Nike Army Base on Vashon, Childhood Memories
Island Voices

Nike Army Base on Vashon, Childhood Memories

By Lisa Devereau

Hello, my name is Lisa Devereau. I am a cemetery commissioner and a funeral director. I grew up here on Vashon, and have a story about growing up here.

A few years ago, a woman named Verna Bacon Everitt moved back to Vashon. She had hopes of writing for our local newspaper, so she wrote and submitted a short story about the Nike Missile base – it was rejected. The reason given was that Vashon residents did not want to remember our part in any war or military efforts. (This was not our current newspaper staff.) Do we really want to forget our history?

I for one do not. Forgetting the Nike site would mean forgetting a large part of my childhood. My father was stationed at the Nike site in 1958. He met and married my mother that same year, and became dad to her two girls. They moved into a home in Nike Manor (a military housing project, now privately owned). Just prior to my birth in 1962, they purchased our family home on Cemetery Road. While living basically on base, my family met many wonderful neighbors, many of whom we are still friends with, if not relatives of, today.

My father was not the only soldier who met and married here. Others include Russell Bruce, who married Laurie Wolcott; Henry Garcia, who married Barbara Mitchell; Bobby Lewis, who married Betty Brenno; Ken Cooper, who married Barbara Brenno; Bill Thomas, who married Andrea Crawford; Joe Bacon, who married Dorothy Rolando; Ray Squires, who married Judy Anderson; Barret Allred, who married Rhodila Grimm; and Terry Alman, who married Teri Phaneuf. This list, I am sure, could go on and on. And from this list comes all the Nike children, of which I am one, and I would guess so are many of you.

The United States Army began developing the next generation of Nike missile – Hercules – in 1953, the same year that Nike Ajax became operational. The Army named the missile for one of the most celebrated heroes of classical mythology, a figure renowned for strength and endurance.

In 1958, the Army began replacing Nike Ajax missiles with Nike Hercules. An “improved Nike Hercules” system became operational in 1961. There were Nike Missile sites all over the US, with many in the state of Washington.

This article’s picture shows Battery B, 4th Missile Battalion (Nike Hercules). It is dated July 19, 1962, and was taken at what is now Sunrise Ridge and the Vashon Medical Clinic. I can only name a few of these men; I wish we could name them all. The web version of this article has two photos, also taken at Sunrise Ridge; one clearly shows the old missile silos, that I called golf balls as a child, and the buildings surrounding them are still in use today. My Dad was Santa Claus that year, and actually landed in a helicopter in our cow field to surprise us girls. I have been told that I hid from him.

The photo of my Dad in uniform shows the now-Vashon Medical Clinic building in October of 1964; it was a barracks at that time. Other buildings at that site were a sentry guardhouse along the driveway, a mess hall, sewage facilities, many storage areas, and a canine kennel area, to name a few. There were multiple military sites on Vashon beside Sunrise Ridge, including the property and building that is now the Eagles; the horse park, now called Paradise Ridge; and a building in Dockton, which I believe was a generator building.

I loved going on base with my dad, and remember stopping at the sentry guardhouse and getting candy from the mess hall; I still have a couple of dishes from there.

We also have pictures of Terry Alman training a canine; I always loved seeing the beautiful dogs, but was not allowed near them. I remember egg hunts at what is now the Eagles, and pancakes in the mess hall. In kindergarten, I took a model of the Hercules or Ajax missile to school for show and tell. That would be a treasure to own now, but Dad let us play with them and they did not last.

My Dad retired in 1966, after 20 years. In school, new students came and went, as their fathers were relocated to other bases, and in the early 1970s, the base was decommissioned and the properties were left vacant for a while. Now we have parks, ball fields, a clinic, and the previous home of Granny’s Attic. The housing project became private homes, and clubs took over some of the properties.

The 216th road from Vashon Highway to 111th became the “off limits road” after a jeep accident left a few soldiers badly injured; they were now required to drive the long way around. I still refer to 216th as the off-limits road, but enjoy its twists and turns.

Another favorite memory is soldiers visiting our home, whether it was for a meal or to get some home brew (a secret room-under-the-stairs brewery), or to hold my baby doll, of which I understand a certain few had the honor. Their visits were always fun.

This story is my own, and my memories may be a bit off since I was so young, but let’s add to this so our story doesn’t get lost and our history is preserved. I appreciate all who have served, including my father, his three brothers, and my husband John, my brothers-in-law Harold and Joe, and my father-in-law Doug, as well as our beloved Robert Bennedsen. So, let’s remember this year that Armed Forces Day (May 23) and Memorial Day (May 29) are about those who gave all.

Lisa’s dad arriving via helicopter as Santa Claus.
Lisa’s father, with the buildings now known as Sunrise Ridge in the background.
May 8, 2023

About Author

lisa I am a cemetery commissioner and a funeral director, and grew up here on Vashon.