Requiem for a Contractor


In the late summer of 1975, a restaurant called Sound Food opened a couple of miles south of town on the Main Highway. The restaurant was funded by several partners, of whom the most visible was Frank Miller, who worked in the restaurant.

Linda Miller, Frank’s wife, also worked there. She had long hair and wore long skirts. Many women wore long hair and long skirts in those days.

Then, and I do not know the time frame or the order of these events, Linda came out, cut her hair short and stopped wearing skirts, announced that her name was now Lotus, and left Frank.

(She once told me that men were okay, but when it came to the quality of a relationship, women were beyond compare. When Rick and I married, Lotus told me that Rick was a good guy and all, but it was kind of a shame, because I would have made a great lesbian. I took it as a compliment.)

As a single mother she needed a means of support, so she became the best contractor on Vashon Island.

Seriously, she was.

In 1977 I came to live in the dilapidated former mess hall of what had been the Beulah Park church camp and Chautauqua grounds. The property had passed into private hands, and the mess hall and the little cabins on the property had become cheap rentals.

The mess hall had many deficiencies as a living space.

No bathroom. You had to walk up the hill to another building where the toilets and a shower were located.

No heat except the brick fireplace. Rick plugged several airtight stoves into the fireplace. Remember airtights? All the structural integrity of a beer can and they burned out fast, but they were cheap, and they worked. You can still buy them.

The building had two electrical circuits. There was a four-socket box with a breaker next to it on the kitchen wall. Two sockets, on the left side, were one circuit. The two sockets on the right were the second circuit, and that circuit supplied electricity to the entire building.

If the lights were on in more than one room, and I was cooking on the electric stove, the breaker would snap, and the lights would dim. At which point I would go over and push the breaker back up. We lived with that until the night I pushed the breaker up, and sparks flew.
So I applied for a couple of King County loans, and in 1987 we signed a contract with Lotus to remodel our house.

Lotus had Kimmco come down and put a concrete foundation under one side of the house. Meanwhile, Lotus and her assistant Kate (mea culpa, Kate – I have forgotten your last name) got into the crawl space on the ravine side and put in supports that went down to bedrock.

Once the house was stable and level, Lotus and Kate stripped the interior of the building down to the studs and outer walls. Then they built a new house inside that shell, listening to loud country music on the radio while they worked. Lotus hired subcontractors to do the wiring, sheetrock, taping and mudding of sheetrock, and plumbing. Once they started the job, they worked straight through to the finish. There were no “contractor gone missing” episodes.

The transformation took about four months, ending in January 1988.

Lotus and Kate did meticulous work. Everything was level and plumb and sound. There were no mistakes, no need for do-overs. Nothing turned up months or years later.

The house had all new wiring.

It had baseboard heaters. After relying on wood heat for ten years, Rick set down his chainsaw and never looked back.

It had insulation.

We had an indoor bathroom, with toilet, sink, and tub. Wahoo!

It was a great place to live and bring up the kids.

I do not know how many houses Lotus built or remodeled or what other projects she did on the island. I only heard good about her and her work and a lot of us were disappointed when she hung up her tool belt and started teaching at a community college.

I look around the house now and think what a fine builder she was, and what fine work she and Kate did.

She was a good friend. She was practical, but she knew how to laugh. She was a fine farmer/gardener, and she did a lot of volunteer work to make Vashon a better place to live.
A few years ago, she became ill.

A few weeks ago her bright light blinked out.

Deepest condolences to Barbara, Sonam, and all other family and friends. Virtual hugs, and peace, and grace, to you.

Rest in peace, Lotus. You done good.