Russ Parthemer celebrates his 90th birthday at Totem Agencies in Kirkland. He started the business, which is now run by his sons, in 1975. Contributed photo

Former Kirkland business owner celebrates 90th birthday

Russ Parthemer, who started his Kirkland insurance agency more than 40 years ago, recently celebrated his 90th birthday alongside his sons Eric and Craig at Totem Agencies’ Kirkland office.

“(I feel) no different,” Russ said of reaching the milestone birthday on Feb. 16.

Eric and Craig now run the business following Russ’ retirement just over a decade ago, and two of Eric’s children, Shaun and Jennifer, also work at Totem Agencies. The office is located in the Lakeview Center, which the Parthemer family owns, in the Houghton-Everest neighborhood center.

Russ’ business has always been a family affair — when he started Totem Agencies in 1975, his mother, Gertrude, helped on the phones.

He retired following a stroke and now lives in Sammamish with his wife, Phyllis, but Russ still manages to get to the Kirkland office one or two days a week to keep up with what’s going on there.

“He still likes to come around, and we like to have him,” Craig said.

Russ said he misses keeping in touch with his clients on a regular basis the most.

“You get to meet a lot of different people in this business,” Russ, who studied business and played basketball at the University of Washington, said.

Craig, who started working at the agency in 1984, said he is happy to follow in his dad’s footsteps and has learned a lot by observing him over the years.

“Just being here and watching how he operated things and treated people — he led by example,” he said.

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