Notable Puyallup residents share common strengths, self-sufficiency

Literature: ‘Legendary Locals’ documents ‘grit and determination’ of people in the Puyallup valley

Special to the HeraldDecember 11, 2013 

Author Ruth Anderson has traced the history of the Puyallup Valley in “Legendary Locals,” and she’s focused on individuals who have made a difference in the region’s growth.

“... grit, determination, and a ‘get on with it’ attitude kept this valley thriving while other communities lost their way,” Anderson wrote.

Although James C. “Jim” Martinson, one of the notable people profiled in Anderson’s book, questions what it means to be a legend or unique, he concedes he probably displays those qualities.

“I have always been competitive, and I like to be challenged,” Martinson said.

Martinson lost both legs above the knees while he served in Vietnam in 1968, and he spent nearly a year at Madigan Army Medical Center.

“I was full of anger and unhappy,” he said. “At 21, all I could think about were the negatives, all the things that I wouldn’t be able to do.”

And yet, Martinson’s competitive spirit surfaced when he was around other soldiers.

“The hospital had a seven-mile corridor with a smooth floor, perfect for racing wheelchairs,” he said. “I was always challenging the others to race.”

Martinson also remembered wanting to be the one who could wear his prosthetic legs for the longest time.

After he was discharged, reality hit.

“I spent a lot of time drinking and partying until I finally realized that I didn’t like where this lifestyle was taking me,” he said.

Martinson quit drinking, entered Green River Community College, completed his degree from Multnomah Bible College and became a youth minister. He displayed a get-on-with-it attitude and became more outwardly focused.

Always passionate about sports, Martinson competed in 5-kilometer and 10K runs, and he played wheelchair basketball. He won numerous gold medals in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games. He placed second in the 1980 wheelchair division of the Boston Marathon and won the event in 1981.

An avid skier, Martinson competed in both downhill and Super G racing during the 1992 Paralympics in Albertville, France, where he won a gold medal.

Training and competing for wheelchair events required considerable strength, since the chairs weighed about 60 pounds or more, Martinson said. He began to develop a lighter chair for wheelchair athletes, and that eventually turned into a business.

Now retired, Martinson enjoys spending time with his grandchildren, and he helps to raise funds to support the new nine holes that are planned for the American Lake Veterans Golf Course.

Neither his son nor daughter enjoy competitive sports, but both have followed their father’s entrepreneurial spirit by operating their own businesses.

Another of the Puyallup Valley notables profiled in the book is Antone Spooner, who, along with Joseph Wallace, began to clear land near Alderton in 1881 and planted hops.

The longevity of Spooner Farms has depended on hard work and determination. Now operated by Jeff, a sixth-generation Spooner, and his wife, Andrea — with help from their children — Spooner Farms is one of the few remaining berry farms in the valley.

Jeff Spooner worked on the farms as he grew to adulthood, and that’s when he took over the farms from his father, Kenneth.

Hops were grown on the land until disease wiped them out in the 1950s, Andrea Spooner said. Berries originally were planted in the 1920s or 1930s; today, the farms are known for their berries.

Spooner Farms also provides No. 1-certified raspberry plants to wholesalers.

The original farms contained 160-180 acres along Orting Road and up onto what is now Crystal Ridge, which was sold for development in the 1950s. Throughout the years, the farms have grown thanks, in part, to leased acreage.

Farming is a 12-month business, Andrea Spooner said. Much of her time is occupied by office paperwork.

“We are so appreciative of the people who buy from us,” Andrea said. “Buying locally keeps valley farming alive.”

Jeff and Andrea Spooner share a love for the farms and are confident their children will continue farming.

“I love this kind of lifestyle,” said Andrea, who also worked on a farm when she was young. “You can set your own pace, and the result depends on your own efforts. And, it is exciting to see all the surrounding wildlife when you go out into the fields.”

Meeker mansion

“Legendary Locals,” written by Ruth Anderson of Puyallup, is available for purchase at the Puyallup Historical Society at Meeker Mansion. A retired officer in the U.S. Air Force, Anderson has authored or co-authored several works of non-fiction and one novel.

Linda Henry is a freelance reporter for the Herald.

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