Recently relocated "Kazookies" duo lent flair to July Fourth parades here

 
Gem Targaglia and Felicia Value play kazoos in the La Conner parade.

LEADERS OF THE BAND – Gem Tartaglia and Felicia Value were mainstays at La Conner's Fourth of July Parade as leaders of the popular "Kazookie" Band, giving new meaning to "the sound of freedom."

The Fourth of July parade in La Conner always has something for everyone and often makes memories to last a lifetime.

Yet few have had as much of a blast at the downtown summer serpentine as the popular "Kazookie" duo of Felicia Value and Gem Tartaglia, who recently bid farewell – reluctantly, of course – to La Conner and are now creating positive notes in the Portland area where they have family and friends of longstanding.

Regular parade-goers fondly recall Value and Tartaglia playing patriotic tunes on their kazoos while dancing the hokey pokey as they and their bandmates gleefully enjoyed – and enhanced – the holiday atmosphere the length of First Street.

"It was fun, really fun," Value, who practiced law after her arrival here in the late 1990s, told the Weekly News a week before the couple's departure in late May.

"I was the only lawyer in town," Value reminisced. "I did wills, trusts and probates and got to know a lot of families and learn a lot about the history of La Conner. There are so many great people here and I was able to grow the practice."

Among Value's early tutors, especially regarding local history, was her landlord, Kirby Johnson, who provided the attorney office space at La Conner Realty & Investment.

The Stanford-educated Johnson dispensed advice as frequently as Value.

"Kirby and I became great friends," said Value, her grin widening, "but I remember he had a little speech for me at first. He said, 'You know, I don't really like lawyers.'"

In Value's case, Johnson made an exception.

Value often marveled at the patience shown by realtor Dan O'Donnell, who welcomed into his nearby office persons who weren't necessarily customers but sought his counsel – unbilled, in many cases – on a variety of topics.

Ironically, Tartaglia, in the years leading up to her and Value's relocation to Portland, often helped La Conner area retirees downsize and move.

"I ended up doing that kind of work for 20 years," she said.

The daughter of Maria Libby, who also ranks among La Conner more beloved figures, Tartaglia became a fixture for two decades at La Conner Regional Library. At the front desk she employed expertise and humor in equal measure to connect words, books and patrons.

Perhaps her most passionate mission was building the library's large print section – which seemed fitting since Value's calling dealt so much with fine print.

"I'm the non-lawyer," Tartaglia would quip when she and Value made introductions.

Their South Fourth Street home was a key chapter in their La Conner story for both the lawyer and library staffer.

"This house," Value explained, "was off North First Street where the La Conner Retirement Inn is now. It had a little 'For Sale' sign on it and had to be moved off the property. We met with Terry Nelson, who offered to sell it for $2,000. We looked at him and he finally said, 'Okay, $1,500."

In those days, before high six-figure homes became the norm in La Conner, it was still a substantial investment.

After all, Value noted, it cost five times the purchase price to move the house to South Fourth.

"We slid it in here," she said, adding that local builder Brian Hedlund did his renovation magic, truly turning the dwelling into a home.

La Conner itself was home to Value and Tartaglia in the truest sense. Each reeled off the names of people who enriched their local experience. In addition to Johnson, O'Donnell, Nelson and Hedlund, those included Maddie O'Donnell, Jim Smith, Janet Saunders, Lauren Jaye, Bill Robinson, Dave Hedlin, Serena Campbell, Bill Slater, Sam Cram, Don Mulanax, Dean Swanson, Danny Jensen, Russell Jensen, Lynette Cram, Robert Sund, Bob Skeele, Pat Doran and Clyde Sanborn.

Not to mention the aptly named Avocado Richard and Crazy Peter.

And that's just the start of the list.

Though Value was the one who made her living practicing law, it was Tartaglia who had the last word prior to getting their moving van on the road.

Tartaglia said it was her idea to play the kazoo.

 

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