Inseperable sisters are inimitable,too

The Stusser sisters, Joan and Hermine, are inseparable. They go to the ballet, symphony, stage plays, opera and synagogue together. They shop together. They even live together, and have for 68 years.

They vote together, too, and always vote Democratic. Hermine's first vote for president was in 1944. She voted for FDR. Joan, 14 years younger, cast her first presidential ballot for JFK. They both remaine active in Democratic Party politics.

"We had been poll workers for about 10 years and I was elected precinct committee person," said Hermine, 82, explaining how they got involved. "We're staunch Democrats and we're passionate about our beliefs."

Joan added that those beliefs include the right of a woman to choose whether to have a baby, freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

"We feel the freedoms we have had are being taken away from us," Hermine said.

Both agreed that gay people should have the same rights as everyone else.

"The Bush administration hasn't done anything good for women or the environment," added Joan.

They are opposed to the continuing Republican challenge to the governor's race.

"I don't like that [Dino Rossi] is doing it," Joan said. "Christine has run the office, and she has done a good job too."

"It's just a mess," agreed Hermine. "It's terrible."

Both sisters are retired now and have lived at the Fred Lind Manor since 2001. Before that they lived on Queen Anne Hill for 30 years "since the World's Fair" while Hermine worked for the Bon Marche and Joan worked for the state Department of Social and Health Services. Before that they lived in the Mount Baker Neighborhood. Both sisters graduated from Franklin High School.

The world's current state of affairs is not quite to their liking.

"We don't like change," Hermine said. "Things are not how they used to be. You could walk to school and you didn't have to be afraid. Schools are in trouble today. They bring guns to school. To me it's frightening. It's a frightening world we live in."

Like so many first-generation Americans, the Stussers aare protective of the citizens' rights. Their father was Polish, their mother was Russian, and the couple immigrated to the United States in the 1930s by way of Canada.

Their father was a jeweler who became manager of Weisfield's Jewelry. He took a keen interest in the arts, which he passed on to his daughters. They contribute financially to or volunteer with Seattle Repertory Company, Intiman Theater, ACT, Seattle Opera, Pacific Northwest Ballet and the Seattle Symphony.

"They give a lot of pleasure and our father encouraged us to appreciate the arts," Joan said.

"It's freedom of expression," said Hermine. "All of our money goes to supporting them."

Joan reminded her that they also support the Democratic Party and their synagogue.

They are not artists or musicians themselves, but they have performances booked nearly every week. They take the bus and go where and when they like.

"We go everywhere together," Joan said. "We are very, very independent about things."

The girls had an older brother who died several years ago. There were just the three siblings, Hermine and their brother were two years apart and Joan was born when Hermine was 14.

"She was a surprise to my mother," Hermine observed impishly.

The Stussers are well known to state politicians and have worked on the campaigns of King County Executive Ron Simms, Governor Christine Gregoire, U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and former governor Mike Lowery, to name just a few.

"They all know us when they see us," assured Joan.

McDermott's mother is a fellow resident at Fred Lind Manor and he visits quite often.

"I think Jim McDermott has been a good representative and done an excellent job," Joan said. "He tells the way things really are. That's why I admire him so much."

The sisters have lived together since Joan's birth, first with their parents then out on their own. They never married, but they do have four nephews.

They share an apartment at Fred Lind Manor and like it very much. Joan praised the food, the care and the staff.

"And we can come and go as we please," Hermine said.

They do come and go, too. Besides their arts performances they travel downtown, visit friends and keep a very full schedule.

"That's my philosophy, keep on the go," Hermine said. "You have to deep moving, get out and get around. We learned that from our father. He lived life to the fullest."

Freelance writer Korte Brueckmann lives on Capitol Hill and can be reached at editor@[[In-content Ad]]