Longtime Senior Center volunteer donates $100,000

Alma Ohtomo: ‘This place is my ohana’
By Jesse Blair | Jun 28, 2018
Courtesy of: Jesse Blair Alma Ohtomo has high hopes for the future Edmonds Waterfront Center.

The main reason longtime Edmonds resident Alma Ohtomo recently added $50,000 to her former $50,000 donation to the future Edmonds Waterfront Center, now the Edmonds Senior Center?

Because it’s falling apart. Indeed – it was built in the 1960s as a boathouse, and has certainly exceeded its lifespan.

“So we are going to have a new building, and I want that new building to be here,” Ohtomo said.

Ohtomo is 80, and has been at the Senior Center for a little over 10 years. She serves as the board treasurer and is a chairwoman on both the finance and nominating committees.

She said she serves in these committees because she wants to know how the money is being spent.

Her favorite part about the center, however, is the people.

“I get to meet new people every day,” she said. “Now I have been here so long they come to me for new information, new advice.”

She wears many hats during her typical day-to-day activities. She helps with the Sound Singers and also facilitates the ukulele group.

Ohtomo had already donated money to the waterfront center. She expected it to be built and completed this year so she could celebrate her 80th birthday June 15 with the opening.

“And since it didn’t happen, I decided to double my money so it hurries up and gets built,” she said with a laugh.

“And that is my great gift. I don’t have long-term care insurance because this is my long-term care. I have fun. I have friends who take care of me. I take care of them. And I get fed lunch. Of course I pay for the lunch. So it is a good life for me.”

Ohtomo was born in Honolulu. She attended the University of Hawaii, majoring in secondary education.

“But I didn’t want to be a high school music teacher there because the jobs are limited and the kids are bigger than me,” she said. Another laugh.

She then moved to Washington and finished her studies at Western Washington University, focusing on music and the elementary school.

“So I started in Edmonds in ’63 in the classroom because we didn’t have music,” she said.

She had 27 kids her first year. The next year she had more than 35. She told the principal that if in the next year she got 40 kids, she was going to quit to go sailing. By October, she had 40 fifth-graders.

So off she went.

At the time, she had a friend who was sailing around the world and needed a crew person. She applied and soon embarked up and down the West Coast and to French Polynesia.

“I said, ‘Bye-bye,’” she said.

Ohtomo eventually returned to the classroom, where she taught second grade at now-closed Evergreen Elementary in Mountlake Terrace for 25 years.

“I enjoyed second grade,” she said. “They are still young enough so I could help mold them. And they would call me, ‘awesome.’ Fifth graders would never do that.”

She has been retired for about 14 years after a teaching career that lasted 46 years.

Her hope with the new Edmonds Waterfront Center is that it will bring a diverse group of people of all ages.

Recently, a group of high schoolers came in to play trivia at the Senior Center. The seniors knew the questions targeted to the older generation, and the high school students knew the questions aimed at a younger demographic.

“They really had fun,” she said. She hopes more middle-aged people would come around to help diversify the group.

She thinks the new building will be wonderful.

“We are right on the waterfront. I am making this pledge instead of paying long-term care premiums. This place is my ohana (family), and keeps me healthy.”

To donate to the Edmonds Waterfront Center, go to http://edmondssc.org or call 425-774-5555.



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