Archive for July, 2012

Remembering Robin

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

This is from the program at Robin Paterson’s Memorial at the Foss Waterway Seaport Museum.  The event was a wonderful celebration of the life of a unique and fascinating individual.  There was a lot of love in the room and a lot of folks there to share memories of our good friend.  Here also are some photos from the day.



First off let me clarify. My husband was known as
“Jon” in school and at work and as “Robin” within his
family and among friends who know him through his
family. When I met him at a square dance, he introduced
himself as “Jon” and asked  me for a date on Saturday
night.    Friday he called the house and left a message,
“Robin called. Do you want to go out to dinner first”. I was
totally confused.   Who was “Robin”? This confusion lasts
to this day. Please call him whatever name comes natural
to you.
Robin was born in Chicago, but his family moved to
Seattle before he was a year old. He grew up in Seattle.
Boats were the defining thing in his life and a very
important part of our common interests.
During World War II Amos Burg, a friend of Robin’s
father who wrote boating adventures for National
Geographic magazine, left his boat at Seattle Yacht Club
and asked Robin’s dad to keep an eye on it. Robin often
went to the Yacht Club with his dad and must have been
adopted by boaters. From the first I heard stories of frost
biting and sailing International 14s as a junior member of
the Yacht Club. He crewed with Charlie Frisbie on Alotola
and for years with Otto Giese on the 6 meter, Oslo. I think
he felt like a member of the Giese family.
Robin spent his middle school years at Lakeside
School and his high school years at Queen Anne High.
He missed his high school graduation because it was a
sailing night.

At some point Robin met Mike and Molly Adams who
lived in a little old hunting lodge on Fairweather Bay in
Bellevue. He lived on their gaff rigged cutter, the Surf
Scoter, and sailed with them. He considered Mike his
foster father, and Mike considered our children his
grandchildren. We took the Surf Scoter on our
At some point Robin went to work for the telephone
company as a switchman in the office. He also bought a
houseboat on a barge that he kept between the two yacht
clubs on Portage Bay. He joined the Coast Guard
Reserves, and when he was drafted, he went active.   He
spent two years on the icebreaker, Northwind, making
two Bering Sea patrols and a fascinating Operation Deep
Freeze II trip to Antarctica. Photography was a hobby
even then, and he took many pictures.
Robin was just getting out of the Coast Guard when
we met in October of 1958. I was a student at the
University of Washington at the time. Immediate
common denominators were anything that had to do
with boats and the water as well as a love for folk music.
He went to my parents for the Thanksgiving of 1958 and
blew my grandmother away when he washed all the
dishes. We dated through the next winter and were
married on June 12, 1959, right after I finished school.
I went to work for Boeing. Robin went back to Seattle
U. briefly and then got his Electronics Technician
certification at Edison Techincal. We had decided early
on that we wanted to live in a small town but wanted
Seattle-like boating facilities. Gig Harbor was chosen. We
bought our first house in Rosedale for $6500 just after
Doug was born in 1962. Jana was born when we lived
there. It became obvious that we would spend a lot of
time on the waterfront, and in 1966 we bought a lot in
Gig Harbor proper and built on it.
From the first  we always had a boat. We tried a PC, a
racing sailboat, and quickly found that I liked the ground
level under my feet. A work boat was second choice. We
bought an old tugboat, and the rest is history. Doug and
Jana can’t remember when we didn’t have a tug. JOE
was our fourth. We found the Retired Tugboat
Association. This group was much of our social life when
the children were growing up.
When Robin finished his Electronic Technician
classes, he went to work for an underwater salvage
company that used closed circuit television. This took
him away from home more than we either one of us
wanted. By this time we had two children, and family
time was important.
John Platt was a Coast Guard friend. He lived in Gig
Harbor and was involved in all of the emergency
activities: fire department, ambulance, etc. We became
friends with the Platts, and Robin joined John in his
emergency services activities. I was blown away when
Robin said he wanted to apply to the Sheriff’s
Department. He did this, and it turned out to be a good
fit. He spent nearly 30 years with the department; most
of it on the street, preferably in rural areas, and the last
8 years in the Civil Department. He thoroughly enjoyed
Civil. He was an unusual cop. He preferred diplomatic
negotiation to confrontation and liked to solve problems.
At one point Robin was involved with the Sheriff’s
Department Marine Unit, and the department sent them
through the class for licensing. When he got his license,
he knew he wanted to tow when he retired.    He towed
for Marine Floats for a couple of years before he retired
and up until the time we sold the JOE last summer. He
loved being on the water.
We met Bill Somers, who had a private Mosquito
Fleet museum on Stretch Island, and ended up helping
Bill with the Museum of Puget Sound, on Stretch Island.
Through this Robin became interested in local maritime
history, especially the history of the smaller Mosquito
Fleet boats that plied the southern sound. In 2008 he co
-authored “Mosquito Fleet of South Puget Sound” with Jean Findlay. Researching maritime history became a
passion. He loved being able to answer a question or
find an old boat for someone. He could spend hours on
We had many wonderful vacations; mostly cruising
in the American San Juans and Canadian Gulf Islands,
but there are two standouts: one, traveling England and
Scotland with a group from the Retired Tugboat
Association, and second, the most unique a flying trip
to the Canadian High Arctic, traveling to within 500
miles of the North Pole
Robin was a special person. He loved people. He got
to know them and knew their interests and activities.
He loved to help, often using his problem solving
abilities.   He also liked to buy gifts, not expensive gifts,
but little things that he felt would mean something to
that particular person. I have heard of many of the little
gifts that he gave.
We had 53 special years of marriage and raised two
wonderful children together. I’ve always credited the
fact that our children didn’t get into trouble to their
Dad’s story telling ability. He told of many of the bad
decisions that he saw and the consequences. It is
interesting that both of our children do for a living what
their parents did for a hobby. Doug works for a small
tugboat company, and Jana is Land Use Administrator
for the City of Tacoma. Robin was very proud of them.

