Charlotte Bushue, featured in this installment of “Now & Then,” died of a sudden illness Friday night, Oct. 20, 2023, at Swedish Cherry Hill. Charlotte’s son and daughter asked that this be known. Charlotte became an instant friend to me. Jean Sherrard and I hope this installment serves as a fitting tribute to her. — Clay Eals
Lofty Mount Rainier beckons
to young woman in 1926, and her daughter today
By Clay Eals
Invariably, it looms large. Some days it sparkles, taking our breath anew, though we’ve seen it countless times. Other days it faintly hovers in the haze. Still other days, it’s invisible, but we know it’s there.
Of course, I’m speaking of Mount Rainier. From one generation to the next, it’s the rock of our Northwest identity.
I renewed my awe for this perennial presence at a talk by historian Dan Kerlee last May at the Mirabella Seattle retirement community. Also attending was resident and Seattle native Charlotte Dean Bushue.
Afterward, I learned that Charlotte, 88, had brought along a battered box of 42 professional photos taken at and near Rainier’s Paradise trail base in 1926. Several of the 8-by-10s depicted Charlotte’s then-23-year-old mother, Jean Frazier, working as a guide that summer.
The box by her side, Charlotte reflected on her mom, who graduated college with honors and held several jobs: “She was a smart lady, and she liked to do unique things.” During the Depression, Frazier worked at a Seattle bank, “sitting at a table at the entrance to the bank with a pile of cash, reassuring the public that their money was safe. Can you imagine doing that now?”
Frazier also adopted a homemaking trajectory. She married in 1929, gave birth to Charlotte in 1935 and another daughter in 1938. The three followed Frazier’s husband through stateside military service during World War II. Frazier embraced entertaining guests, playing bridge and hiking the Silverton/Big Four region of the Washington Cascades. “She was tough, just her personality. With what we went through as a family during the war, I think it was tough for her not to have a profession.”
The keepsake box symbolizes a formative season that Frazier apparently treasured but didn’t chronicle or discuss with her children. But the photos themselves — showing a vibrant young woman alone and with peers crossing meadows and cavorting on shorter nearby peaks, with lofty Rainier as a backdrop — tell a vivid tale.
Today, active like her mom, Charlotte golfs and organizes walks at Mirabella. In August, I drove her to Paradise, where she readily repeated her mom’s 97-year-old pose. She beamed with satisfaction: “That she had that experience makes me happy.”
The twin gazes of mother and daughter, backed by gleaming grandeur, reflect the warmth of youthful dreams. And Charlotte’s tenderness beckons most anyone’s Rainier yearnings, certainly my own.
As a child, I often was driven by my mom across the Mercer Island floating bridge. On a clear day, she would point south and proclaim, “Get out your ice-cream spoons. The mountain’s out!”
Thanks to Dan Kerlee, Brooke Childrey and especially Charlotte Dean Bushue for their invaluable help with this installment!
To see Clay Eals‘ 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect and compare it with the “Then” photos, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column.