"There are no
ordinary people..."
C. S. Lewis

Roger C. Ulsky

Monday, October 25, 1943
Thursday, July 29, 2021
Everett, WA

Roger C. Ulsky, age 77 of Bellingham, WA, passed away recently after a long bout with a form of lymphoma.

A man of the sea, Roger was born in Everett, Washington, and grew up in Seattle, near the Ballard Locks and Shilshole Bay. He always lamented that high rises replaced the rocky beach where he used to roast hot dogs over driftwood fires and delight in turning over rocks to discover little crabs.

Roger graduated from St. Alphonsus Catholic School and Ballard High School and earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of Washington. After graduation he joined the Army as a First Lieutenant and was stationed at Fort Devens near Boston. In the 1970s he ran his own design firm in San Francisco and then worked at Boeing as an engineer. Always an adventurer, Roger gave up the security of his position at Boeing and sailed his 24-foot sloop 3,500 miles from Seattle to Hawaii. In the 1980s Roger sailed another sloop, a 30 footer for a year and a half. He sailed from Seattle throughout the South Pacific and on to New Zealand, returning to Seattle via Alaska. On the seven-week passage to Kodiak, he knew he was on course because he shouldn’t have seen land and he hadn’t! 

Having satisfied his desire to sail in blue water and inspired by Mother Earth News, Roger then went “back to the land,” building his own rustic wikiup on a homestead on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state, growing fruit and veg and catching salmon. During his time on the peninsula, Roger built an amphibious airplane and trained in the Olympic Mountains to climb Mount Rainier with his buddy Sherwood — and did in 1988. 

In 1989 Roger left the Peninsula and launched his teaching career in engineering at Skagit Valley College in Mount Vernon. That year he met the love of his life, Kathleen Waton who always said to Roger “I’d rather go to Walmart with you than to Paris with someone else.” After teaching several years, Roger participated in a faculty exchange program at a college in Derby, England and Kathleen established a home for them in a quaint village in the Peak District in the middle of England. 

Seeing the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution first hand sparked Roger’s decades long passion for steam power during which he built a stern wheel steam boat, a fantail steam launch and several steam-powered land vehicles including a Tragster (tricycle dragster), moped and Steamzilla go-cart.  He enjoyed the friendship of fellow enthusiasts in the Steam Automobile Club of America and the Northwest Steam Society. Roger, who always had an eye for sexy cars, also owned numerous classic cars over the years, including 1950s British sports cars and a bodacious black 1959 Corvette.

In 2000 Roger and Kathleen took a sun break from the Pacific Northwest and spent 18 years in the Southeast United States. On the east coast, Roger and Kathleen took their power boat on a   4-month odyssey on the “Great Loop” from their home in Florida, up the intracoastal into New York Harbor, up the Hudson River, through 100 locks in the canal system and down the rivers to the dock of their home in Bonita Springs. Upon their return to the Pacific Northwest in November of 2018, Roger and Kathleen settled in the beautiful lakeside community of Sudden Valley in Bellingham, WA. Again, drawn to the water, Roger enjoyed sailing his 14-foot gaff-rigged Peep Hen mini-cruiser sailboat on Lake Whatcom.

Roger is survived by his beloved wife, Kathleen, many cousins, nieces and nephew, his brother Ric Ulsky and many friends whose loyalty and friendship he valued through the years. Roger’s parents Roman “Ray” Ulsky and Helen Mae DuMoulin, his Canadian maternal grandmother “Gram” and Lithuanian paternal grandmother “Gram Ulsky” and life-long friend Jay Rider predeceased him.

Donations may be made in memory of Roger to the International Waldenstrom's Macroglobulinemia Foundation at:  Home-International Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia Foundation - International Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia Foundation — 

To see how Roger built his fantail steam launch, visit:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qn-O-QNt6rw




Guestbook Entries

Submitted by Sommer C. on

Such a wonderful tribute. What an amazing story and what an incredible life Roger led! May he be at peace and may you always be comforted by the sweet memories of your beloved husband and partner, Kathleen.

