North Fifth Avenue and North Sequim Avenue to Joe Rantz Way.
Rotary representative Ann Flack said at the Sequim City Council’s Nov. 13 meeting that after hearing concerns from residents and businesses along the stretch of road, they wanted more time to rethink ways to honor Rantz.
City staff said they submitted the initial renaming proposal to potentially affected businesses and residents, and on Nov. 13 a few spoke to city council members about their concerns.
Dr. Melissa Marr of Cedar Creek Dental Center said she’s proud of the community and would love to find a way to honor Rantz but wanted the city to find alternatives to do so.
She said when her business changed its address from using a P.O. box to a physical address three years ago, it led to ongoing billing and mailing issues with insurance companies and other agencies. She said this roadway name change would result in a similar issue.
Marr said she spoke with Rotary officials and offered to help develop and support alternatives.
John Popinski said he owns property on Hendrickson Road and agreed honoring Rantz is a “fabulous idea,” but there are more practical places to honor him with more parking, such as the Sequim Civic Center plaza or Centennial Place.
City of Sequim staff said PenCom, Clallam County’s 9-1-1 service, was also opposed to the name change because of safety concerns.
City staff said there isn’t a process for adding an honorary sign, but they could possibly be addressed under the current sign code.
Ultimately, city council members agreed in a 7-0 vote to postpone a decision.
Mayor Tom Ferrell said organizers could come back with another idea.
Pat McCauley with the Joe Rantz Youth Fund said in an interview that after meeting with Marr about her concerns, the Rotary determined they would choose a different honor for Rantz.
“We still believe we need something for Joe,” she said. “We’re putting it on hold to come back with more ideas in the new year.”
In McCauley’s letter to the city requesting the name change, she said Rotarians chose the specific portion of Hendrickson Road because it’s adjacent to Sequim High School where Rantz attended, intersects with Sequim Avenue and could make for a good photo opportunity, and it could be integrated into new tourism/marketing with the “Boys in the Boat” movie coming out this year.
Through the Sequim Sunrise Rotary’s Joe Rantz Rotary Youth Fund, Rotarians seek $750,000 to help establish a home for local homeless youths.
The fund was started in 2018 to honor Rantz, who moved to Sequim in 1925. Rantz recalled in interviews that he was left behind by his family, but local families stepped up to offer him support.
Rantz moved to Seattle and lived with his brother Fred for his final year of high school, and he would later meet and row for University of Washington crew coach Al Ulbrickson.
Daniel James Brown’s book “The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics,” highlights Rantz, who died in September 2007 at age 93, and the other rowers’ journeys at the University of Washington and Olympic Games. It serves as inspiration for the movie slated for release on Christmas Day.
For more about the fund, visit joerantzrotaryyouthfund.org.