Utility Wrap Profiles

Celebrating Our Community

The City of Lacey is highlighting important voices that represent the Lacey community, both past and present, through a public art project to beautify the city by wrapping utility boxes with art by local artists. Below are the profiles of the people, places or groups that are to be highlighted in phase 1 of the project.

1984 Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials

1984 was the first year that women were allowed to compete in the marathon event during the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Only a small number of women who ran in the trials would go on to the Olympics, making this a defining moment for women who wanted running as a career.

While officially in Olympia, it was undoubtedly a regional effort with 4,500 volunteers from the surrounding communities making it possible. The marathon route came through Lacey along College St., 45th Ave., Ruddell Rd, and Lacey Blvd. 267 runners qualified and 196 runners finished the race. The winner of the trials, Joan Benoit Samuelson, would go on to win gold for the United States as the first women’s Olympic games marathon champion. Olympia remains the only city with a population under 120,000 to host the event for men or women.

Lisa Brodoff & Lynn Grotsky

Lisa Brodoff is law professor at the Seattle University School of Law and her wife, Lynn Grotsky, is a clinical social worker in private practice. This Lacey couple has been together over 40 years and have two adult children. They have been at the forefront of the rights of same sex couples for decades. When their daughter, Evan, was born in 1987, they realized that Lynn, the non-biological parent, would have no rights if something happened to Lisa. In 1989, they won a landmark second parent case, paving the way for same-sex parents to legally adopt here and throughout the nation.

More recently in 2007, after a rash of suicides among LGBTQIA+ youth in Thurston County, Lynn co-founded the Pizza Klatch an after school support organization for this at-risk group.  In 2012, the couple was the first in line at midnight to get a marriage license when Washington made it legal for same-sex couples to marry.

Cecilia Svinth Carpenter

Writer, historian, and Nisqually tribal elder, Hope Cecilia Svinth Carpenter (1924-2010), was a public school teacher in Tacoma when she discovered that her students’ textbooks were rife with errors. This began her lifelong journey of meticulously researching the tribe’s history, using primary sources and original research, some of which took her to Washington, D. C. and even London. She wrote her first book in 1972, and continued researching and writing her entire life, earning her place as tribal historian. When she died in 2010 at the age of 85, she was in the process of writing two more books.

Virgil S. Clarkson

Virgil Clarkson (1932-2022) was Lacey’s first Black mayor and the second longest serving Councilmember with nearly 20 years of service. Mayor Clarkson was a tireless champion for older adults, advocating for the Lacey Senior Center construction and later expansion. He was also dedicated to bringing environmentally-sustainable, family-wage jobs to the area and as a result, during his tenure City buildings were fully transformed to green power. In 2015, the Lacey Senior Center was renamed the Virgil S. Clarkson Senior Center to honor his exceptional service and leadership to the community.

He made his mark on the community well before becoming mayor. In the late 1960s he worked hard for civil rights in the South Sound, with a particular focus on getting open housing ordinances passed.  This was first accomplished in Lacey, and eventually followed by the communities of Olympia, Tumwater, and Thurston County beginning in the mid-to-late 1960s.

Clarkson was also an extremely active volunteer, giving countless hours to community organizations and projects and serving on numerous boards and civic organizations.

Evergreen Ballroom

Located east of Lacey on Pacific Avenue (then Highway 99), the Evergreen Ballroom (1931-2000) was a perfect stop between Seattle and Portland, turning it into a legendary tour stop for decades of America’s top musical performers. It was opened in 1931 by Walter and Mary (Bolan) Sholund, and in an early effort to increase business, they began to diversify the talent they booked in hopes of attracting the African-American servicemen from Fort Lewis. Not everyone appreciated this change and the building was torched in 1932 with rumors circulating that a local racist group was to blame. The Sholunds didn’t let this setback stop them and they began rebuilding immediately, but bigger and better, paving the way for many unbelievable shows.

Famous acts that have played at “The Green” include Louis Armstrong, Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Ray Charles, Etta James, B. B. King, Ike and Tina Turner and so many more.  The Green was also the venue where “Louie, Louie” was first introduced to a public audience.

In the 1960s, the Interstate bypassed the highway, and a succession of owners tried with varying success to keep the Evergreen Ballroom going. Its fate was sealed in 2000 when the uninsured building succumbed to fire.

Karen Fraser

Fraser had three firsts on Lacey City Council. At the time of her original appointment (she was later elected), she was the first woman and the youngest person to be on Lacey’s City Council. In 1976, she was the first woman elected as mayor on Lacey’s City Council. During her tenure, the City of Lacey built a new, permanent city hall, established the Lacey Museum and improved transportation infrastructure. Fraser went on to serve as Thurston County Commissioner, Washington state representative, and Washington state senator. In 2017, the Chehalis-Woodland Trail was renamed the Karen Fraser Woodland Trail to honor her service to the community.

Fred U. Harris Lodge #70

The Fred U. Harris Lodge is a historically Black Freemason organization founded in the 1970s, but because the members were not white, it was not recognized by a local “mainstream” lodge until 1993, and even then they were only acknowledged as an affiliate.

The lodge’s members “strive to exemplify appropriate leadership behaviors and demonstrate those behaviors throughout [their] daily lives.” They promote Black History with a proclamation at Lacey City Council meetings each year in February and have celebrated Juneteenth annually since 1983.  The Lodge’s Juneteenth event has been held at the Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey since 2010.

Jose “Luvva J” Gutierrez, Jr.