Submitted by Anne Hurley on

I will never forget your and Roger's visit to St. Simons Island and Vernon and I meeting with you in Florida. What a brilliant man he was!  My heart goes out to you Kathleen. You are loved and cared about by many.

Submitted by Mary Ann Thames on

It was a priviledge to meet you and Roger on our walks at High Falls Lake, and to see the wonderful steam craft jauntily travel its waters. We are so sorry for your loss, Kathleen. Love from the other side of the country.

Submitted by Robin Roarke on

Can I just say that I enjoyed Roger from the day I met him, he walked to the beat of his own drum and I can appercaite those qualities in anyone. He and Kathleen just seemed to be that "perfect" couple, if there is such a thing, they were it. I loved the exit stage-left mentality of how the two on them experience the world, together, two free-spirits living life on their terms. I was super-impressed with how they would journey across the seas through far away lands with a single backpack. I found the two of them fascinating to say the least and very much enjoyed the moments we shared a bottle of wine, good food and just sat and chatted, enchanting couple. Thinking of Roger, its hard from me to even seperate him from Kathleen, when I was around him at steam-meets without Kathleen, he was only half present, a piece of him was missing. Kathleen I wish you great strength in moving forward, I hope that having had the opportunity to live & love so greatly, brings you some solace. I don't believe people are ever really gone, as thier presence lives through us in who we are because of them. Thank you Roger for showing me how to live and dance to your own internal song!

Submitted by Marcia Thomason on

Kathleen...I am so sorry to hear of Rogers death. We enjoyed you and he so much during your stay at Whitecap. He was “ teacher’s pet” at our drawing class and we shared our drawings. The Circle hisses his humor! It was nice to read about all of his adventures and so many you joined him. He certainly can say he lived a great, exciting, life and will be remembered by the friends he knew and will be missed. Hughes and prayers to you during this difficult time.

Submitted by Kathleen Gardner on

Kathleen - thinking about you during this tough time. I feel honored to read his life story. Wow - Roger was an amazing adventurer and no doubt lived life to the fullest. Phenomenal accomplishments he had during his lifetime! Know that your memories with him stay alive in your heart forever. Until you meet again…

Submitted by Toni norman on

Im glad I got to meet Roger. I could see the love ❤️ you two shared. May all your beautiful memories together be a blessing.  My thoughts are with you Kathy. 

Submitted by Laura Harville on

I didn't personally know Roger but it struck me many times what a gift he has long been to your life, Kathleen. Whether it be through photos of you both adventuring through life together or the stories you would share, watching you two together always made me smile. If only everyone could find such a beloved best friend and partner in life, surely this world would be a better place. 

So it goes without saying this loss is difficult and painful. May you hold these two precious realities in your hand: grief and gratitude. May Roger's legacy and love burn bright even as you miss him. May you smile unexpectedly after a random sweet memory strikes you. May you pass on to others some of the love he showed you day after day, year after year. Blessings sweet friend. 

Submitted by Inger Gibson on

I met Roger in 1990 at the travel agency when he was planning to take his new love, Kathleen Waton, to Hawaii to see the eclipse. Nothing was good enough for this lovely person whom I later got to know. After this trip he planned to take her to Cancun to get married. They were also going to learn to scuba dive and I offered up my then husband's diving equipment. That is how it all started and we became fast friends. Kathleen and Roger were meant to be, whether it was dancing to the YMCA at their home on Little Mountain after a fabulous dinner or coffee at Sunset at their house by the lake. 
We enjoyed so many wonderful times together. I was sad to see them move away to the sun, however understood their Wonderlust and curiosity about the world. They lived  life to the fullest! Roger and Kathleen, one of the few and lucky couples in this world. Love you always, Inger

Submitted by SALLY DIXON on

"Roger was a great guy." John Dixon

Kath, I am so sorry. I have thought of you guys so often through the years. Roger was always so fun to be around. Remembering his quick wit and sideways smile always makes me happy. I attribute my (late in coming) love of international travel to Roger. Whenever John and I travel I think of Roger and you. You both chuckled at me and my homebody ways but I suspect you both thought I would eventually come around. :)

There are no words to comfort your loss. How wonderful to have had such a great love. I wish you peace and happiness. 