I’ll miss him.




Image of Jon Robin Paterson provided by Rob Lohr


Crossing the Bar

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.

-Alfred, Lord Tennyson


There is nothing, absolutely
nothing, half so much worth doing,
as simply messing about in boats.
-Kenneth Grahame,  
The Wind in the Willows 

A Celebration of Life

Thursday, July 12th, 2012
To all RTA members:
Sunday, July 22nd, at 2 PM, there will be a Celebration of Life for Robin Paterson at the Foss Waterway Seaport Museum in Tacoma.  All are invited.  A map & directions are available at the museum web site (
After having an opportunity to sit and visit with Kae Paterson this afternoon, here is some up-to-date information:
• An obituary for Robin will be published in the local newspaper tomorrow. The tribute will include information about the Celebration of Life as well as instructions should anyone wish to make a donation in Robin’s name (if you do not get the paper and would like this information, please ask us at and we’ll forward as soon as we get the details). Kae has asked that flowers not be sent; the family is taking care of this detail.
• Parking will be a bit disruptive given construction at the SeaPort building, so plan to arrive a bit early to make sure you have time to walk to the location.
And here are two requests:
• SeaPort staff will begin set-up at 10 AM, with a goal of having all chairs, tables, and displays in place by noon. Volunteers are welcomed – there will be tasks for everyone who can help.
• Refreshments will be provided after the Celebration with a dessert theme, since Robin loved desserts!  Jan Adams, who is coordinating the event (thank you, Jan!!), would like to include cookies, bars, or other dessert-like items that can be served on a napkin. If you have time, it would be great if club members could help by bringing treats to contribute to the refreshment table.
Bringing your boat?
• All boats are welcome!  It would be lovely to have some boats in attendance.  The Comanche will be at another event, so A Dock will be available, as will the regular long dock.  If you would like more information, please contact the Seaport at 253-272-2750.
Kae wishes to thank everyone for their kind thoughts and prayers. She is, as everyone would expect, using her quiet strength to create an event that focuses on Robin and the very rich life he led.  For those who have not attended a Celebration of Life, this event is to be a celebration of and a reflection on the energy & enthusiasm that Robin brought to all aspects of his life, and a chance for all of his friends to get together and share that same energy with Kae and her family.
- Tracy and Tana

Summer Rendezvous at Longbranch…..Cancelled

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Well gang, it looks like the summer rendezvous @ Longbranch has been cancelled. We want to thank Kae for all her hard work putting together this event for the RTA , but it seems that weekend is a busy one and many had other plans. We decided to cancel the weekend and look forward to seeing everyone in a few weeks @ Harbor Days.


Memorial Service for Robin Paterson

Friday, July 6th, 2012

Kae Paterson sent this out to the group……

Many of you know that Robin Paterson had stomach cancer.  He also had major lung problems.  On June 16, he drove his Packard to an old car picnic in Centralia.  The following Sunday afternoon, he wasn’t feeling well, but went to a presentation at the Harbor History Museum.  Robin always found ways to participate in the things he believed in and where he could make a difference.

Monday morning, he developed a cough that just wouldn’t quit.  He finally went to the hospital.  His vitals were showing signs of being compromised, and he had the start of pneumonia.  He was admitted to the hospital and his vitals were stabilized, but his lungs kept getting weaker and weaker.  By Wednesday morning, June 27, it was obvious he wasn’t winning the battle.  His family chose comfort for him.  He died quietly, with Kae and children Doug and Jana, as well as 4 friends, at his side.  Kae shares that in many ways, it was a good time.

Robin was special to so many people.  He always found a way to lend a hand, work for causes he believed in, and offer encouragement for hard work and progress (especially related to tugboats).  We will miss him.

There will be a memorial service on Sunday, July 22, at 2 pm at the Foss Waterway Seaport, 705 Dock Street, in Tacoma.  Parking is north of the building.  Since the north end is under construction, one must walk to the south end and around to the esplanade to enter.  (And, yes, it is possible to come by boat!)