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Skagit River Journal

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Last Day at Northern State Hospital
Part 3: Chuck Cruse

By Linda Bryant, Everett Herald, May 8, 1976
      Memories echo from the lonely buildings. Weeds wage a successful attack against what were once immaculately landscaped grounds. The weeds will not have a complete victory; someone has mowed the wide expanse of lawn.
      The last man.

(Chuck Cruse)
      After 24 years on the job at Northern State Hospital, Charlie Cruse will be leaving
Everett Herald, May 8, 1976

      Charlie Cruse is in the workshop near the power house and smoke stack. The coffee is hot and black. Charlie came to Northern State Hospital to work in the wards when he was 17 years old. That was 24 years ago.
      In 1959 he moved "outside" to the motor pool. Now, he and five other men are keeping the former mental hospital alive . . . barely.
      "We do what we can do." Three times a week they fire the boilers, Charlie says, sending heat into all the buildings. "We try to inspect all the buildings at least once a week and make any minor repairs we can."
      A skeleton maintenance crew of 15 stayed on to care for Northern State after it closed in 1973. Nine of those men were laid off March 21 because money for maintenance is running low.
      "Now we're not even supposed to mow the lawn." he says, but Charlie and his men are still trying to keep the 80 acres of landscaped grounds from being totally overgrown.
      Charlie knows Norman Hullah and his plans for Northern State. He just can't swallow it all. Doggedly Charlie thinks of days when the hospital was alive.

(Dariy Barn)
The dairy barn east of the hospital stood for many years. Photo by Frank Varga, Skagit Valley Herald

      "I see some of the old faces on the streets and roads, walking with no place to go. None of those people wanted to leave. There are people who really need a place like this. I hauled 'em out of here to nursing homes all over this state and down to Western State Hospital. Some had lived here 40 maybe 50 years. This was the only home they ever knew. It's a waste for the state to get rid of it . . . Northern State should never have been closed."
      Hullah has talked to Charlie and the other men "In a round about way, he never talks money" about staying on and working for him. Charlie's not interested. He figures with 24 years seniority as a state employee he can get another job "I'll go with the state. I've had chances to transfer but since I've hung on this long, I'll ride it out to the end."
      Would he come back to see what Hullah and $21 Million will do for his old friend? "Nope. Once I leave, I'll stay gone."

The Chuck Cruse story
By Jo Cruse, his daughter-in-law
      Chuck was born in Sedro Woolley on Dec. 5, 1935, to Alfred B. and Alice Maxine Cruse. He was born at home, attended by "Old Dr. [Charles] Hunter" he believes. He has a brother, Albert Jr., who is seven years older than he. His mother's went by the name "Maxine". Her family came to Sedro Woolley from Utah in a covered wagon, arriving in 1914 or thereabouts. Alfred Sr. was born in Maple falls and settled in Sedro Woolley around 1920.
      Chuck's parents moved up to Prairie, where his mother grew up, when he was one year old. He grew up a couple of houses away from my mother, who lived on Hathaway rd. He attended school in Prairie, or what is now called Samish School until the sixth grade, when the students transferred to the Sedro-Woolley Central School.
      Chuck would have been in the class of 1954 at Sedro-Woolley High School, but when he was 17 years old, he decided to go to work. He lied about his age, saying he was 18, so that he could get a job as a ward attendant at Northern State Hospital. He was hired and he worked there for a year. At this time he made up his mind to join the Army. He was shipped off to Germany where he stayed for 3 years.
      In 1957, upon his discharge from the Army, Chuck came home to Sedro Woolley. He returned to work at Northern State Hospital as an ward attendant. He was eventually transferred to the motor pool and finally became the maintenance supervisor for the entire facility.

(Nurse's dorm)
One of the nurses' dorms that Chuck maintained. Photo courtesy of Jeannie Packer

      1957 was a very eventful year in his life, as he met Patty Hoffman. They married on September 9 of that year. Patty also went to work at Northern State, first as an attendant, then went to school and earned her nursing degree. She worked there for 13 years. Many people remember Patty from her many years working as Dr. Gross's nurse as well as her years as the Elementary School Nurse at Evergreen and Central schools. They have two children, seven grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.
      Chuck worked at Northern State Hospital for a total of 26 years. He and Patty both had a genuine love for the patients who lived there. I found out years later that they used to bring his former neighbor — my grandmother, Irene Hoyt, home for dinner occasionally! Grandma, was a dementia patient at the hospital during the last few years of it's existence. But Grandma was just one of many patients who dined at my in-laws' table.
      It broke Chuck's heart when they closed the facility and he had to drive the patients away from the only life many of them knew, to rest homes and group homes all over the state. He continued to visit some of the men for a few years afterward, in their new environs. Chuck told a very sad story about one man who, when seeing Chuck drive up a couple of weeks after he had been transferred to his new "group home," expectantly got in Chuck's truck, thinking Chuck had come to return him to Northern State. But most of the patients Chuck knew and worked with, he never saw again.
      After his retirement from NSH, Chuck went to work in the logging business, and owned his own trucking company for many years. He and Patty lived most of their married life in the Prairie area, just a few miles from where Chuck grew up. In retirement, Chuck is able to indulge his talent for woodworking.
      In 1994, Chuck and Patty built their own home, just down from the Samish School, on Prairie road. They lived there until August 2003 when they sold the home and moved to Montana. The home is now being turned into a bed and breakfast. You can see some of his works at this website: http://northstarretreat.com/birdhouses.html

      Jo has been one of most faithful correspondents over the years and has been a great help with a grand story that we will publish in December, the story of Prairie's master timberman, Joe Hoyt, and his pioneer wife, Annie Boyd Hoyt, daughter of Lewis A. Boyd, the famous schoolmaster of Birdsview. She has also given us another story that will be published in the near future, the autobiography of her grandmother-in-law, Maxine Waters Cruse Morgan. Read our exclusive story about the history of Northern State Hospital in our free home pages.

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Story posted on Nov. 27, 2003, moved to this domain Nov. 12, 2011
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