Playing Second Fiddle

Jan 13, 2016 | 1 comment


Willard Espy, circa 1980

I’ve begun to take a better look in the Crosscut file box – the work of Ilwaco High School journalism students in late 1970s. The notes and tapes from twenty interviews of local residents are a treasure trove of recent Peninsula history and, I hope, will make for an interesting Observer series.

The subject of one of the interviews (done by Paul Yunker, April Williams, and Lisa LeClaire) was ‘Sydney LaRue’. That, of course, was me-before-Nyel, and probably took place in 1979 or 1980 just a few years after I moved full-time back to Oysterville. Unfortunately, none of the interviews are dated, and I have absolutely no memory of the experience at all.

I had to smile as I read the first couple of questions: “How are you related to Willard Espy?” and “What is he working on now?” I wonder, in retrospect, why they didn’t just interview Willard, himself. He was living here six months of each year and was famously accessible. Even now, people love to tell me how they knocked on his door one afternoon to have him sign a book and he invited them in for a drink and a chat.

img388The interview eventually became more about me but the way it began – in fact the entire tone would be repeated many years later when David Campiche interviewed me for Coast Weekend. My Dear Medora book had just come out so it must have been 2007 and the resulting story that David wrote turned out to be almost entirely about Willard. Years later he and I laughed about that, he a bit apologetically as I remember.

The truth is, if it’s a matter of playing second fiddle to someone, I can’t think of any better company to be in than Willard’s. I adored him and vice-versa. He was my uncle, my Godfather, my friend and my mentor. How lucky I was to have him in my life!

1 Comment

  1. Cuzzin Ralph

    Dear Cuzzin Sydney, You couldn’t be second fiddle to a more deserving model than your Uncle Wede! I never met the man but I still rue the time when I could have joined my parents when they invited me to come along when they visited Willard back in a summer in the 1970’s in Oysterville when I was in Grad School at Wazzu. I’m jealous that my Espy relatives of my generation 2nd cousin Ralph Charles Kerns (who unfortunately died before his time at the age of 63) and double cousin Nancy Vay David looked him up in New York when they were both in the area. I particularly like his humor related to word play that my father Oliver Jeffords instilled in me at an early age (especially the appreciation of very bad puns). I’ve read and reread Oysterville: Roads to Grandpa’s Village and enjoy every word of his account of our ancestor Alexander Hamilton—not the famous Secretary of the Treasury, but a treasure in his own way as a pioneer who fought in the French and Indian War. Best of luck with the publication of Jailhouse Stories from Early Pacific County!


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