Jose Salvador Gutierrez, Jr, (1976-2021) served his community through countless roles using his gifts as a man of faith, an educator, advocate, mediator, leader, entertainer, philosopher and innovator. From River Ridge High School in Lacey, Jose went on to earn a triple major BA and three master’s degrees in subjects ranging from communications and media production to business and education, but that was just the beginning. He later became a professor at Puget Sound Community College and Northwest Indian College. He was an activist in restorative justice and homelessness and founded the student organization, Black Men Making a Difference. He was also a DJ at the Evergreen State College’s KAOS, starting as a volunteer at age 12 and going on to become the musical director.

Merging his passion for music and social justice, he founded the non-profit organization, Hip-Hop for the Homeless in Washington, which hosted a two-day festival featuring live performances on day one that the audiences could paid for with donations of clothes, books or anything that could be useful to the homeless. On the second day, the festival was for the homeless and they would redistribute the donations, offer haircuts, professional massages, and a warm meal.

He continued to volunteer, share his love of music and advocate for equity until his passing in 2021, when he lost his battle with COVID-19.

Vivian Hicks and Gladys Buroker

Vivian Ingram (1907-1977) grew up in South Bay, north of Lacey, and was the first woman in southwest Washington to earn her pilot’s license on November 5, 1931, although she had first flown solo in 1928. In 1932, she married Gwin F. Hicks of the pioneer Hicks family in Lacey, who she met when he signed up for his first flying lesson at her place of work, Quick Flying Service, in Centralia. Vivian and Gwin founded Empire Airlines in Idaho after World War II, one of the first commercial airline services in the Northwest.

Pioneer aviator Gladys Dawson (1914-2002) grew up in Ferndale and learned to fly in 1932 from Herb Buroker, who would become her husband. The Burokers and the Hicks, opened a flying service at the Olympia Airport in the 1930s (Buroker-Hicks Flying Service). Gladys taught at Saint Martin’s College (now University)  as a ground school instructor in the Civilian Pilot Training Program from 1939 to 1941, and was the first woman to teach at the school. With the outbreak of World War II, she continued her work inland at Pasco and then Coeur d’Alene where she trained pilots throughout the war.

Nat & Thelma Jackson

The Jacksons grew up in the Jim Crow South and met in 1963 while attending Southern University in Louisiana. They moved to Washington when Thelma was recruited to work as an inhalation toxicologist at Battelle Northwest. In 1970, Nat was offered the opportunity to be the economic development specialist for the Washington State Office of Opportunity in Olympia. They realized quickly that Lacey, without the racially discriminatory real estate laws of other Thurston County communities, would be their home. Nat and Thelma Jackson have dedicated their lives to creating a better community in Lacey and beyond. They have worked to advance racial equity and systemic change to provide equal opportunities and affirmative actions in government, education, business, criminal justice, and health care.

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Lacey-Minsk Mazowiecki Sister City

The Sister City program was established in 2003 following formal action by Lacey City Council which set the groundwork for a community-based initiative. After considering many cities, Mińsk Mazowiecki, Poland was chosen because of its similarities to Lacey in size and government structure and their enthusiasm for the cultural exchange.  For 20 years, numerous visits between the two cities have taken place. Members toured the sister cities and learned about each others’ cultures with additional notable activities such as a  joint concert between North Thurston High School and the Minsk-Mazowiecki Brass City Orchestra. In 2022, the Lacey organization raised money to assist the sister city in support of about 1,000 Ukrainian refugees they took in during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Lacey Women’s Club

Founded in the late 1920s as the Home Demonstration Club, they officially organized February 5, 1930 with by-laws and the new name, the Lacey Women’s Club. The club focused on community service, beginning with canned food drives and knitting socks for orphaned children at the Children’s Farm Home in Lacey. For decades, the group has contributed its time, property, and money to support charitable causes, like the Fircrest School or making over 100 quilts for various groups. At the height of the depression, the women organized social events that attracted participants from all over the county and raised enough money to purchase land for their clubhouse which still stands today at 827 Lacey Street.

Gene Liddell

Liddell served on the Lacey City Council from November 1987 through 1993 and was elected the first Filipina mayor of any city in the United States in 1991.  As mayor, Liddell worked to promote diversity in the community and programs to assist disadvantaged women and youth, preservation and rehabilitation of the local environment, and it was during her time as mayor that Lacey was named a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation, a distinction that the city has maintained every year since 1992.


Barbara Nichols

Lieutenant Barbara Nichols (1922-2023) served in three different wars as a battlefield nurse, earning a bronze star and the highest rank available to a woman at her retirement in 1969.  As a teenager, Barbara worked at Boeing building B-17 Flying Fortress Bombers, but her true calling was in nursing and serving her country, which she did for 20 years, in the operating room and often on the front lines.

When not serving overseas, she was frequently stationed at Fort Lewis, and in retirement moved to Lacey and lived at Panorama for 30 years until her death in 2023.

Barbara O’Neill

What started out as a call to help a family in need one Thanksgiving turned into 50 years of Thanksgiving dinners served to the needy. She founded the non-profit organization Barb O’Neill Family and Friends, which grew to include a Christmas meal and toy drive, Easter baskets, and collecting and donating clothes and furniture. On top of that, she served her community on numerous boards and service organizations including cofounding New Life Baptist Church, founding member of the Olympia Area Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and president of the YWCA.

Luther J. Wyckoff

Beginning in 1932, L. J. Wyckoff (1881-1969) pioneered the first commercial cultivation of lavender in the United States at his farm on Chambers Prairie, near what is now the Horizon Pointe area in South Lacey.

At the time, the quality of his lavender plants gained accolades from the prestigious Yardley and Co. of London. Lavender varieties known as Wyckoff Blue and Wyckoff White were developed by and named for him.