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Sunday, December 17, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Vashon Island's community spirit shines just when it is needed

Seattle Times staff reporter

Vashon Island is a place of 10,000 people that prides itself on its community spirit, and in various ways, that spirit showed after the last week's storms.

At the Chevron gas station in the center of town, on Saturday afternoon, people lined up patiently for gas and essentials — pop, potato chips and cigarettes.

Customers lodged no complaints when told they could buy no more than 10 gallons so that others could have some, too.

For longtime residents, last week's storm was one of the fiercest they'd experienced, but the aftermath was nothing unexpected. Loss of power, usually for a few hours, is routine during high winds.

There was Ed Mooney, 90, known on the island for the some 24,000 corn plants he grows each summer, selling ears at 50 cents each. He and his son, Craig, woke Friday morning to find that a 100-foot fir tree, with a 30-foot-wide rootball, had toppled and missed their home by only a few feet.

"Never even heard it fall," said the elder Mooney.

With their generator gone haywire, the home became colder.

"You just dress warmer," Mooney said.

When Steve and Cindy Stockett woke up Friday morning, Steve looked out their home one way and announced they'd escaped damage.

Then Cindy Stockett looked out a window facing a different way.

"Oh, my gosh, what are we going to do!" the retired schoolteacher cried out.

The couple counted 25 toppled fir trees on their 16-acre property. Two had missed their home by only a few feet.

But it was what happened to her garden that devastated Cindy.

She has devoted 40 hours a week, year-round, since her retirement six years ago to this 1 ½ acre plot.

This was the garden that was so beautiful — featuring everything from Asiatic lilies to New Zealand flax — that it has been featured in magazines such as Seattle Homes and Lifestyles, Fine Gardening and Sunset. The latter publication described the garden as "a living work of art."

Now giant fir-tree rootballs — upended and lying sideways — were scattered about, the trellis crushed and underground plastic irrigation pipes ripped apart.

"It looked like a moonscape," she said. "It's just so overwhelming."

Then Stocketts' day got a lot cheerier.

For 25 years, neighborhood families have had a rotating Christmas party. This year it was to be the Stocketts' turn, scheduled for Saturday.

The neighborhood get-together was saved when neighbors down the road, Mark and Pam Held, volunteered their home — one with a generator.

With three bathrooms, said Held, neighbors were even welcome to come and shower before the party.

Saturday, Cindy Stockett couldn't keep her thoughts from returning to her garden.

But she also had a party to attend.

"It's nice to know you're not alone," she said.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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