Legacy & Soul of Bellingham Bay Awards
The SeaFeast Legacy Award honors a company, group, or individual who has committed decades to the maritime and fishing sectors by personifying the historical significance of Whatcom County’s working waterfront. The SeaFeast Soul Awards recognize families and individuals whose good works represent commitment and service to the heritage of fishing and maritime endeavors—the lifeline of Bellingham Bay.
Samson Rope is the 2019 recipient. For 141 years, Samson has been recognized as a worldwide leader in the development and manufacture of high-performance ropes. Headquartered in Ferndale, Washington, with manufacturing facilities in Ferndale and Lafayette, LA, Samson has over 300 employees around the globe. Samson engineers continue to pioneer the use of new fiber technology and the development of innovative coatings and constructions to produce ropes with unprecedented performance characteristics to support their customers in multiple industries, including: commercial fishing, recreational marine, mooring, workboat, arborist, utility, offshore, and mining. Recognized as a regional leader in environmental initiatives, Samson proudly works to protect and engage in the Ferndale/Bellingham community. For more about Samson, visit www.samsonrope.com.
Phil Erickson is the beating heart of the working waterfront, good craftsman, exceptional person, has been doing this work for over four decades, was raised in Seattle and has been in Bellingham after going to WWU 50 years ago. He works as a contractor doing boat finish work at Colony Wharf and puts on a BBQ for all comers every Friday.
Phil and wife Mary taught school for five years early in their marriage on the Yukon River, became interested in salmon fishing after working with Alaska Natives on the river. He's been heading to Bristol Bay each summer since, where the family operates set net sites and 2 tenders. All four children (two boys, two girls) fished on the set nets, two are now operating the sites while Phil and Mary run one of the tenders.
Three generations of the Curry family have established a robust fishing legacy across our region. John Curry Sr. of Lummi Island began reef-netting as a crewmember in the 1930s, and on into the 1940s and 1950s with his own rig. He was involved in gill-netting as well, and the five Curry children grew up helping John Sr in his fishing endeavors. His sons, John Jr. and Clyde, began full-time purse seining in the 1960s for salmon and other fisheries.
John Curry Jr. had three children grow up seining with him. His son Lance fishes today in Alaska as a crew member. Daughter Nicole currently trolls for salmon off the Washington coast and also fishes black cod and other ground fish. Chantel is involved with canning, preserving, and promoting salmon alongside her sister.
Clyde's three daughters all grew up fishing with him as well. Daughter Julianne Curry continues to advocate for Alaska fisheries, having served as Executive Director of the United Fishermen of Alaska and currently working for Icicle Seafoods.
Fishing over 50 years, John Curry Jr. retired in 2015 after a career in Southeast Alaska and Puget Sound, based in Blaine and Bellingham. Clyde Curry has recently retired from his fishing career based out of Petersburg, Alaska.
Before he died, John Curry Sr. wanted to make a deal with the Lummi Island Heritage Trust for the Curry Preserve on Lummi Island. He passed away prior to completion but the family carried out his wish, and today 50 acres comprise the Curry Preserve which will remain undeveloped and unchanged for future generations.
Loren Kapp grew up around Bellingham Bay. As a young boy he learned commercial fishing from his two older brothers. He gillnetted salmon in Alaska at age 14 and made enough money to buy his own boat at 16, taking his younger brother as crew. Fishing became his passion as he participated in various different commercial fisheries from Togiak, AK to the Channel Islands off the California coast, including owning his own fish buying operation. Later he teamed up with his wife Cathy Wade, converting the former Lummi Island Ferry, “Chief Kwina”, into a stellar tender serving the salmon gillnet, reefnet, and troll fisheries in Puget Sound and SE Alaska. They concentrated on quality tote packed fish while working for Icy Strait Seafoods, Bornstein Seafoods, American-Canadian Fisheries, Lummi Island Wild, and more. Loren also serves on the Marina Advisory Committee for the Port of Bellingham, and is an active member of The Working Waterfront Coalition of Whatcom County.
