Meeting My Neighbors: Sarah Koehler

Sarah and granddaughter Olivia

Name: Sarah Koehler

Family Member Names: David (husband of 39 yrs) daughters Rachel and her husband Jim, Jessica and her husband Joe, and 1 granddaughter Olivia. 

Tell your neighbors a bit of your story. What makes you “you?” I’ve worked at the Whatcom County Library System for 22 years and have been the Ferndale Branch Manager for 11 of those. I am proud that the library has become a focal point of the Ferndale community, a gathering place for people of all ages and incomes. I believe in being an active member of my community, I’m a member of the Ferndale Kiwanis Club, and on the board of the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce. 

In 2013,  my husband Dave and I became small business owners when we purchased Signs by Tomorrow in Bellingham. Our daughter Rachel, who is a graphic designer, is our manager. David runs the business overall, and I do our bookkeeping. It’s been a challenging and rewarding endeavor! 

What brought you to Ferndale? Dave and I met in our junior year of High School in a small town in Kansas.  We visited Dave’s family on Vancouver Island and fell in love with the area.  

How long have you been a Ferndale neighbor? We moved to Bellingham in 1986, bought a house at Sandy Point in 1991 and have considered Ferndale our home ever since.

Best Ferndale landmark? Pioneer Park. I love the history of the park, and am so impressed and appreciative of all the volunteers that make it the gem that it is. 

Your favorite memory from your time in Ferndale. Grand Opening of the new Ferndale Library of course!

Who should we meet next? Adrian Hilde, Cathy Watson. 

Meeting My Neighbors: Dianne Gillespie

Name: Dianne Gillespie

Family Member Names: Gavin-1989 Ferndale High School Graduate and owner of Natural Art Landscaping. Noah is almost 20 years old! A 2018 Ferndale High School graduate. Noah is just finishing up his first year at Central Washington University where he is studying History/Social Studies teaching. He hopes to return to Ferndale High School to teach someday! (Hint, hint Jeremy)
Reese will be 18 this summer. He will be a Senior at Ferndale High School next year. He is very active in the Leadership program, sports, Young Life and the Customs Border Protection Explorer program. He will attend Whatcom CC after graduating. Reese will pursue a career in Customs and Border Protection and hopes to live here locally.

Tell your neighbors a bit of your story. What makes you “you?” I am a Whatcom County transplant! I was born in beautiful Hawaii, moved to Groton, CT as a child and then to Kennewick, WA- which is “where I’m from”!! Those of you who know me know that I am always cold, and I believe it’s because my thermostat is set a little different having lived in warmer climates!!!! After graduating from Kamiakin High School I attended Wenatchee Valley Community College where I played basketball and softball. It is also where I met Gavin! I graduated from Western Washington University and have lived here ever since! Gavin and I married in 1994. Gavin started our business…Natural Art Landscaping the following year. I spent many years working at Northwest Podiatric Lab in Blaine in their tech department (let me be clear….I gave Drs. product advice…I did not work on computers!). After we started a family, I continued to work full time. When the kids started elementary school, I decided to work part time at the lab…. traveling once a month to trade shows. I did this for several years. I always volunteered in the classrooms and was active in the PTO. That led to me being a para educator substitute and then a para educator. I have worked in several different schools in the district. I currently work in the office at Vista Middle School and I also supervise before school, after school and at lunches. This by far is the best job ever! I get to help so many different people in the office….and then I get to go out with the kids during lunch and play and interact with them!!! There is a lot of football throwing that goes on…I love throwing the deep balls to the boys! I also work “in the office” at home doing the paperwork for our Landscaping business. I am still active in sports (basketball is my favorite!) and I love going to Ferndale sporting events and will continue to after Reese has graduated!

What brought you to Ferndale? Gavin! He has lived in Whatcom County most of his life. After I graduated from Western, Gavin and I lived in his family’s farmhouse-just west of Horizon Middle School where the housing development now sits. We bought property in the county and built a house that we moved into the day after Reese was born (NOT a plan I recommend to anyone!….it was just how it worked out!). We still reside in that house…. we hope to downsize in the next few years and stay in the area.

How long have you been a Ferndale neighbor? Since 1992

Best Ferndale landmark? Point Whitehorn Nature Trail. The whole family loves that place. An easy walk through the woods down to the beach…. where it is so quiet and beautiful.

What is your favorite memory from your time in Ferndale? I really think the best memories have come working in the school district. I have met so many kids, teachers, parents, staff and coaches throughout the years. I love seeing the kids years later and getting hugs from them or a “Hey I remember you from Eagleridge!”. It is so fun to watch kids grow and learn.

