by Kathleen Kaska, Marketing Director
“I had cut down my share of trees as a young man before the war, in order to make ends meet, but when I heard in the early 1990s that 400 acres of forest land near Heart Lake, at the base of Mt Erie, had been earmarked for selective logging, I decided that I would try and preserve them. I went to City Hall and said I would write a check for $100,000 there and then to save Mt Erie. The city officials I spoke to just about fell off their chairs.”-John Tursi
John Tursi was a true Anacortes hero. At the age of sixteen and desperate to get a job, Tursi lied about his age and joined the Civilian Conservation Corp. He left his hometown of Brooklyn and moved to Anacortes to help build the Deception Pass Bridge. For the first time since his mother died (when he was six), he had the certainty of a roof over his head and three meals a day. After arriving in the Pacific Northwest, he fell in love with a young woman named Doris Anderson, whom he married before going off to serve in WWII. Tursi eventually became a self-taught engineer and went to work for Shell Oil Company. He and Doris consistently invested their earnings. Upon retirement, Tursi began giving back to the community that had given him a home.
Not far from our office and just west of Lake Campbell is the new John Tursi Trail. This hiking trail of approximately one mile connects to a well-established trail through Heilman Valley and along the shore of Pass Lake to Donnell Road. The John Tursi Trail allows public access from the northern section of Deception Pass State Park to Anacortes Community Forest Lands. The ribbon-cutting ceremony and dedication for the Tursi Trail was held last June 4, which was National Trails Day. Six weeks later, Tursi passed away at the age of ninety-eight.
The best way to hike the trail is to start at the parking lot at Pass Lake off Rosario Road. The Tursi portion of the trail begins at the Ginnett Homestead and ends at Donnell Road. Hikers will experience some of the best views in the area, taking in Pass Lake, Lake Campbell, Mount Erie, and Mount Baker, as they trek the moderately strenuous route through meadows and over bald outcroppings. It’s best to take a map of the area with you.
For more about John Tursi, read A Long Way from Brooklyn: An Italian-American Journey by John Tursi and Thelma Palmer.
To learn why Cave Art Press decided to publish this book, attend my presentation at the Langley Library on Whidbey Island on Saturday, October 22 at 10:00 am.
The staff at Cave Art Press is greatly saddened to learn of the death of local resident John Tursi. Over the last several months we have been working on a reissue of John’s memoir, Long Journey to the Rose Garden. This book was originally self-published in 1989 by John and his friend and co-author Thelma Palmer.
My husband Don and I have long thought John’s book to be a colorful real-life story deserving of wider readership, and John and Thelma agreed late last year to our proposal to re-publish it. The original book covered John’s hardscrabble Depression-era childhood in Brooklyn, his two years with the Civilian Conservation Corps at Deception Pass State Park, and his experiences as an Army engineer in World War II. We made some editorial revisions and added two new chapters at the end, based on recent interviews with John, that cover John and his wife, Doris’s, retirement years in Anacortes as community volunteers and philanthropists. We have also given the book a new title, A Long Way from Brooklyn: An Italian-American Journey. The book will be available to readers by the end of this month—so the timing of John’s death is unfortunate, not least because he never got to see the completed new edition of his life story.
It is not our intention to exploit his passing as a marketing opportunity, but we thought it important that his story be told. A Long Way from Brooklyn will be available at Watermark Book Company in Anacortes and from us at CaveArtPress.com. The eBook is in production and will be out shortly.