There is a history on the Key Peninsula of spaghetti dinner benefits. Those dinners happen when something critical occurs. Fortunately, they are few and far between. There was a dinner for Phil Radcliffe on Saturday, Feb. 24. He had been home only a week after spending 11 weeks at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. His wife, Lynn, began an email journal the day he arrived at the hospital, on Dec. 2.

“Just before noon Phil was critically injured by a mill saw. He sustained a deep cut that extended from his right knee, up through the abdomen, stopping just below the sternum with damage to the small and large intestine being the most critical. He was airlifted from the Key Peninsula to Harborview Trauma Center in Seattle,” she wrote.

Through the next difficult months, family, friends and neighbors followed Lynn’s email progress reports. The surgeries, the care, the ups and downs were shared on a daily basis.

About two months after that first email, Larry and Betty Mayer read about a spaghetti dinner benefit being planned for Phil’s homecoming. The Mayers, chefs for the Sons of Italy dinners in Tacoma, offered to do the cooking. They joined their friends, Mike and Joyce Salatino, at 8 a.m. Saturday morning and began preparing the ingredients that would go into the sauce.

Money donations paid for those ingredients and for other groceries. The donations were raised by Mike Salatino. A generous baker in Tacoma marked down the price of his Italian bread loaves. People volunteered to work.

The day before the dinner, Joyce Salatino had 50 volunteers signed up to help, and on Saturday, an additional 25 more showed up. After hand washing instructions from Joyce, the children rolled hundreds of forks and spoons in napkins. The adults set up over 300 places for guests. Jerry Miller and the Ruston-A-Way band tuned up on the stage.

In the kitchen, gallons and gallons of sauce and meatballs steamed on the stove; salads were tossed in Italian dressing; and, on the back porch, water boiled for the pasta. Dishwashing duty began about noon and didn’t stop for the next eight hours. Volunteers, who were complete strangers to one another, finished the night as a compatible and winning team.

The dinner hours were from 2 to 6. Some guests arrived at 2; many poured in the doors around 3; and just after 5 p.m. the kitchen and servers were slammed. All the tables in the hall had diners. Over 400 people were served spaghetti and meatballs, bread, salad, coffee and punch. They paid for their meal ticket and dropped generous amounts of cash and checks in a donation jar.

When the announcement was heard, “Phil is here,” the commotion in the kitchen and around the tables stopped. The guests stood and applauded Phil’s entrance. All were amazed that he was able to walk in under his own power.

What was Phil Radcliffe’s response? “What can I say—I’m doing great and recovering. I’m astounded by the support I’ve had from all the community. So many people coming here on my behalf… I’m so proud of being a part of a community like this,” he said.

When Joyce Salatino finally found time to sit down and take in the event, she agreed with Phil’s observation. “It is heartwarming to see the community spirit really come out. Just makes you realize–once again–we live in a really great community. One that can pull together,” she said.

Lynn Radcliffe continues to write her email journal. After the benefit, just before midnight, she wrote to thank all those who made it happen, volunteered and attended. Here is what she wrote a few days later.

“Phil’s all tucked into bed. He is so incredibly happy to be home. And he’s so thankful for all you people who care so much. He’s still overwhelmed by the people who attended the benefits on Saturday. He can’t get over it. It’s pretty much all he talks about. He even made a couple of phone calls tonight to friends and I heard him tell them about it. In spite of all his injuries he is one happy guy. I am still so amazed at him and his courage and he never complains. Recovery is so slow but he doesn’t even complain about that fact.”

When something critical happens on the Key Peninsula, there is a history of benefit fundraisers called spaghetti dinners. Those dinners express the heart and soul of the community. At Phil’s dinner, the Key Pen pulse was strong.

 

Close to Home Espresso in Key Center is holding a fundraiser for Phil Radcliffe on March 11.

All proceeds, including tips, will be deposited in the Phil Radcliffe Fund at Sound Credit and will help defray medical expenses. Special pastries, espresso and non-coffee drinks will be served by the baristas. Musicians who would like to perform are encouraged to call Laura McClintock, owner, at 884-3241. The fundraiser will last from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Close to Home Espresso is located next to Peninsula Market in Key Center. Donations may also be mailed to the Phil Radcliffe Fund at Sound Credit Union, 8920 Key Peninsula Hwy N, Key Center, WA 98349 To read Lynn Radcliffe’s journal visit www.caringbridge.com/visit/philradcliffe.

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