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No more Willows kids left

John Cerqui

Two fathers, John Cerqui (pictured above) and Oscar, each lost sons in the Vietnam War.
Photo by Oscar Roloff.

Oscar Roloff by Oscar Roloff
Early in 1890, parents along Willows Road met to found a school district. They needed six kids to start a district and build a school. Only had five.
   The Couture father said, "My son is five, and kids must be six years old. Let's call him six years old and we can start a school district."
   They did. After meeting in a shed for two years, the parents had a schoolhouse built. Years passed, and around 1916 (I believe), the school was closed and kids bused to Redmond grammar school.
   About 10 years ago, former Willows student Rose Luke, now of California, returned to her school roots. Harold Aries, whose Pa had bought the old school and converted it into a home, saw her coming and called me. She said that besides herself, there's one more pupil still alive. I'd since lost the former pupil's name.
   There was one man, John Cerqui, 81, of Duvall, who might know. In our discussions, John said his family and the Aries family had long operated the Aries Garden along Willows Road, and there is no other pupil alive since Rose died.
   He named all of the old timers along the road. "I knew Grace Couture, who had married Art Calkins; they left 77 descendents. She lived to be 103," he said. I knew her brother Ted real well and wrote articles on him.
   John said his dad, Lorenzo, and family, along with the Aries, operated a top-notch vegetable business on the valley off Willows Road. A railroad sign, "York," designated the spot where the Seattle train upon returning from North Bend would stop and pick up the produce, as well as the milk from the nearby Lazy Husband's Farm.
   I recall the "York" sign: I'd asked a railroad official if I could have it. He said, "No." Someone else got it.
   In 1927, John sold his Willows home and eventually ended up in Duvall.
   The Aries family had purchased the vacant Willows school and made it into a nice home. For years, I'd visited Harold, who had lived there. The Aries Garden now is a sprawling golf course. Both Harold and Harry Aries are now deceased.
   As John and I conversed, I asked him about his family. He said in 1967, his son James, 22, went to Vietnam and returned.
   He then stopped, said nothing. Absolute silence.
   To break the silence, I asked, "Where is he?"
   Looking sad-faced, he said, "He's dead."
   I looked at the father and said, "John. I know. I know. I lost my only son to Vietnam, and I have no grandkids."
   Knowing that neither one of us felt well enough to say more, I left.