ROYAL TREATMENT---Janna Gage of Seaport Books in La Conner was recipient of the 2017 Skagit County Historical Society Heritage Award during ceremonies at Skagit City School last week. The honor recognizes those who make outstanding contributions in preserving, interpreting, and promoting Skagit County’s unique cultural history. Dan Royal of the Skagit County Historical Society made the presentation. – Photo courtesy of Skagit County Historical Society
La Conner’s Janna Gage always looks forward to going back in time. But even for someone so engaged in history, there’s no time quite like the present. That’s because Gage, who is the face of Seaport Books on the La Conner waterfront, has plenty of reason to smile these days as the most recent recipient of the Skagit County Historical Society’s Heritage Award. The presentation – which came as a total surprise to Gage – was made during ceremonies at the historic Skagit City School last week. “I was so taken aback,” the ever-modest Gage told the Weekly News on Monday. “I’m very humbled. I don’t know how this happened, but I’m awfully glad it did.” Skagit County Historical Museum Director Jo Wolfe and Dan Royal of both the Skagit County Historical Society and Pioneer Association weren’t surprised in the least at Gage’s selection. “She is passionate about the history of our county,” said Wolfe, “and especially that of La Conner. She shares that passion with others and encourages and challenges us to continue to preserve, protect, and educate people about the history of Skagit County.” Royal said Gage’s list of achievements in the realm of historic preservation sets an impressive standard. “She has researched and written books to benefit organizations,” said Royal, “and has encouraged and worked with many potential biographers and memorialists to tell their stories.” Royal cited Gage’s 2008 autobiography “Walking On My Shadow, A Memoir: Growing up in Skagit County, Washington,” and two other works, “Gaches Mansion: An Historic Landmark Preserved,” and “La Conner Parks,” as among many examples of her mission to chronicle local history. He also praised Gage for using Seaport Books as an effective vehicle for promoting the history of Skagit County. “She carries and promotes local history books,” Royal noted. Wolfe said Gage joins a distinguished list of prior Skagit Heritage Award winners, a roll call that includes Wallie Funk, Dick Fallis, Bill Stendal, Eunice Darvill, the Skagit Valley Genealogical Society and Edison Women’s Club. “Janna,” said Wolfe, “so deserves to be on this list.” Gage, meanwhile, doesn’t plan to rest on her laurels. Her next goal, when the busy schedule at Seaport Books allows, is to compile the memoirs of town namesake Louisa Ann Conner in book form.
“When people come into the book store,” she explained, “they expect to find that kind of history.” The Skagit Heritage Award presented to Gage was instituted in 1998 based on criteria established by the statewide Governor’s Heritage Award launched during the 1989 Washington Centennial. Wolfe said those nominated for the honor must meet five specific requirements, among them a lasting record of significant contributions to the county’s history and cultural heritage. Gage earns check marks in all five categories, Wolfe and Royal stressed. “Janna,” said Royal, “has been one of the most enthusiastic promoters of Skagit County history and enjoys sharing with all who will listen.”