Quilcene rallies for injured innkeeper

QUILCENE — Two dates stand out in Cathy Barsukoff’s mind.

One is Aug. 23, 2002, the day she bought a rustic, 11-unit motel on 17 ½ acres with a view of the snow-capped Olympic Mountains.

The other is Jan. 27, 2010, the day she was working on the property putting in fence posts, and caught her right hand in the backhoe auger, which tore off her hand and some of her arm below the elbow.

Unable to be airlifted to Seattle because of fog, Barsukoff was taken by ambulance to Harborview Medical Center, where she underwent four surgeries on the damaged limb.

Two weeks and two days later, she returned to Quilcene, where friends, acquaintances and strangers have turned out to help her keep her business, and her life, going.

“People are walking into the house and bringing a meal and introducing themselves,” Barsukoff said.

Volunteers clean rooms

Eight volunteers are cleaning motel rooms, allowing her source of income to keep flowing.

Friends have turned into caretakers.

The primary one is Thais Svetich, who recruited the volunteer cleaner rotation for the motel, which Barsukoff renovated and renamed the Mount Walker Inn.

“I told her to shut the place down,” Barsukoff said. “She wouldn’t.”

Community members also are organizing a fundraising dinner to raise money for a prosthetic, which Barsukoff’s insurance doesn’t cover.

The prosthetic can be fitted as soon as the arm heals in three to four months, she said, which will enable her to get back to work.

“I just want to be able to open a door,” Barsukoff said.

Barsukoff, 43, has worked all her life — she grew up on a farm in Canada where if you didn’t grow it, you didn’t eat.

Moving to Seattle, she worked in the computer software industry, but burned out, she said, and retreated to some friends’ farm.

Wanting her own piece of land, she looked for a rural bed and breakfast, but when she saw the Quilcene motel for sale, she fell in love with the town and the property, which runs back to the river.

Community’s beauty

The beauty of the community, however, turned out to be more than scene deep.

“I can’t imagine being in another community and having support like this,” Barsukoff said.

“They aren’t just well-wishers. With the well-wishes come concrete, hands-on generosity.”

Before she was hurt, Barsukoff had renovated the buildings, cleaning the cedar siding to reveal its rustic charm.

Along the way, she taught herself how to do carpentry, plumbing and electricity.

She also started landscaping the grounds, put an orchard in front, and has plans to grow her own food.

“I love it all,” she said of fixing up the property. “I look forward to getting back to it.

“That’s what I focus on, getting the prosthetic. I’m looking forward to getting back to my life.”

Friends who own the Skookum Brewery in Arlington, north of Seattle, are also holding a fundraiser for Barsukoff on April 11.

Locally, community members have set up an account at U.S. Bank for donations.

Barsukoff said she has been astounded by the generosity of strangers who have made donations, and is profoundly grateful for all the support, both emotionally and financially.

“I know what it takes to earn a dollar,” she said. “I’ve been on my own since I was 15.”

Until the arm heals, Barsukoff has to be careful to “close the two i’s” — prevent infection and injury — that could mean a trip back to the hospital and another surgery.

That means six weeks of intravenous antibiotics twice a day.

Barsukoff is able to work in the motel office, and would like to start a support group to meet with other amputees.

“I don’t know how to approach life,” she said. “I have an idea, but not an example.”

Although she has ups and downs, Barsukoff is an example of someone who accepts what has happened to her and finds reasons to be grateful.

“So much good has come out of this,” she said, “it’s hard to focus on the bad.”


Port Townsend/Jefferson County reporter-columnist Jennifer Jackson can be reached at jjackson@olypen.com.

More in News

Racers in the Race to Alaska pass by the cheers and well wishes from the hundreds of spectators lining the docks at the Northwest Maritime Center when the cannon went off at 5 a.m. Monday, starting the 750-mile journey from Port Townsend to Ketchikan, Alaska. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)
And they’re off to the Proving Ground

Race to Alaska boats to leave Victoria on Thursday

With emotions running high, the skipper of the boat, Jordan Hanssen, and crewman Greg Spooner share a hug as the boat is pulled up the ramp under the eyes of spectators lining the dock at the Port Townsend Boat Haven on Monday. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)
Rowboat that set record recycled

Ceremonial ‘wake’ held for 30-foot vessel

Burn ban in effect in Jefferson County

Clallam County to prohibit fires by July 1

Simon Little is the new Port Townsend School Board Director for District 2. The board on June 1 selected Little to fill the position after Jeffrey Taylor resigned in March. (Port Townsend School District)
Port Townsend School Board fills District 2 position

Appointee will serve through end of year

Race Street closures set this week in Port Angeles

Race Street will be closed between Eighth and 10th… Continue reading

Jefferson Transit to use an electric bus

Agency’s future is with alternative-fuel vehicles

Northwest Maritime Center volunteer Brad Bebout, left, stands ready to assist team Beasts From the East, Ivan Medvedev and Egor Klevak, front, both from Seattle, as they finish first the 70-mile paddle from Tacoma to Port Townsend on Saturday morning. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)
Race to Alaska starts today

Beasts from the East wins SEVENTY/48

Fire crews fight beach blaze, structure fire

Two fires over the weekend in the Four Seasons… Continue reading

McDonald Creek fish passage gets no bids again

Contractors say it’s too ‘intricate, tricky’

Most Read