Cheryl Strong Magnuson’s life in Redmond spans from teen to senior years. She was born in the hospital in Monroe and brought up in Sultan, where several generations of her family lived. But that was too far of a commute for her dad when he went to work in Seattle as an electrician; he eventually moved into the office as an estimator. Once the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge was built, her family moved to Rose Hill. She was fourteen when she moved to Redmond and started at Redmond Junior High. Six days later President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. It was a hard move for Cheryl. She was shy. But she managed. Cheryl graduated from Redmond High School in 1967. She married Gene Magnuson when she was eighteen. The Isacksons /Magnusons were among the earliest pioneer families in the Redmond area. Gene’s great-grandfather Charles settled in the 1890’s and the Magnuson family farm in Happy Valley still stands today. To Gene and Cheryl, Redmond is home.
Before her daughter started school, Cheryl worked part-time as a playground supervisor. Once her daughter started school, Cheryl went back to college. She started at the University of Washington and then she transferred to Bellevue Community College because the lower cost was practical for their family. She graduated from Green River Community College’s Occupational Therapy Assistant program.
Cheryl spent thirty-four years working with seniors in occupational therapy and as an activity director. “It was a good career,” she says. “Right away I knew that working with seniors was something that I would like to do. It felt like the right thing for me.” She continues to feel that way in retirement. She said, “I took the best and favorite parts of my job and turned them into volunteer opportunities.” She volunteers in several different musical groups including the Redmond Senior Chorus, the “Golden Oldies Gang” and the “Happy Wanderers.” “I’m not a virtuoso at playing the clarinet or singing, but I get by,” Cheryl says. She also puts on a gardening program for seniors, as well as being an administrator for a couple of organization’s Facebook pages.
Cheryl worked at Cascade Vista Convalescent Center just off Redmond Way and Willows Road, just west of the Sammamish River. It’s now called Redmond Care and Rehab. Instead of driving her car to and from work and never leaving the office like many of her co-workers, Cheryl walked the river almost every day either at lunch or after work. “I didn’t want to miss the seasons and feel the fresh air,” she says.
Sometimes Cheryl walked south to Marymoor Park. Other times all the way to York bridge. She liked to cross the bridges, looking at the river both directions. She took photographs too. In 2016 she documented the bridges from Lake Sammamish to the York Bridge. You can find that collection of photos at the Redmond Historical Society Facebook page under “Bridges of Redmond, Album 1: Sammamish River.”
Cheryl’s Bridges of Redmond Photo Collection
Cheryl is a wealth of information on the bridges. Following the river north from Lake Sammamish, the first bridges are at Marymoor Park: a pedestrian and an automotive bridge. The Marymoor Park Bridge for cars was built in 1963, the same year Marymoor became a King County Park. You can still see the remnants of the old cement bridge that was taken down.
Next is the 520 Bridge which was built in 1995. More recently the new Light Rail Bridge has been built next to the 520.
Then there are the bridges at Leary Way, a bridge for cars and a second bridge for pedestrians and bicyclists. Cheryl doesn’t know the official names of these bridges. She calls them by their description: The Automotive Bridge and the Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge that crosses the Sammamish River near Leary Way.
Heading north, you come to the Redmond Way Bridge. The older part of this bridge was built in 1972. The newer part was completed in 1992. Cheryl remembers crossing that bridge every day near where she worked as early as 1977.
Next you have the Redmond Connector Trail Bridge. This walking bridge spans Redmond Way near Kentucky Fried Chicken. It is part of the Redmond Connector Trail that continues out on the Sammamish River Trail where the Sammamish River Trestle Bridge is located.
The Sammamish River Trestle Bridge is now part of the Redmond Central Connector Trail. Railroad service first reached Redmond in early 1888 over this bridge. More recent memories folks have shared include telling stories of crossing that bridge with the train coming and also when the bridge caught on fire. You can still see the blackened burn marks from that. Cheryl remembers one foggy morning in 2016 when she walked out on the bridge. There were engineers with their hard hats and clip boards studying the trestle. That was her last walk across the bridge before the tracks were removed and the construction of the new trail began. She attended the grand opening for the re-purposing of that bridge in 2017.
The next bridges are the 85th Street Bridge, constructed in 1985, and the 90th Street Bridge, built in 2001 under the leadership of Mayor Rosemarie Ives. Cheryl’s favorite bridge,
the one she finds most attractive, is the rusty steel pedestrian bridge near the Puget Sound Energy Powerline Trail. We don’t know the official name. Our family calls it “Pooh Bear Bridge” because we like to walk there with friends and family. At the bridge each person finds a stick. We drop them at one time off the south side of the bridge and watch them float downriver from the north side, each person rooting for his or her ship to win the race, like in the Winnie the Pooh story.
Then there is the York Street Bridge on 116th Ave NE where it crosses Sammamish Valley. Built in 2006 and named after a town that was platted in the 1880s but never built. At one time the county built the Lazy Husband’s Ranch, also known as the County Poor Farm in the York area. A scandal in 1928 put an end to the farm and then “honest” farming took place until 1967 when the land was sold to Rocket Research. Cheryl’s “Bridges of Redmond” documents each of these bridges.
Cheryl retired eleven years ago and enjoyed her river walks, musical groups, and staying busy in her many volunteer roles until this year. She didn’t expect to get cancer. “That was a surprise to me. I’m trying to face it with grace and humor. I expect to recover,” she says. Chemo has been challenging she shares. It includes booster shots to stimulate bone marrow that can be very painful. Still “It could be worse,” Cheryl concludes. She tries to make it fun. Like the time when she was having chemo and a woman was wearing an elephant hat that made her laugh. She went home, looked through the costumes that she has from musical shows she’s done, and chose the Russian “bear hat.” The next week she wore that and everybody laughed. “We’re all in the same boat in the waiting room. Some of us don’t have hair. I’m trying to find some humor in it.”
Cheryl’s diagnosis may have saved a friend’s life too. Cheryl was at her annual mammogram appointment when she was diagnosed. She shared her diagnoses with friends. Five friends “ran right out and got mammograms. One of them actually had breast cancer. When she sees me, she thanks me. ‘You saved my life,’” she says. Sometimes Cheryl dreams about her mother going with her to the cancer center. In the dream she comforts Cheryl. But it’s really Gene there with her, comforting her, caring for his bride of fifty-five years, just as Cheryl cared for so many seniors for so many years.
Seniors always had a special place in Cheryl’s heart. Now she is one. Like the bridges span the river, Cheryl’s life spans youth to old age. Like the seasons on the river, each season of life is important and connected to the others. Through the photographs she curates, the groups she leads, and the organizations she serves that span the years, Cheryl is a keeper of history. We need people like Cheryl to show us how to walk the seasons of life with cheer and grace. Yes, we need each other, young and old.