top of page

Riding the Number 7

A body of work culminating in a 10'x24' mural reflecting on life in Rainier Valley and lessons learned riding the bus.

Riding the Number 7
Image 5-22-23 at 7_edited_edited.png

Who are the People on the bus?


They are every day and extraordinary heroes of Rainier Valley.  All of them lived or worked somewhere along the route of the number 7.

Each window of the bus contains a portrait of someone who invested their time and energy into making Columbia City and Rainier Valley a better place for all; working to strengthen our community.


Front to back:

Bus driver Leah McElroy

Leah McElroy describes herself this way, "I am firm, kind and dependable.

I am from Seattle and grew up in Leschi and went to Garfield High School.  I have worked as a bus driver for over 25 years, and I drove the number 7 for 8 years. My buses always run on time. I've received a lot of Christmas cards, notes, and gifts from grateful passengers. The necklace I am wearing is a ku kui nut necklace, it shows my connection to Polynesian culture. 


Suzy, Lew and Mondo Banchero                                           

The Banchero family are 4th generation Rainier Valley residents, business owners, advocates and lifelong activists for equity and inclusion.  They were partners in the founding of SEED in 1975 as a nonprofit created to improve the quality of life in Southeast Seattle. SEED has helped revive the historic Columbia City district, improve access to health care for residents, expand affordable housing, and nurture arts and culture. 

They were also founders of Support a Child, which funded therapy and recreation for people with disabilities. Support a Child also successfully advocated for changes in education, accessibility and mainstreaming in education for persons with disabilities. 


Katherine Garrick

Katherine was a quiet yet powerful woman who modeled resourcefulness, charity and steely determination to support herself and her siblings, as well as providing financial and emotional support to many nieces and nephews.  She called herself a “Career Girl”, and worked for many years in banking, retiring as a branch manager at a time when there were few opportunities for women to rise above the position of teller. She was also a talented musician and played the harp and piano throughout her life, and a very stylish and creative dresser and seamstress.


Fujitarō Kubota

Fujitarō Kubota arrived in Seattle in 1910. In 1923, he founded Kubota Gardening Company. 

When he found the current site of Kubota Gardens it was 5 acres, mostly swamp land and a long way out of the city in Rainier Beach.  The Gardens eventually expanded to 20 acres. During the 1930s, Kubota developed his landscaping aesthetic of designing Japanese-influenced gardens, but not duplicating gardens found in Japan. In 1942, the Kubota family was forcibly removed and eventually incarcerated at the Minidoka War Relocation Center in southern Idaho. When they returned in 1945, they completely restored the overgrown gardens and nursery.  

When a customer would ask him the name of a certain plant, he would say ‘shiranai‘, then smile mischievously when he heard them tell their friends that the plant’s name was shiranai—which in English means ‘I don’t know’.

Robert “Bob” Santos

Bob Santos was born in Seattle in 1934 to Filipino and Native American parents.  In the 1960s, Santos became involved in civil rights struggles through his involvement with the Catholic Interracial Council. In the late 1960s, Santos was able to provide free meeting space to some of the most radical civil rights groups in the city, thereby helping facilitate a multiracial civil rights sensibility among Seattle activists by making the Center what he called “the Heart of the Struggle.”  From 1972 to 1989, Santos served as Executive Director of the International District Improvement Association (Inter*Im). Through his leadership in the ID, he helped mentor a generation of young Asian activists in Seattle, earning him the nickname “uncle Bob.” In 1982— along with other “Gang of Four” friends Bernie Whitebear, Larry Gossett, and Roberto Maestas— Bob Santos co-founded the Minority Executive Director’s Coalition.


Ruth Woo

Ruth Woo was a behind-the-scenes activist and known as one of the most influential people in state politics even though she never ran for office herself. Mrs. Woo eschewed the public eye throughout her career, refusing to accept awards or sit on boards. With a talent for organizing political campaigns, Mrs. Woo is credited with shaping the careers of a cadre of notables from both political parties, including former Gov. Gary Locke and former King County Executive Ron Sims.  Ruth was not motivated by a desire for fame or power. She was driven by a belief that she could contribute to the world by bringing people together and creating communities.  She helped shape the leaders who shaped our region, pushing our city, county and state toward justice and inclusion. For generations of local elected officials, she was a mentor, a trusted leader of the Asian Pacific Islander community, and a driving force for social change.