Who should we meet next? There are a LOT of people I think you should meet!! Sara Fassett, Shannon Wanlin, Sandy Peppar, Fran Genger, Marty Moravec, Jana Hatchett, Erin Gunter, Heather Leighton, Jamie Thomas, Sam Wood, any teacher/employee in the district for that matter! If you need more…. there are so many more wonderful people to meet!!

Meeting My Neighbors: Margie Overhauser

Name: Margie Overhauser

Family Member Names: Brian (hubby), Sophie (graduating high school and lives majority of time in Spokane with her mom), and Nolan (3rd grade)

Tell your neighbors a bit of your story. What makes you “you?” Hi! I love to drink wine and relax and experience happiness. I’m currently enrolled in online school at South Dakota State University (go Jackrabbits), and I also work full time, AND I have a side business on Etsy ( I do not take life too seriously, and I love meeting new people. About 14 months ago, I completed Exposure Response Therapy treatment for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in Seattle. I am an advocate for mental health awareness, and I’m open to questions about my specific situation with OCD.

What brought you to Ferndale? My husband is a mechanical engineer, and he got a new job up here. Before that, we were living near Dallas, and before that we were in Spokane (he’s originally from Spokane, while I am a born and raised Minnesotan).

How long have you been a Ferndale neighbor? It will be three years in July. Yay!
Best Ferndale landmark? The big red barn at Hovander.

What is your favorite memory from your time in Ferndale? My favorite memory is when the school bond passed this February.

Who should we meet next? Brittney Lunday or Dawna Melander.

Meeting My Neighbors: Todd McKernan

Name: Todd McKernan

Family Member Names: Rowena (wife of almost 21 years) and Aidan (18, student at Whatcom Community College)

Tell your neighbors a bit of your story. What makes you “you?” For some reason which I still don’t fully understand, I started running one day in 2014, sort of like Forest Gump. I had never been a runner before, I wasn’t that good at it and didn’t really know what I was doing, but something strange happened…. I got better at it, and people started running with me. My friend Dan Kenoyer and I started The Northwest Renegade Running group which now includes over 170 members, we have fun encouraging, and supporting each other while exploring new places giving everyone opportunity for success through training.

What brought you to Ferndale? We had outgrown our condo in Bellingham and were looking to upgrade to a bigger, newer, house. It was a good time to buy because of historically low interest rates but we were surprised to find how much more house we could afford in Ferndale compared to Bellingham so over the course of most of 2012 we had our house built and figured that a comparable house in Bellingham would have cost us around $100,000 more, that plus a similar commute time for Rowena and a substantially shorter one for me the choice was a no-brainer.

How long have you been a Ferndale neighbor? Moved to Ferndale on Thanksgiving Day 2012, my favorite holiday because of the 4F’s family, friends, food and most importantly football 🏈😊. <<bg>Best Ferndale landmark? The Metallica Bridge, it always makes the city so happy when Metallica is on that bridge.

What is your favorite memory from your time in Ferndale? So many great memories of Ferndale but my favorite would have to be this last Thanksgiving. Melinda Cool has been organizing a local neighborhood Thanksgiving 5K Turkey Trot for the past several years and I have run several of them with my son and other running

friends. The last couple of years Melinda has even asked me to collect
donations which I was happy to do. This last year however I was finally able to
talk Rowena (my wife) to participate in it as well under the conditions that we
would walk (not run) and that we would only do the 1-mile course. Of course we
missed a sign and ended up doing around 2 ½ miles, much to her chagrin.
Melinda’s Turkey Trot raised a substantial about of money that year for local
charities including the food bank.

Who should we meet next? Ryan and Chelsea O’Larey, also Sean and Melinda Cool

Meeting My Neighbors: Hannah McBride

Name: Hannah McBride

Family Member Names: Aurora, Kaina, Trinity

Tell your neighbors a bit of your story. What makes you “you?”
I was born in the Seattle area, moving to live as a missionary kid in Thailand and Costa Rica at age 6. We moved to Lynden when I was 15 and I attended Lynden Christian High School. The traveling I did as a kid fostered a love for other cultures and their foods and customs. I speak Spanish and practice with most Spanish speakers I meet. I have worked in the dental field for over 20 years and am currently taking my prerequisites for the dental hygiene program which has been a goal of mine for many years.

What brought you to Ferndale?
I have lived in Whatcom county for many years and when buying a house, we liked the location of Ferndale and the centralized location and ease of getting to Bellingham.

