These three Spokane-raised adults left in the 1990s, not sure they’d ever return. Two returned in 2012. The third visits every summer but his creative work might preclude him from living in his hometown again. Here are their stories.
Sean McLaughlin, 38
Back story: The Jefferson, Sacajawea, Lewis and Clark kid’s wanderlust hit during his junior year abroad in the Gonzaga University in Florence program.
“It wasn’t that I hated Spokane or was sick of Spokane, it was more I wanted to go experience all those other things,” McLaughlin said. “My soundtrack was Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run.’ ”
Life after Spokane: He graduated from Notre Dame Law School in 2002 and was commissioned as an officer with the U.S. Navy JAG Corps. After law school, he worked as a military prosecutor in New England, did a tour of duty in Iraq in 2005, finished his Navy commitment and then settled in Miami to work for the U.S. attorney’s office.
What drew him back: “After seeing all the different parts of the world, you realize there are really great things about this place. I started thinking I could move back here and not think I had failed in some way or let myself down.”
In 2012, he moved back to Spokane to take a job as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Washington.
He was home again. He had missed the outdoors during his years away even though he spent every vacation in Spokane, hunting and steelhead fishing with his father, Tim McLaughlin. The fishing bug hit early.
“My dad took me here (Cannon Hill Park) when I was about 7. It used to have huge bass in the (pond) and smaller fish. I’d fish three times a week in the summer with friends.”
What he misses about bigger cities: “You could see Band X on a Tuesday night and Band Y on a Friday night. You had a major league baseball team, an NFL team, an NHL team and you (could) see those teams whenever you wanted.”
What he appreciates: No traffic. His commute takes five minutes.
“The pace here is a lot slower – which I like,” he said. “It’s nice knowing where everything is and having a connection to a city that goes back a long way.”
Christy Lukes, 33
Back story: The Cataldo, Gonzaga Prep kid left in 1998 for the University of Portland because “I’m a really social person and I love the hustle and bustle of a bigger city.”
After graduation, she worked for The Pepsi Bottling Group and then for a pharmaceutical company. In Portland, she met her future husband, Ben Lukes, a University of Montana journalism graduate working as a photographer for a small paper.
He went back to school to pursue his passion – brewing beer – and by 2007, the couple had moved to Missoula, where Ben Lukes worked as a brewer for Big Sky Brewing.
What drew them to Spokane: “Ben’s desire to open up a brewery. Spokane has started to embrace the craft brewery culture. We just loved the city and the fact it wasn’t saturated with breweries. We fell in love with the South Perry District. It reminded us of the neighborhoods we loved in Portland.”
Christy Lukes was promoted to a job in Spokane with her pharmaceutical company. The couple are working together to open a small business this fall in the South Perry neighborhood – Perry Street Brewing Co.
First thing she did: “I showed Ben a lot of parks. If you just drive through on I-90 or on Division, you never get a good look at all the beauty Spokane has to offer.”
What she misses: “The diversity of a bigger city. I love that Portland is a community that accepts anyone.”
What she loves: Spending more time with her parents, Susan and Gary Bloom, and her extended family in town and reconnecting with friends from her childhood days.
“We’ve run into a lot of people who have come back,” Lukes said. “They have started families and (returned) because they have good memories of growing up here. People are at a time in their lives when they are looking for a community and looking to give back.”
Ian Broyles, 32
Back story: Grew up in Spokane Valley. After his sophomore year at Central Valley High School, his family moved to Kansas City for his father’s job. He talked his parents into letting him move back to Spokane for his senior year, and he lived with a neighbor’s family.
But that year in Kansas City? “Once I was forced out of the pond, I wasn’t afraid of leaving again.”
His senior year foreshadowed his future career,
“I volunteered to make the TV shows for school. We would do sketches based on announcements. We’d dress people up.”
After a year at Spokane Falls Community College, he headed to Los Angeles.
“I had the wanderlust to just go. I didn’t know anyone there.”
He did stand-up comedy at clubs and met Louise Palanker, who had written for Jay Leno.
Broyles, a self-taught computer geek, was able to help Palanker with computer problems, and soon, she hired him for her creative projects, including a documentary about the Cowsills, a 1960s band.
Broyles worked off and on with her for nine years on “Family Band: The Cowsills Story” now available on the Showtime cable channel.
In between documentary film work, Broyles got into app development for iPhones and later, iPads.
His work now: Broyles owns Versagram LLC, a company described on his website as “I make apps. I make photos. I make movies.” His company is named for his best-selling app, Versagram, a photo-editing app that has been downloaded 2.5 million times.
He lives: In Nashville to be close to his 2-year-old son who lives there now. Broyles often flies back and forth to Los Angeles for work. It’s a direct flight, something hard to find from Spokane, and the need to live in bigger cities for his career would make it difficult to return for good.
“I found that I am a big city person,” he said. “I like to have access to places where big bands come through, and I like cities that have a million niches.”
What he misses: Broyles’ closest childhood friends still live in Spokane, and he returns every summer for Hoopfest.
“I miss the lakes. I miss the people. I miss being able to get anywhere you want quickly.”