Claude Forward

Claude Forward was known as "The Mayor of Genesee Street”.  In 1956, Claude opened a TV and repair shop at the corner of Rainier Avenue and Genesee, one of the first in the city, and began serving his community.  Claude was a founding partner in SEED (Southeast Economic Development), a nonprofit, and served on their board for over 35 years.  He was also active in the Rainier Chamber of commerce, and many other community organizations.  Claude’s activism was instrumental in the development of the Columbia Health Center; and many other projects providing access and opportunity to the community.


Fred Hutchinson,

The man behind the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Fred Hutchinson was the first professional athlete from Seattle to attain national fame, and was a true hometown hero, celebrated for his exploits on the field and his courage and class off. He was born in the Rainier Beach neighborhood of south Seattle and was a standout from a young age on the Rainier Playfield in Columbia City. 

He pitched for the Detroit Tigers in a 10-year career and then went on to manage several MLB teams. His 1961 Reds won the National League pennant. In 1964 he  died of cancer.

The Hutch Award, created in 1965, is one of Major League Baseball's top three humanitarian awards. All of the end plates of the rows of seats at Seattle's T-Mobile Park are embossed with a likeness of Hutchinson. The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, a world-renowned research facility, was named in his honor by his older brother and mentor, Dr. William B. Hutchinson.


Aki Kurose

Aki was a Seattle teacher and peace activist; she spent her life translating the lofty ideals of pacifism and social justice into practice. Her work spanned six decades and included housing desegregation campaigns, anti-war protests, peace curriculum development, and rebuilding housing in Hiroshima, Japan. Through her remarkable empathy for all people and dedication to her students, Kurose influenced many to work for peaceful solutions  to end injustice  while embracing our differences.


John L. O’Brien

Rainier Valley born and raised, O'Brien was a civic leader who energetically chaired local events and sponsored legislation to meet the needs of a district that changed from the Irish and Italian community of his birth to a more diverse one of Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, African American, Orthodox Jewish, Vietnamese, East Africans. and Latinos. John L. O'Brien was a state representative from southeast Seattle who served 26 terms.  His service was highlighted by four terms as Speaker of the State House of Representatives. Even with his deep involvement in Olympia, O'Brien was always a big part of his Rainier Valley community. For 52 years, he was chairman of the Rainier Valley Seafair festival, held at Seward Park each year. 


Jean Veldwyk

Jean was born in Seattle's Rainier Valley and graduated from Franklin High School. She attended the University of Washington and began a career in the insurance industry. In 1962, Jean opened the doors at Jean VelDyke Realty Inc. on Rainier Avenue, where she could remain close to and serve the community she loved and cared for very much.
She was the first woman Real Estate Broker in the state of Washington and President for both the Rainier Chamber of Commerce and the Seattle/King County Board of Realtors. Jean was a mentor to many and found great enjoyment in various community projects and volunteer positions. She believed that a community is "only as good as those who live there are willing to make it". She was known for her intelligence, kind spirit, ambition, generosity, and her strong-will.

Tom Garrick

Tom was born and raised in Rainier Beach. In those days his family had the only telephone in the neighborhood and so all of the neighbors made and received calls there.They also constructed a clay tennis court in their yard so the Seattle Parks Department would have a place to hold tournaments in the south end.

The Hutchinson brothers Bill and Fred were neighbors and he told many stories of their adventuresome activities including a zip line made from logging cables that stretched between their houses, near drownings in leaky rowboats on Lake Washington and of course lots of baseball. 

He served in the Army Air Corps in World War II, flying 52 missions as a navigator in Europe and the Pacific.  Afterward he moved back to Rainier Beach, and lived there most of the rest of his life, treating everyone he knew with kindness and respect. His dry humor and quick wit delighted all who knew him, and he never hesitated to help anyone he met who was in need whether it was with his carpentry skills, or later in life working to feed and maintain housing for people in need with St. Vincent de Paul. 

bottom of page