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Northshore Wall of Honor inductees reminisce about the old days
Dick Nicholl was more than happy to try on his old Bothell High sweater from 1957. He noted that it’s a bit torn in spots, but it still does the job. It fits well on the 72-year-old — and Nicholl’s not surprised, since he’s kept in good shape over the years, he said.
In his Mercer Island home on a recent morning, Nicholl reminisced about his Cougar athletic days and his Islander football coaching years, which led to him being one of 15 Northshore School District alumni, former staff and board members inducted onto the Northshore Wall of Honor last month at Pop Keeney Stadium.
“The hope is to get kids today and parents to say, ‘Hey, that can be me’ and ‘That can be you.’ To inspire them to see no limits out there,” said George Selg, one of the Wall of Honor’s organizers.
Added Nicholl: “I’m in awe of the people they honored that day.” Along with Nicholl, there’s two research scientists, a decorated World War II pilot, a fashion designer and manufacturer, a renowned artist and more. (For the list, see page 11.)
Nicholl starred in football, basketball and track and field at Bothell, and especially left his mark in the athletic realm as a gridiron coach for 40 years, 28 of those as head coach at Mercer Island High. He is a member of both the Washington State and Pacific Northwest coaches hall of fames.
While serving in the Peace Corps in Venezuela after graduating from Western Washington University, Nicholl helped start a program for students to work toward their degrees in health and physical education. Later, he returned to the Pacific Northwest and began his coaching career.
His coaching philosophy was as follows: “I kind of preached to them pretty hard to be a good person, be a good student and be a good athlete — in that order. I really enjoyed the kids. The kids were inspiring to me, I came out there every day with the enthusiasm to coach.”
Nicholl, who played football and did some track and field at Western and the University of Washington, said he missed just one game in 40 years of coaching because of an ailment. He had many great teams over the years, but his best season was in 1989 when the Islanders made it to the state semifinals, but ended up on the losing end.
Every day on the football field was a good one, Nicholl said.
“I liked the challenge of putting a team that fit together — the chemistry of the team, all the parts of a football team,” said Nicholl, who has been married to wife, Linda, for 45 years, and credits his family for his success, as well.
Cougar high-school coaches Cot Rice (football), Larry Peterson (basketball) and Bob Green (track and field) also helped Nicholl along the way with their coaching styles and philosophies, some of which he passed along to his own players.
“Coaches were big deals to me. I have a lot of fond memories of my high-school coaches,” he said.
FROM MUSIC TO ART
Gene Gentry McMahon played bass with the University of Washington-based rock band The Stepsisters in the 1970s, and she and her mates counted glam, make-up-wearing rockers KISS among their friends. They met the demon, star child, spaceman and cat on the road, and got backstage passes to one of the band’s Seattle gigs back in the day.
The 1961 Bothell High grad had an affinity for music, but she was just as infatuated with art. Gentry McMahon, 68, graduated from the UW with master’s and bachelor’s degrees in fine arts and began a long career focusing on painting, prints and a bit of sculpting.
“I thought, ‘Is it art or music?’” she said last week in her art studio a block up from Elliott Bay. “I can paint until I’m 100 ... although now, there are plenty of women playing that type of music, which at the time was freakish to all of us.”
She went the art route, and has been a teacher, mentor and arts advocate over the years — and she’s now a member of the Northshore Wall of Honor. Her studio is also home to a large stack of CDs and cassette tapes, so music most likely inspires her to create art, as well.
Currently, she’s working on a historical project to be placed in the Seattle Aquarium in October titled “Waterworks: Puget Sound and Duwamish.” She received two grants for the project, which focuses on the years between 1874-1900.
Gentry McMahon’s earliest art dealt with water, as well, but in much different scenarios.
“My sister and I drew to the soap operas on the radio, and always made drawings of our parents’ cocktail parties. And for some reason they were always under water,” she laughed, noting that social satire in painting has been her forte from the get-go.
Two of her standout grown-up art works are a mural at the Westlake Station Metro tunnel showcasing retail shopping, and 13 pieces of art depicting significant figures in Seattle history — including Gov. John Spellman and Bernie Whitebear — in the King County Administration Building.
Gentry McMahon still teaches today and enjoys “passing some tricks on to students, to get them thinking. I like watching an artist grow — it’s exciting.”
She added that starting each painting is a new, exciting and scary process, and the passion for art pushes its way to the forefront to guide each person into a world of creativity. Bothell High teacher Bernie Ackerman turned her on to music and Marilyn Eyler, an English and civics teacher, showed students “how the world really works” with her mock political conventions.
As for being part of the Wall of Honor, she added: “I’m delighted that they’re honoring the arts. Bothell has always supported the arts.”
OTHER WALL OF HONOR INDUCTEES
• Jeanne Allen, Bothell High, 1963
Fashion designer and manufacturer, author, civic leader and mentor
• Lt. Col. Colin “Arnie” Clarke, Bothell High, 1954
U.S. Air Force pilot who served four tours of duty in Vietnam, Air Force cross for heroism recipient and youth aviation mentor
• Al DeYoung, Bothell High, 1947
Philanthropist, community leader for Northshore School District schools and Evergreen Hospital
• Arne Dixon, Bothell High, 1977
Creator of a motivational school-assembly program that promotes academic achievement through character development
• Dr. Igor Gladstone, Bothell High, 1973
Pediatric and neonatal medical research scientist and University of Oregon professor
• Ronald S. Green Sr., Bothell High, 1935
Northshore international student exchange program founder, Bothell performing arts pioneer
• Allen L. Haynes, Bothell High, 1963
Northshore visionary principal 1982-2003, Washington State “Excellence in Education Outstanding Principal” award recipient
• Aarlie Olson Hull, Bothell High, 1960
New Guinea business executive, advocate for impoverished women and children
• Janet Green Hunter, Bothell High, 1963
Learning disabilities and mental-health advocate, high-school international exchange volunteer for 34 years
• Dr. Ivan J. Klein, Bothell High, 1927
Research scientist, co-inventor of nylon and crucial aluminum recovery process
• Dr. James “Bob” Milam, Bothell High, 1940
Decorated World War II pilot, addiction research psychologist and author
• David A. Miller, Woodinville High, 1991
Director, playwright, educator, actor and mentor to inner-city students
• Dr. Erman A. Pearson, Bothell High, 1938
Renowned water and environmental research scientist, University of California professor