Newspaper Archive of
Mercer Island Reporter
Mercer Island, Washington
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August 5, 1981     Mercer Island Reporter
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August 5, 1981
 

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Religion Mercer Island Reporter Wednesday, August 5. 1981 Section i } Familiar Island fig hangs up his overalls By VIRGINIA SMYTH "At 136 an hour, I was cheaper his dad's Rainier Valley plumbing than an analysist," he joked. And business. After graduation he He's laying down his pipe sometimes even this unflappable found "I was making more money wrench, hanging up his overalls, man was given a little surprise. "I as a plumber. I couldn't afford to and, tat 43 is retiring from a bust- knocked on the door once and had take a pay cut." ness which has made him a rail- a customer answer in the nude," His father's business brought liouaire over the last 20 years. As he remembers. "She thought ithim to Mercer Island so frequent- of mid-August, John Edwards,was a neighbor coming to borrow ly, that he decided to open his own better known as "John the Plumb- some coffee." business. And since then there's er" will officially he out of bust- been no stopping him. His success hess. His customers have given him can be credited to a shrewd bus/- Likeable, outspoken and a some things to gripe about asness sense. shrewd businessman, Edwards weli."Typically, a woman calls at "A good businessman has the said scars from a pending divorce 3 p.m her sink is plugged and ability to join labor, material and and the daily grind of nmn/ng his she's got dinner guests coming," investment into a satisfying prod- own business have taken their toll. he said throwing up his hands, uct for the customer, compliment- 'Tm literally worn out. You 'Tve been plauged with a million ed by super service," he said. In have to be super motivated to have emergencies." And even at $36 an other words, "Treat your custom- your ownbusiness,"he said. He's hour, Edwards saidit'snotalways ers the way you'd want to he selling his business to two still-to- worthwhile treated." be-named parties and planning on "The problem with customers," traveling for about a year. After he said confidentially, "is they For the'most part, Edwards be- that, who knows? don't believe you have to make a lieves he's followed his advice. "I Edwards bids a fond adieu to his profit to stay in business." could count on one band the amount of people that don't like numerous Island customers, un- Though some might consider his the service I rendered." doubtedly taking with him many rates high, Edwards stands by embarrassing and funny tales of them, firmly pointing to his over- He added with a slight moan, "I the goings-on inside some ofhead which has included a staff of could count on two hands and feet Mercer Island's finest homes, six or more plumbers, an office the people I don't want to go back He smiles a litUe when asks and help to run it, his familiar to but who keep calling me." about those stories, but like any "John the Plumber" vans, and good professional, the confiden- equipment. He agrees though that tially of his "clients" cannot be "plumbers are notorious for broken. But he does offer a few charlfmgalotofmouey." tidbits. "I've plumbed through di. vorces, new marriages and the EDWARDS NEVER IN'I ND- changing offamilies,"hesaid.ED to be a plumber. "I was His shoulder was often used to trained to be a labor negotiator," cry on, his ears filled with the fat- he said. But to put himseff through est family and marital problems. Seattle University, he helped with Edwards said he "gives deals" all the time, but uses a little re- verse psychology to help it work crative business. for him. He always teUs his cus- But in one of the ironies of bust- tomers, "Don't ever tell anyone ness, Edwards said his most satis- that you got something for noth- lying job was one he did at no cost. ing. It'll ruin my reputation." But "I volunteered to do the pumbing of course they always do, he said, in a church (in Alaska) for free." which has added to his already In- He, and another Islander, Dick ! John the Pluml0m Jumps for Joy, anticipating his early retirement. Behind him are his Beet of familtm trucks. (Photo by Dave Ekren) Abrams. wound up putting in the When Edwards returns from his heating and plumbing for the world travels, its likely in one way church, then returned two months or another, he'll become a familiar ago for the dedication ceremonies face on the Island again, As he "'It was one of the most gratify- said with his eyes twinkling, "I ing gifts I gave because it was my think my retirement will be short- trade," Edwards explained lived" Bees are harmless, keeper