George Bartell Sr. (1868-1956) established the nation’s oldest drugstore chain, originating in Seattle in 1890. In 1900, he and his second wife Beatrice Shaffer Bartell (1879-1969) became the first residents of the house at 1517 11th Avenue West – constructed by the father of the bride, Fisk Shaffer (in partnership with Joseph A. Moncrieff) of Montana. Shaffer Moncrieff, Building Contractors also constructed the adjacent multi-unit residential project at 1511 11th Avenue West.
Born in Ontario, Oregon, the daughter of George Lewis Penrose (1915-87) and Elinore Sterrett Shields (1913-93), Jean Penrose (September 7, 1939 – June 22, 2018) grew up on their small farm in Tigard, Oregon.
After high-school graduation in 1957, Jean spent a memorable year with her family in Tehran, Iran. She also lived on a kibbutz in Israel as part of the International Farm Youth Exchange (IFYE) Program.
With her 1962 Bachelor’s degree in Home Economics from Oregon State University, she went to Colorado to teach high-school HomeEc. Her sense of adventure took her to Juneau, Alaska in 1965 where she taught at Juneau-Douglas High School.
She and longtime Alaskan Pierre Sundborg married in December 1966. Pierre’s 30-year career with IBM brought the family to Seattle in 1968, then to New York, Texas, Leicester in England and St-Paul-de-Vence in France. They adopted infants George Charles in 1969 and Lynn Marie in 1971. Lynn died in 2007.
After the Sundborgs moved from Normandy Park to Seattle and settled on 5th Avenue West in 1992, Jean co-founded and led the Uptown Alliance. She reminded all that “it’s not Lower Queen Anne.” Jean played a key role in the creation of Uptown’s Counterbalance Park, dedicated in 2008. In the 1990s she worked for Triangle Associates, specializing in waste reduction and recycling.
In retirement, she pursued passions of traveling and family genealogical research.
Born and raised in New York City, Jean Burch graduated from Manhattan’s Brearley School in 1942 after attending boarding schools in Virginia and Lausanne, Switzerland. Despite her family’s objections, she studied drama in college, first at Bryn Mawr and then at Neighborhood Playhouse in New York. In 1943, she started to fly planes, hoping to join the WASPs – Women’s Auxiliary Service Patrol. However, the war in Europe ended before she reached the age when she could serve. After a first marriage and the birth of two sons, she began pre-med studies at the University of Vermont — while also directing and acting in community theatre. There she met and married Greg Falls, Director of the University of Vermont Drama Department, and her dramatic activities intensified.
Jean Falls and Bayne Ellis in ACT’s production of A Lion in Winter, July 1968 (courtesy ACT)
Redding Building c. 2016, the original home of ACT 1965-1996
In 1961, the University of Washington appointed Greg Falls as Executive Director of the School of Drama, and the Falls family – now including two daughters — moved to Seattle. Jean performed in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Green Lake Aqua Theatre. After a couple of years, Jean and Greg began to look for a space to open a contemporary summer theatre, to complement the two-year-old Seattle Repertory Theatre that staged classic plays during the winter. This led to the 1965 opening of ACT at its original Queen Anne location on West Roy. Jean noted that Jim Whittaker– the first American to summit Mt. Everest and an originator of REI – had used the Redding Building as a staging area.
In 1974, Jean began to write lyrics, often in collaboration with composer Rob Duisberg. Her work included lyrics for performances at ACT, Empty Space, and Issaquah’s Village Theatre. In 1999, she performed her final stage role in a production of Margaret Edson’s WIT at Seattle Repertory Theatre. She also traveled with the show to theatres in Houston, Phoenix, and Tucson.