Local Folks: Khoranhalai J. Washington

Local Folks: Khoranhalai J. Washington
Khoranhalai J. Washington hiking the Valles Caldera, Los Alamos, New Mexico, 2019

Khoranhalai J. Washington’s first name is Hawaiian, though she is a native of Durham, North Carolina and still has 144 cousins there. Six years ago, she married a Navy man from Tallahassee, Florida, Dean Washington. For four years, the Washingtons lived on the NAS JAX base near Ortega, while Dean was stationed there. “We would spend all of our dates during the week in the Riverside-Avondale area,” Khoranhalai said.

She is a full-time student who is pursuing a degree at the University of North Florida (UNF), majoring in history, minoring in computer science. She is working on publishing one of her papers on Jacksonville’s sewer systems in correlation with consolidation. “I tackled the sewer systems and the historical problems that Jacksonville and Duval County were going to merge. I dove into why that was a problem and why they weren’t able to complete it,” Khoranhalai said. In 2022, when Khoranhalai was a junior, Jacksonville’s chapter of DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) presented her with an American History Scholarship based on that paper.

DAR has opened up many local opportunities for Khoranhalai. “Anywhere I go that has any historical connection, they know them,” she said. Just the mention of her affiliation with DAR, however loose, opens up suggestions of topics to research and places to visit. “I have a whole list, including the underground tunnels I didn’t know Jacksonville had,” she said.

Dean and Khoranhalai Washington, Grand Canyon, 2022
Dean and Khoranhalai Washington, Grand Canyon, 2022

Currently, Khoranhalai is wrapping up research that will confirm her eligibility to join DAR. She found that her great-great-great-grandfather served in the Civil War. He was nicknamed Hell Billy Lee.

Khoranhalai interns at the Jacksonville Historical Society, helping clean up the archives for easy access. She sorts through boxes, re-organizes shelves, and catalogs information so that it is more accessible to people who want to do research there.

Coming from a mountainous state, Khoranhalai is a hiker by hobby. She and her dog, Dot, cover all of the greenspaces of Jacksonville. “She needs a good three-hour hike before she’s finally done and calm,” Khoranhalai said of the whippet terrier mix.

Riverside Park is a preferred place to roam. “It’s not much of a hike, but it’s really beautiful!” Khoranhalai said. She and Dot jump over park benches to compensate for the flat land and are captivated by sunrises there, which Khoranhalai described as “absolutely gorgeous,” even though she’s not a morning person.

“I love the really old feel of Riverside and Avondale,” Khoranhalai said. She appreciates that they are both close-knit communities with friendly people who are always willing to carry on a conversation with her on the sidewalk. That’s something she missed about the small town she had grown up in. “And you can walk everywhere in those small sections,” she added

Khoranhalai finds the Cummer Museum appealing because of the history tied to it. She likes browsing the collection of antique items at 5 Points Vintage. She relishes the tree canopy of St. Johns Avenue. And the coconut ramen draws her to Hawkers Asian Street Food.

“I love looking at old Florida,” she said. So, for her birthday earlier this year, she visited The Yearling Restaurant in Cross Creek, which is named for the work by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and her state park nearby.

Khoranhalai J. Washington at The Yearling Restaurant, February 2023
Khoranhalai J. Washington at The Yearling Restaurant, February 2023

“I love going to old places,” Khoranhalai said. And she prefers traveling via old routeways rather than major highways. Last summer, Dean was re-stationed to California. Khoranhalai drove him to his new base, traveling along Route 40, the Main Street of America, and stopping at the historic Route 66 attractions along the Mother Road. “I like to go slow,” she said.

Khoranhalai has a passion for nature conservation and, on their four-day drive to California, she wanted to show her husband as many of the national preserves as she could, as he hadn’t ever visited them. “Even though they were designed specifically so that people, particularly military people, could get back to nature, relax and unwind,” she said. “He had been overseas a lot. But he had never seen what we have [in America].”

Khoranhalai made that long, slow drive back to Jacksonville. Her mom met up with her to keep her company on the trip. Now that Dean is living far away, Khoranhalai decided to move into UNF campus housing in Southside while she finishes up her degree. Dot is temporarily living in Tallahassee with Dean’s family. Khoranhalai visits her on weekends to hike through greenspaces and jump over park benches.

By Mary Wanser
Resident Community News

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