Bill and Kathy Hooper of Lake City, who recently found the medallion — the "treasure" at the end of the Dead Sea Scrolls-themed Emerald...

Share story

Bill and Kathy Hooper of Lake City, who recently found the medallion — the “treasure” at the end of the Dead Sea Scrolls-themed Emerald City Search — didn’t know what they were up against.

Computer whizzes down at Microsoft headquarters, seasoned librarians and a whole slew of students of Jewish history were all looking for that medallion. But just three days into the 10-day search, Bill, a transport mechanic, and Kathy, a fourth-grade teacher, found the medallion Saturday morning. There it was, mounted below a small replica of a ship’s wheel on a concrete rail post on Alaskan Way. The couple received $2,500 in cash and prizes, and the honor of winning the first Emerald City Search.

“At first it was kind of a bummer,” says Karen Tollenaar Demorest, who spearheaded the search for the University of Washington Alumni Association. She had hoped the search would go on for the full 10 days. “But then we realized, it was fun. Kathy and Bill are the perfect winners, and we’ll make it much harder next year!”

Kathy, 52 and a self-described “puzzler,” has always loved crosswords and says that she and Bill were just following the clues for fun. “To be honest,” she said, “I looked at that first clue and thought, ‘Hmm, maybe this is too hard for me.’ “

Clue #1 reads: Though ancient scribes were experts in this, today’s specialists may not agree. If you add up the way of the seeker, it’s a simple two hundred and three.

Rabbi William Berkovitz, executive director of Hillel Jewish Center at the University of Washington, helped write the clues. Gematria, the numerology of the Hebrew language, assigns each letter in the Hebrew alphabet with a corresponding number, he said. The word “Alaskan” adds up to 203.

“I was told that several people actually designed software programs that deciphered the numerical value of every street in Seattle. Evidently there are only two that add up to 203,” laughs Berkovitz. “But honestly, a computer program? Only in Seattle … .”

Bill and Kathy are not the type to design a computer program. Instead, they relied on Bill’s knowledge of the local landscape, Kathy’s fondness for words’ double meanings, and a healthy dose of serendipity.

Clue # 2 reads: In substance like a scroll caved near salt, the less-worn medallion surface will show. Although very much like its complements, with one unique detail you’ll know.

They figured “salt” meant the medallion was near the water, and Bill, 52, recalled seeing pennies set in the decorations of a ship wheel during a trip to the waterfront he’d taken as a child. Could the pennies be the “complements”?

Actually, the “complements” referred to something else — a decorative flair on both the medallion and the cement post on which it was found — but serendipity kept Bill and Kathy on the right track. It would take just one more clue for the couple to solve the puzzle.

Clue # 3 reads: If old Speidel had taken you on a subterranean stroll, it’s within a sacred shifting mile to discover your Qumran “scroll.”

A Google search on Bill Speidel, founder of Pioneer Square’s Underground Tour, led them to within that mile of the waterfront.

“Honestly, we didn’t think we were going to find it,” admits Kathy.

They found the ship’s wheel and started poking at the pennies and other copper accents to see if any would move. “And eventually one of them did!”

So was it really that serendipitous? Were all those other players who struggled to design computer programs and come up with harebrained theories to post on facebook.com laboring for naught?

“The search was supposed to be about understanding the origins of our civilization, about crossing generations, socio-economic lines and religious differences,” says Rabbi Berkovitz. “It was about experiencing life and bringing joy to our community and I think it did that.”

Bill and Kathy Hooper plan to use part of their winnings to support Sparrow Clubs USA, an organization that matches student groups with local kids who have medical needs.

And that’s about as understanding, cross-generational, joyful and, yes, wonderfully serendipitous as it gets.

Haley Edwards: 206-464-2745

or hedwards@seattletimes.com