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
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
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.
The Wind in the Willows