Shrauger named Pioneer of the Year

Even though he retired more than 30 years ago, Jack Shrauger is one of Hoquiam’s more active residents. The 87-year-old volunteers at the Food Bank and at an Alzheimer’s clinic. He teaches Sunday school. He also operates a thriving nursery, which he uses to keep local businesses beautiful.

He spent his career at the Hoquiam School District, where he spent 17 years as an elementary school teacher, 11 years as a principal and two years as a curriculum director.

So it’s no wonder Jack Shrauger is this year’s Pioneer of the Year, an honor presented by the Polson Museum to Grays Harbor residents who have dedicated their lives to helping the community. Larry Jones, a member of the Polson Museum Board of Directors, said he’s met few people who work as hard as Shrauger.

“He never ceases to work,” Jones said. “He’s just always out there doing his thing. Whatever he’s done in his life, he’s worked hard.”

Shrauger moved to Hoquiam in 1950 for his first teaching job. He and his wife, Phyllis, had recently graduated from Eastern Washington University, and initially planned on moving to Marlin, a small town about 35 miles east of Ephrata.

“Phyllis and I were both offered jobs there, good jobs, for about $1,800 a year,” Shrauger said. “But the man at the placement bureau said he thought I could do better.”

So the couple applied for — and received — jobs at the Hoquiam School District.

“Of course we stayed,” he said. “It was a great town to grow up in, raise our kids in.”

Washington Elementary is perhaps Shrauger’s most significant contribution to the community. The original school burned to the ground in 1972, and he helped design the new “open-concept” building, which was highly innovative in its time. His office didn’t have walls, so he was completely accessible to staff. The classrooms could open up and merge into much larger rooms. Shrauger said the new building really helped teachers work together as a team.

“It was all fun, it really was,” he said. “Moving into the new building was really great. I think the kids’ eyes popped out.”

Subsequent principals have altered the school — there are more walls. But Shrauger said he’s still proud of the building and the era it stands for.

“That group of teachers, they were willing to open up and work together,” Shrauger said. “I loved working with those people and working with the kids. That was the fun part.”

His wife is also a local legend. She was the second woman to ever serve on the Hoquiam City Council, was mayor of Hoquiam and even ran for the Legislature. “Boy, was she an interesting woman,” Shrauger said. “And that’s why I married her. She was a strong, strong woman. A lady ahead of her time.”

The two met after World War II — Jack served as a gunner on a Navy boat in the South Pacific and the Caribbean. They married in 1949 and graduated from Eastern Washington University soon after. The couple had two children and the family has expanded to include five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

His wife passed away four years ago after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease seven years prior. He still helps Alzheimer’s patients at Westhaven Villa twice a week, cleaning up dishes and feeding patients dinner.

“I think a lot of it goes back to being a teacher in school,” Shrauger said. “You work with people and you’re not afraid to hold somebody’s hand.”

In retirement, Shrauger has developed a second career in gardening and landscaping. He started the venture right after leaving his job at the school district, starting with mowing lawns. Now, he creates planters and flower gardens for local businesses, such as the Hoquiam branch of Timberland Bank. He’s also working on several varieties of flowers for his granddaughter’s upcoming wedding.

“I’d always wanted a greenhouse,” Shrauger said. “The same way that kids want a bicycle. To grow out here, it gets so wet in the winter-time, so you have to have some place that’s dry.”

He grows most of his plants from seeds instead of buying plants from nurseries. He said he can buy about 100 seeds for the same price as a small plant. He’s also been working on creating hybrids.

“Each time you’re playing on a different slot machine,” Shrauger said. “You never know what chromosomes are going to show up. You’re just playing Russian roulette with the looks of them.”

The Pioneer of the Year said he has no plans to slow down any time soon. He enjoys living on his own and gardening with his dog — named Dog.

“I’m very, very lucky to be this old and still be active,” Shrauger said. “I’m just the luckiest man.”