How long have you been a Ferndale neighbor?
We have been in Ferndale for 4 years

Best Ferndale landmark?
Hovander Park and Tenant Lake

Your favorite memory from your time in Ferndale.
We have made so many good memories here, from watching the Pioneer Days parade to field trips at Pioneer Park and walks at Hovander.

Who should we meet next?
Ashley Rounds and Jennifer Grahame.

Meeting My Neighbors: Melinda Cool

Photo Credit: Amy K Photography

Name: Melinda Cool

Family Member Names: My husband Sean, and my two sons, Guyan, a senior, and Owen, a freshman, at Ferndale High School.

Tell your neighbors a bit of your story. What makes you “you?” I like to get involved with my community. When we moved to Ferndale, I was intent on making sure I built a local social network for our family (we had moved from Everett, with most of our friends in Edmonds). That started with MOMS Club, where I made some very good friends. As my kids moved into school, I became very involved with fitness and running, and have made even more friends in those circles. Finally, I’ve become more active in elections and causes like the recently passed school bond, and have expanded my social circle even more with the people I’ve met while giving back to our community.

What brought you to Ferndale? My husband and I met in 1998 while working at the Meridian Haggen. We moved to Seattle after getting married for his graduate school at UW, and knew we wanted to move back to Whatcom County. At the end of Ski to Sea weekend, 2004, he found an ad for a position that suited his talents, and the rest is history!

How long have you been a Ferndale neighbor? Since August 2004

Best Ferndale landmark? I’ve always loved Hovander…but with the recent murals, in which my oldest son has played a big part, they’ve become my favorite landmark—especially the Vista Water Tower.

What is your favorite memory from your time in Ferndale? For the past five or six Thanksgivings, our family has put together a Turkey Trot in the Pacific Highlands neighborhood. It’s 100% donations to participate, and all donations are given back to community charities, like the Ferndale Food Bank or the Senior Center. Each year it has grown, and for the past two years we’ve raised over $1,000 each year for Ferndale charities. It’s my favorite day of the year, and makes me so thankful to live in Ferndale.

Who should we meet next? The Ferndale Library has been a big part of our family’s life here in Ferndale. I think we should meet Patty Zanin, an employee at the library, or Sarah Koehler, the Library Manager.

Meeting My Neighbors: Riley Sweeney

Name: Riley Sweeney

Family Member Names: Bryna and Cypress.

Tell your neighbors a bit of your story. What makes you “you?”:  In some ways, I’m really boring. I grew up in Olympia, Washington, went to Western Washington University where I studied Communication and Politics, married an incredible artist named Bryna, settled down and started a family.

On the other hand, I have a 12 foot tall dragon puppet in my garage that I built for a Celtic spiritual retreat, I made news in college for not wearing pants for a month as part of a protest, the previous Mayor of Bellingham once screamed at me over an expose I published, I’ve watched almost every episode of Doctor Who ever released and I believe kiwis are gross. My party trick used to be naming every US Senator in alphabetical order but since becoming a father that space in my head has been replaced with a million repetitions of “Baby Shark”. Do do do do doo.

But if I had to pick one thing that shows what an utter dork I am, I’d say it’s my radio show. My wife and I write, star in and produce a radio series titled, “Bellingham Terror”. Set in 1935 Whatcom County, it is a mystery/horror series modeled after the old “Thin Man” movies and layered with real historical events. It is a labor of love. Check it out at

What brought you to Ferndale? I was running a political news blog in Whatcom County (while also doing marketing for a real estate company to get by) when the previous city clerk for Ferndale departed for a job down in California. I called the Mayor, who I had interviewed for my blog a few months back and asked about the job. He pointed out that I was already talking fluently about local government with folks online, this should be an easy transition. Next thing you know, I’m answering questions about street lights and water rates.

And I love it. I love being able to help folks connect with each other and solve problems in their community. I enjoyed the small town feel of Ferndale so much that I moved my family out of Bellingham and into the County to be closer to what I love.

How long have you been a Ferndale neighbor?

I’ve been working for the city for four years. Four long, glorious years.

Best Ferndale landmark? The railroad bridge of course, it’s iconic!

Your favorite memory from your time in Ferndale. Building Star Park, hands down. Seeing 2,000 volunteers come together for six days and work in the hot, dusty dirt and forge a playground that their children can use was an incredible experience. It was an honor to be part of making that happen.

Who should we meet next? Sara Fassett, she’s a rock star! l