By Keri DeTore
Reporting for West Seattle Blog
Yvonne Belshaw is the president of a manufacturing company, an artist with a current show at the Fauntleroy YMCA, a gardener, the writer of a new musical opening this week – and she just turned 90 years old. When you ask people about Yvonne Belshaw, they stop you and say, “You mean the amazing Yvonne Belshaw.”
Yvonne married into the Belshaw family, which owned Belshaw Brothers Bakery Equipment, in 1941. She says, “If you’ve eaten a donut recently, it was probably made on a Belshaw machine.” She headed the advertising department, designing layouts and “writing copy for machines they hadn’t invented yet” including the “Donut Robot.” This is an automated donut machine, one of which is used by the Daily Dozen Donut Company in Pike Place Market. She enjoyed the creativity of her work, adding, “I loved watching the machinery.”
Though the Belshaw company was sold, Yvonne remains in the food equipment manufacturing business and heads Food Equipment Design, headquartered in White Center. They produce the “Pancake Chef” — an automated pancake dispenser.
Yvonne remembers the exact day she moved to West Seattle: August 1, 1942.
Living on Beacon Hill at the time, she was packing the household: “I was pregnant with my first child and going to move into High Point. I started having labor pains, but didn’t know it.” She has lived in West Seattle ever since.
Asked about changes she’s seen in West Seattle, she immediately responds, “The traffic! And potholes along California Avenue this big around!” as she holds her hands a dinner-plate’s width apart. She adds that she loves “all the little shops and restaurants” that have sprung up in the Junction recently.
Over the years, Yvonne has also channeled her considerable energy into creative endeavors such as writing and art. She writes poetry, books for each of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren (she’s working on one now) and has written two plays which have been produced and performed locally, including one called “Perfect Order” she wrote “a long, long time ago” which won a regional award.
Her collages have been on display in ArtsWest’s gallery and she currently has sumi-ink paintings showing at the Fauntleroy YMCA.
And did we mention she’s also active in Kiwanis?
Yvonne says, “I always said anybody can do anything, and I believed that until I was 65
years old and took piano lessons. Now I think maybe anybody can’t do everything.”
While visiting a friend recently, Yvonne says she was “bemoaning the fact that I’m
going to be 90,” adding she “has to get all the half-finished projects…done!” to which her friend replied, (paraphrasing the quote attributed to actress Billie Burke): “Age only matters if you’re cheese.” This inspired the writer in Yvonne to create a poem about aging. After four poems she thought, “I should be able to do something with that.” That “something” turned into a collaboration with Fauntleroy Church musical director Bronwyn Edwards Cryer to create a musical titled, “Age Only Matters If You’re Cheese.”
The story is based loosely on the adventures of Yvonne’s swimming classmate who went to a class reunion and found love. The main characters are in their 70s and explore the issues of what happens “next” for people who reach their elder years. Yvonne wrote or co-wrote all the songs with Bronwyn Edwards Cryer, including one titled appropriately, “Rain.”
Bronwyn adds that though they worked the story together, “it was (Yvonne’s) concept. I think it’s going to be a huge hit.” All 25 cast members are from West Seattle and include church and community members and members of the South Seattle Community College choir. “The actors have taken it and created something exciting,” Bronwyn says.
Yvonne and Bronwyn have each attended rehearsals and are happy with what they’re seeing. Yvonne notes that even the minister has a role she wrote especially for him and adds: “A friend asked me what my hope is for the play. I said, ‘I just want everyone to leave happier than they came in’; that would be my reward.”
The musical “Age Only Matters If You’re Cheese” will be performed at Fauntleroy Church, 9140 California Avenue SW. Performances will take place Thursday (February 3rd) and Saturday (February 5th) at 7:30 pm, with a Saturday matinee February 5th at 2:00 pm. Admission: Adults $12, Seniors: $10, Family (4) $25.