Brian Haling grew up in Bellingham and has commercial fished for salmon, crab, and occasionally prawn since 1984. His son Kaden fishes with him and is beginning to take the wheel so Brian can enjoy a little more sport fishing. Brian has been donating creatures to the Marine Life Center for over 20 years. He works hard, and gives generously with a very big heart. Brian supplies the Marine Life Center with octopus, crab, shrimp, and a lot of unique specimens so the community can learn about what lives here in the Puget Sound. Brian does not get paid for this! He believes it is important for the community to experience these animals.
Andy Vitaljic is the 2018 recipient. He grew up in Bellingham as a descendant of a Slavic brotherhood of Vitaljics from the island of Vis off the coast of Croatia.
Andy has started, owned, or been a partner since age 14 in businesses ranging from commercial fishing to processing to hatchery management. At 86, he’s still active in five companies—including American-Canadian Fisheries in Lynden, and Quality Control Special Services (known as QC)—the oldest continuous tenant at Bellingham Cold Storage.
Earlier this year Andy was recipient of the Business Pulse Lifetime Achievement Award.
Video by Sam Giffin
The Funkhousers represent an intergenerational commercial fishing family in Bellingham. In addition to fishing in Kodiak, Alaska and Puget Sound, Bob Funkhouser taught at Bellingham Technical College. His son, Rob, and grandson, Bobby, fish in Prince William Sound, Alaska.
The Solbergs, originally from Norway, have fished for three generations in the U.S. The Solbergs (Odin, Reider, Birger, and Lange) have fished in Bristol Bay and remain active in regional fisheries advocacy.
Capt. Deborah Dempsey comes from community sailing programs on the mouth of the Connecticut River. She’s a lifelong professional mariner and recently retired as a pilot on the notorious Columbia River Bar. Her passion lies in teaching others how to recreate safely on the water leading her to help start the Community Boating Center on Bellingham Bay and presently serves the board of directors as treasurer. It’s been said she has salt water in her veins and is definitely more comfortable afloat than ashore.
Brian Pemberton founded Northwest Explorations, a premier yachting company located in the heart of Squalicum Harbor. For over 25 years his company has operated charters, flotillas, brokerage, training, and maintenance, and has employed wildlife conservationists and marine biologists to ensure adherence to high environmental standards.
Wally Green garners this recognition posthumously after a stellar commercial fishing career alongside his son. He also served as an officer in the Purse Seine Vessel Owners Association and as an advisor to the Pacific Salmon Commission.
The Talbot & Thomas Families of Bellingham Cold Storage, the longest standing tenant at the Port of Bellingham.
Arch Talbot, formally known as A.W. to many, founded BCS in 1946 “correctly recognized Bellingham as the perfect location for a cold storage warehouse and fish loading port,” as stated by his granddaughter, Jane.
Jim Talbot, Arch’s son, ran the company for 23 years whilst also developing Barkley Village. In 1976, he formed Marine Resources Company and forged a joint-venture with the Soviet Ministry of Fisheries, the largest of its kind during the 1980s.
Following Jim’s death, ownership moved to his children, Jane and Stowe Talbot. Jane sits on the BCS board; Stowe chairs it and also serves as CEO of Barkley Company.
Stew Thomas became President of Bellingham Cold Storage in 1987, and his son, Doug, succeed him in 1999. Doug Thomas serves as President & CEO today. Upon receiving the award in 2017, Doug share, “It’s certainly an honor and a surprise to be recognized in this way by our peers in this great industry — a reflection of the quality and continuity of service to customers, employees, and our community over the last 71 years. The Talbot family has been rock solid, and it has been a pleasure for my farther and I to lead the organization these last 30 successful years.”
The Glenovich Family has five generations of fishing heritage, following Antone Glenovich’s departure of the small Adriatic island in the Dalmatians for Bellingham Bay in 1890. Antone built a boat, the Yankee Boy, here in Bellingham Bay. Three of his sons did the same in 1957 with the F/V Yankee, the F/V Yankee Boy, and the F/V Yankee Girl. Today Jim owns an updated version of the F/V Yankee Boy purse seiner, and his cousin Bob can be found most days down by the harbor, despite being “semi-retired from fishing.” Many of their children have taken on the fishing lifestyle between San Francisco and Alaska as well.
