A 93-year resident of Seattle died in her home on April 22. Molly Esther Brita Aasten was born March 8, 1917, the birthday of her father, John G. Aasten. He had been born in Telemarken, Norway. Molly's mother, Karen Marie Jansen Aasten, was born in Nesttum, Norway. Molly's sister, Anna Evelyn Aasten Prentice, died in 2004. Anna's daughters who survive Molly are Darlene Morgison of Port Angeles; Sharen Schaefer of Issaquah; and Karen Minnich of Gainsville, Fla.
Molly lived in Uptown Queen Anne since 1926, when her father bought property and opened Aasten's Grocery on the northest corner of Queen Anne Avenue and West Thomas Street. Molly and sister Anna helped in the store and delivered groceries to customers. Their family sold blackberries and fresh vegetables from their garden. Molly was proud of the fact that their store had one of the first refrigerated meat cases in Seattle. An earlier family grocery store was at 21st and Madison streets (now 2040 East Madison), and another was at 751 Harrison Ave. in today's Cascade neighborhood. The family lived above or behind each store until John Aasten constructed their first house on the lot next to the Uptown store.
According to Molly, one of Seattle's first suppliers of outdoor equipment, "Early Winters" founded by William S. Nicolai in 1972, used the then-vacant Aasten family store building as its original Seattle location. A large evergreen tree that now grows on the store property was planted by Early Winters as a small, decorative Christmas tree.
In another account of her childhood, Molly remembered in the 1920s making the long walk up Denny Hill to elementary school. She said she attended Longfellow and Boren schools, graduating from Queen Anne High School. Following high school, she attended Wilson Business School for typing and bookkeeping. Her first job was posting grocery orders at Schwabacher's Wholesale Grocery. A disagreement with a boss about the treatment of a co-worker caused Molly to quit. Her next job as clerk-typist was in the dietary department of Swedish Hospital. In 1993, while in her 70s, she was honored by Swedish Hospital for 47 years of perfect attendance.
In retirement, she loved feeding birds she drew to her yard by putting out bird seed and a daily supply of bread cubes. She was recently very upset when a Cooper's hawk discovered her flocks of small birds to feed on.
Reading the newspapers, doing word searches, and scratch Lotto cards were part of her daily routine. She was a very regular correspondent with family and friends and sent greeting cards for birthdays and holidays. She supported the Nordic Heritage Museum, Pacific Lutheran University, Immanuel Lutheran Church and Senior Services. After recent hospitalizations, Molly was cared for in the Skilled Nursing Center at Bayview Retirement Community in her Uptown neighborhood.
Molly enjoyed telling how her father worked all day in the store, then spent evenings using a shovel to dig into the hill on the north side of their property to build the three story red brick house for his family. He loaded the dirt into the back of his pickup truck and drove down Thomas Street to the shoreline of Elliott Bay to dump it into the water. The house was finished in 1950. The Queen Anne Historical Society's book "Queen Anne-Community on the Hill", on page 164, contains a photo and story by Molly about her family grocery.
The future of the Aasten property is not clear at this time. Molly was sorry to see nearby historic buildings replaced with condos and apartments and said she wanted the house and historic store preserved - with their trees for her much-loved birds.
Note from Jean Sundborg, the writer of this story: I met Molly when I moved into Uptown in 1992. She was mowing her lawn with a push mower and we had a brief conversation about her home and the store building on the corner. Since then I became a friend and neighbor who planted her vegetable garden, trimmed shrubs, picked up trash, and listened to her stories about Uptown Queen Anne and Aasten family store. Her nieces helped me with names and facts about Molly and their Aasten family history. There were no srvices prior to Molly's burial in the family plot in Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery.[[In-content Ad]]