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Longtime Eagles restore downtown Kirkland sign, rejuvenate club's spirit | Photos

Scott “Gonzo” Gates works on restoring the old Fraternal Order of Eagles’ sign on Monday as David VanArsdale looks on. The city of Kirkland grandfathered the sign in years ago.  Below: Gates finishes the sign, which lights up at night. - Carrie Rodriguez/Kirkland Reporter
Scott “Gonzo” Gates works on restoring the old Fraternal Order of Eagles’ sign on Monday as David VanArsdale looks on. The city of Kirkland grandfathered the sign in years ago. Below: Gates finishes the sign, which lights up at night.
— image credit: Carrie Rodriguez/Kirkland Reporter

After two years of fundraising efforts, the Fraternal Order of Eagles have raised $9,000 to restore their 66-year-old sign.

This Saturday, the member-only club will open their doors to the community to celebrate the work that went into selling raffle tickets, hosting donation functions, making gift baskets, and the time it took to revitalize the “F.O.E.” sign located in downtown Kirkland.

“The Eagles have been wanting it done for the last 10 years,” said former Eagles President Cindy Stirk, adding the Eagles’ Ladies Auxiliary was a huge help in the fundraising process. “That was my goal as president for the last two years. I want the city of Kirkland and the Kirkland Downtown Association to be proud of our building.”

The Kirkland Eagles started the club that values “liberty, truth, justice and equality” in 1947 at a clubhouse in Stewart Heights near the old shipyard where Northwest University is now located. The club briefly moved to Marina Park before finalizing its location at 258 Central Way in Kirkland.

The Fraternal Order of Eagles is a 115-year-old international nonprofit organization designed to help others in the community by raising money for local charities and causes.

The club has been in Kirkland so long that the overhanging neon sign was grandfathered into the city of Kirkland’s code. If they took the sign down for a replacement, they would not be able to put it back up, Stirk said.

Finding businesses who would be willing to replace it while it still hung was tough and quotes were high. That is, until she met “Gonzo.”

She said the club was lucky when Scott “Gonzo” Gates, an industrial design consultant, happened to be at a pig roast last year during the 65th anniversary of the Kirkland Eagle’s charter.

Gates, a longtime Kirkland resident, said he had driven past the sign for 20 years before finally figuring out what the sign with one neon-lit “E” was for.

The hand painted eagle was faded and most of the neon work had been ruined by more than 50 years of the weather’s elements.

He joined the club, and the rest is history.

“I’ve driven past the sign coming down 85th Street in our community for more than 20 years,” Gates said, who always thought the Eagles club was a Veterans of Foreign Wars organization. “Cherishing nostalgic things as I do, I always thought how wonderful it might be to have one of the last great old signs in Kirkland and greater Seattle area restored.”

Gates and his friend David VanArsdale, a glass artist, worked on the sign’s restoration for days as they diligently maneuvered the cherry picker.

Gates said the sign couldn’t have been restored without help from Industry Sign and Graphics in Auburn.

“This sign represents a catalyst of new light for this club. It had a lot of resistance from the older members,” said Gates, who added the attitude has since changed. “The Eagles have survived, evolved over time. We’ve stuck together and this sign is a symbol of our unity and our community.”

Stirk and Gates said the restoration is a symbol for what the club has been going through internally. Stirk, who inducted a new president Rochelle Haberl on Thursday, said it is important the Eagles “groom the new generation or the Eagles will die.”

As the first woman president of the Kirkland Eagles, she is confident Haberl will be a good leader as she takes over swearing in new members in the “double-digits” – the most in the Puget Sound area.

“After two years of serving on the Board of Trustees at FOE, I’m honored to be installed [today] as the ... president for the year,” said Haberl. “We look forward to the continued growth in membership and encourage anyone interested in finding out how to become involved … to please come and help us celebrate on Saturday.”

The Eagles’ sign restoration event will be open to the public at 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 8. At 5 p.m., they will serve two spit-roasted lambs with numerous side dishes, hamburgers and hot dogs. The band Wickerman will begin at 8 p.m.

For more information, call the FOE No. 2681 at (425) 822-2681.

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