The Mackiewicz Family has managed tenders in Alaska since 1991, working out of a 100-foot stall in Squalicum Harbor while raising their children aboard boats half the year. Today, they own the Deco Bay and the Steelhead, which both employ numerous Bellingham locals during multiple fisheries. Longtime deckhand and nominator, Nathan Thomas, shared “Mack and Anne-Marie provide jobs in which the employee is valued as part of the business and of their boat family — and not just as a body that can be traded out from season to season.”
Pat Pitsch is a graduate of Bellingham High School and Bellingham Technical College, who went on to found All American Marine and, more recently, Strongback Metal Boats with his son Rory. He seined as early as 8th grade and was encouraged by Larry Kinley (2016 Legacy Award Recipient) to start his own business after working on some of Larry’s seine skiffs. Today, All American Marine is a staple of the Bellingham waterfront and Strongback builds many boats out of Seattle. Pitsch’s stellar legacy of craftsmanship continues to set the bar high for Pacific Northwest boat building.
Dana Wilson is a local fisherman and environmentalist and is part of the Lahaq’temish - People of the Sea. A former Lummi Fish Commissioner, he is a tribal leader who speaks in-depth of the fishing history of not only his family, but of the whole tribe. He shared, “[Commercial fishing] is all I’ve ever done. My father was a fisherman, his father, and his father. My son is in the industry. My 11 grandkids fish with me…We teach our children on the water and the way to fish. It’s called Schelangen—the way of life on the water.”
Roger Van Dyken, along with his wife, Marlene, owned and operated San Juan Sailing & Yachting for many years. Dyken says he “went to the library to learn how to sail” after his first charter trip, originally working on political campaigns. Dyken shared that turning a hobby he fell in love with into work was a risk, but assured that sailing in the islands is still among his greatest joys.
Saret Voeut is a master filleter of all species. He has worked at Bornstein Seafoods for over 30 years, joining the business with an amazing backstory. Voeut is a refugee of the 1970s Cambodian Civil War; his family fled to Thailand in 1972 and eventually to Washington, by the time Voeut was in highschool. Voeut gave a well-attended fillet demo at Bellingham SeaFeast 2016, sharing his knowledge of over 30 years in the business. Pictured is Saret at the International Professional Fish Filleting Competition, where he won the "Top Knife" award several years in a row.
In our inaugural year, Bellingham SeaFeast recognized three individuals and families as our Legacy Awards recipients. The Awards have since evolved to include Legacy & Soul Awards.
Ellie & Larry Kinley received one of the inaugural awards due to their family’s long history of fishing in and around Bellingham Bay. Ellie remembers her great-grandfather (a Solomon) jigging for herring from a canoe. She fished with her father Mike, aboard his seiner. Larry learned to fish locally from his family as well and shared a memory of fishing up the Nooksack River with his mother. Larry sadly passed in the winter of 2018. The two taught their sons, Kyle and Lucas, who carry on the tradition aboard the F/V Salish Sea. The family is a member of the Lummi Nation.
Kevin Riley is the Assistant Plant Manager at Trident Seafoods in Bellingham. He has worked for the company for many years, working seasonally on the canning line first in high school. Riley explains that the company has come a long way - today processing about 70,000 pounds of seafood a day with about 120 processors during salmon season. He remarked, “It’s pretty exciting to see the changes.”
The Zuanich Family has made a home in Bellingham Bay since Dinko Zuanich left the Croatian island of Vis (meaning fish) in 1900, where his family previously had 400 years of Adriatic fishing heritage. For many years, the late Jim Zuanich ran the seine vessel the F/V Marshall Tito. Today, his wife Shirley continues to run the company they co-founded, Pure Alaska Salmon Company LLC, provider of canned salmon brands, “Redhead” and “Think Pink.”