SRHS history

Dr. Mary Ellen Walker, 1975

Dorothy Johnson and Opal Montague

Dorothy Johnson and Opal Montague, 2014

The Beginning

In the 1960s, Vashon Island was faced with a health-care crisis: Two of the three practicing physicians left, and the remaining physician was limited by personal health issues. A committee worked at recruiting medical personnel and got three nurse practitioners and the support of a Seattle doctor. Thus began the Vashon-Maury Health Services Center. Eventually one of the residents became a physician and continued to provide service part-time, later expanding to full-time. The committee continued its efforts, staffing the clinic, negotiating for the acquisition of the Nike Missile site (more on that later), creating Granny’s Attic as a fund-raising project, and providing information to develop broad-based community support. In May 1978, the clinic expanded into a building on the former Nike Missile site.

The First 25 Years

Granny’s Attic, opening in June 1975, began donating $500/month to the Health Center, with more later, accumulating to more than a million dollars as of 1997. However, Granny’s alone could not support the Health Clinic, and by the year 2000, a major financial crisis loomed for the Health Center and the clinic was in danger of shutting down. A doctor suggested contacting Highline Medical Group, and after agonizingly long negotiations a five-year agreement was put in place wherein Highline began running the clinic with $8000 or more a month support from Granny’s Attic.

The Site

The acquisition of the Sunrise Ridge Nike Missile site by VMHSC came to fruition in 1976 after the site was declared surplus. A grant for use of the site for 30 years, championed by Vashon resident Dorothy Johnson, was obtained. The federal government then deeded the site to the community, as represented by the committee.

The Present

The financial woes have been ever present, but the acquisition of the Health Center by the Franciscan organization has opened the door to new possibilities. The now renamed Sunrise Ridge Health Services is looking forward to further development, both as a health services center and as a community resource for Vashon non-profit activities. SRHS remains an all-volunteer organization, dedicated to providing resources for Vashon Island and its non-profits.



In the late 1960s, at a time when Vashon was considered medically under-served and the country was still trying to build President Johnson’s dream of a “Great Society,” Dorothy Johnson and Opal Montague — two young mothers — joined forces, working side by side to bring quality health care to Vashon. Read more of Leslie Brown’s interview in the Beachcomber >

Sunrise Ridge’s Past