asserts, but for some they're a stinging experience By VIRGINIA 8MYTH Horror movies and stories about killer bees have done little to en- dear the yellow flying insects to the public. And summertime, with its abundance of flowering shrub- bery and plants, slays brings bees hack into the limqdight. But Mercer Island beekeeper Joe L/ghffoot is convinced that the industrious insects are basically harmless. Most stings, he added, aren't even caused by bees, but by their more aggressive cousins -- wasps and yellow jackets. L/ghffoot has five hives on his property just off Island Crest Way. In good years, they yield gallons of honey. But the sweet syrup isn't the main reason Lightfoot became a beekeeper five years ago. He's simply enamored by the insects. "The reason bees are fasci- nating is because each colony is a living entity," Lightfoot said, comparing each bee in a hive to a cell in a human body. Indeed, on a recent visit when the sun was shining, worker bees scurried quickly in and out of the hive while guard bees carefully watched the entrance to keep invaders out. Presumably, inside the hive other bees guard the queen bee while young bees care for the larvae. Dry weather is important for honey production since bees hide in the rain, malting the Northwest a lese-than-desirable climate for beekeeping. And this spring's abundant precipitation has taken its toll. "A major crop for the bees are blacld erries," Lighffoot said. But although blackberry bushes prac- tieally engulf his hives, the bushes have blossomed and the blooms now are almost gome. "That all happened during the rain. 'I'ne bees missed it," he said. ALMOffY EVERYONE HAS heard about swarming bees. That particular habit has g/yen bees a .bad name, Li.ghffoot said, an irony since swarming bees "are one of the tamest things." The bees are 'usually full of boney and therefore very placid. Swarming occurs when a bee colony becomes overcrowded. Half the hive decides to start a new colony, cultivates a new queen and takes off, swarming around her while a bee scout leaves to find a new home. But even though it's perfecUy natural behavior, Lighffoot said swarming is undesirable in "civi- lized areas." Aside from weaken- ing an existing hive, "it also causes neighbors great consterna- tion to find a great ball of bees" in their back yard, he added. He does his best to prevent swarming by replacing old queen bees with younger ones which often tricks the bees into sticking around. But when they swarm anyway, he tries to retrieve them. LIGHTFOOT DESCRIBES HIMSELF as a frustrated farmer. But after contemplating what sort of animals he could house on the two side-by-side lots he owns, "I came to the conclusion that bees were probably the biggest animal I could effecUvely keep on Mercer Island." It's been a continuous learning process since then, he said. "I Things for stings: call 911 Anyone who suffers from toms indicate a potentially life- swelling of the face and tongue, threatening anaphylaetic reac- tightness in the chest, and hives tion which can cause death with- after being stung by a bee, wasp, in 20 minutes, Johnson said. hornet or yellow jacket, should "A lot more people die from lose no time i. calling 911, aecor- bees than snake bites," he ing to Lt. Curtis Johnson of the added. Mercer Island Fire Department. The reaction is caused by More than likely, such symp- (Om ocd on B:) mostly marvel at how instinct causes them to do shrewd things." His bees were pretty shrewd when a reporter and photographer visited his hives. The bees didn't take much of a liking to having a camera stuck in their midst. So in the best instinctive tradition, one industrious bee took care of the problem and stung the photogra- pher. Covered from head to toe with protective garb, Joe LJghtfoot, above, works one of his hives, then takes one apart, right, to get 8 dos look. (Photos by Dave Ekr ) f Travel Talk Connie & Phil The Pro's to with anotha coupW or two? Thin m m,m ncUve offmt avadab for hWmds tog,ot for bmllm of bw or morn Lumm7 condom ums ght on b ch am avaUab in Mazmlan or pum Vailarm IoraslU m $50a br four pm mm, Add tothe "Pmoim mr" fares we la~ked about kst wesk flds ~ for a rmi vaca0on ba~. Traruda~d, this nmmm wwk fmm fle as $356.50 pm on. Hawaii has some mu~t bmgalns too. Four can my b~mchlront in Kihei, mmr Lin hasn c p c on two Ca bb mn Cmlse $150 al mon (Ibst two penm~ per cabin) o~ the October 3~d ll-day ~ from FL Lauderdak, or depe December 12fl on a 14 dmy cmi mul mm $200 pro. pmon, plusa healthy subs ly on the air rum. If you ~ant to live it up in the ~ Sl~ area Ihelm are num~ous on 9off and have mnU bc alon9 Mnmmg po s. We huve oi*ll tram oM to throe tm:immm. 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