The summer of 1969 was a memorable one. That was the summer Americans witnessed Neil Armstrong walking on the moon and attended a rock concert in upstate New York dubbed Woodstock. It was a memorable summer for our family as well. That was the summer we reclaimed our ancestral heritage by legally changing our name from Smith to Asimakoupoulos at the Chelan County courthouse.
For the David McKenna family, the summer of ‘69 was also most memorable. That was the year they first vacationed at Lake Chelan. Having just moved to the Pacific Northwest from Michigan to assume the presidency of Seattle Pacific University, Dave and his wife were looking for a special spot to spend a week with their four children. They landed at the Caravel Motel just across the bridge from Campbell’s. It would be the first of many visits.
When I first met the McKennas as a student at SPU a year later, I had no idea how the lake up the river from my hometown would define their family’s identity. Not until I randomly crossed paths with my former college president this week in Chelan did I realize to what extent.
Dave, now 85 years old, proudly described how his clan has returned to the same motel for a week of vacation every year except one. In 1996 the wildfires unexpectedly kept them away. But they returned the next year. This summer marked the 44th McKenna gathering at Lake Chelan.
In addition to enjoying favorite water activities with his children, their mates and grandchildren, Dr. McKenna has often used the poolside setting of the motel to work on a new book he was writing. (This year found him working on his 36th.)
Thirty years ago when McKenna left Seattle Pacific to become president of Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky, the family tradition appeared jeopardized by distance. But with grown children still in the Seattle area, the McKennas made the effort to return to their lakeside retreat annually.
Through the decades the Caravel Motel expanded and became known as the Grand View on the Lake. Likewise, the McKenna Clan expanded and incorporated the new names of married children and grandchildren. What began as a family of six in 1969 now numbers twenty-six and finds Dave and his wife Jan retired and living in Kirkland.
Grandchildren schedule their summer vacations around the week at Chelan. In our conversation Dave told me that two of his grandchildren accepted new jobs this summer under the condition they would have the same week off each year. The legacy of family values and love has been perpetuated through the generations.
This past week sixteen members of the clan (including three of elder couple’s four children and spouses and seven grandchildren) gathered from as far away as Southern California, Montana and New York.
For the Mc Kennas, Lake Chelan is more than a destination. It has become part of their family’s DNA.
Greg Asimakoupoulos is a Wenatchee native who writes a faith and values column for the Mercer Island Reporter. He can be reached at AwesomeRev@aol.com