Submitted by Dr. Sparkman Fe... on

I'd say Roger lived a full life from the little that I have read and heard of him. Kathleen, Im particularly fond of your newspaper story of how you two met.

It is also wonderful to learn of the wonderful times that you both shared. May he rest peceably...may God give you peace Kathleen.

"To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die"

Submitted by Judith on

I am so sorry to hear this news. I was Roger's sign lanaguge interpreter when he worked in Derby. A warm and gentle man, I always remembered him. My thoughts and virtual hugs to you, Kathleen.

Submitted by Geoff Minshull on

I was extremely sorry to hear about this. We met when we swopped jobs for a year, and I was lucky enough to work in Skagit Valley College, and live in Washington State. Roger got to work in Derby…. I always thought I got the better deal! We met again briefly back in the UK when you came over for a visit a few years later, and of course you and I, Kathleen, have often chatted on Facebook/Messenger. I was really upset when I heard the news – for Roger, obviously, but especially for you. Tragic though it is when someone dies, it is so, so hard for the person left behind. Nevertheless, you – as well as being an incredibly nice and kind person – are also very strong. There will be a hole in your life for many years. But you also have many years of happiness with Roger to look back on, and that is the important thing to focus on. What you had, rather than what you lost.

Submitted by Katherine Ferrante on

I am so sorry to hear of Roger's passing. We were lucky to have met him when you traveled the great loop. Our hearts go out to you. Gentle hugs from California

Submitted by Sue Torkildson on

Kath: What a loving eulougy for your soulmate, Roger. I remember meeting him over 20 years ago when you came to our house for a barbecue in Minnsota. Over the years, I came to know him through your eyes and loving words, and the fact that he made you so happy is a testament to what a wonderul man he was. May the memories  you have of your time together help you through this difficult period. You are in my heart always, my dear friend. Sue

Submitted by Susan Elizabeth... on

A special person to us who know him.What memory to share? Oh, yes, when I planned to meet Roger and Kath in Venice (Italy, not Florida!).  We had chosen a bar and time but they had kindly gone to my hotel (which I had already left) to surprise me so when we did not meet I was thinking: how on earth will we ever find eachother in this city. Then I saw them coming over the nearby bridge, smiling and waving - Roger was always a great navigator!

Submitted by Sue Mamalis on

Kathy, I am so sorry for your loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you and Roger's family. I only met Roger once and never knew what an amazing life he had. So many adventures and accomplishments. I thoroughly enjoyed reading his life story and the adventures you shared together. Take care of yourself and stay strong. Sue

Submitted by Andrea D'Ambros... on

Roger was one of a kind.  I have fond memories of Kath talking about how they met and all the wonderful travels and adventures they had together.  I was fortunate enough to spend time with them in a number of their many locations and enjoy their company over food and wine.  Here's a toast to Roger!  Much love,  Andrea

Submitted by Tamara Calandra on

My heart is heavy in the loss of this kind, gentle, funny and intellectual man who was such a pleasure to be around. The relationship between Kathleen and Roger was like none to which I've never been exposed - so very special... I loved witnessing their love for each other - and their adventurous lifestyle. One memory that always makes me smile and shake my head was when they were moving from the Pacific Northwest... They came over for dinner, and pulled into the drive in their "love" van. Inside was everything they were taking on their cross country journey, with a destination of New York City. The reasoned they'd be living in small quarters in the Big Apple, and didn't require much. This military spouse with children who had her share of moves, which included crates, moving trucks, storage, etc. was in awe. They had each other, and that was perfectly enough.

Fair winds and following seas, dear Roger...

My love and sympathy to you, Kathleen.

Submitted by Diane Morton on

Roger smiled with his eyes.  He knew when he was funny or cleaver and he loved watching your response. 

I have many fond memories but I am going to pick this one. Several Years ago on Thanksgiving I was being pitiful, lost and feeling sorry for myself. 
Roger and Kathleen invited me to come see them in Florida. That in and of itself would be wonderful but they also planned an entire vacation for three. We had Thanksgiving with Kathleen's family, then stayed in the Deco District of Miami and then went to the Everglades. My point being.......it takes two very special people to include a third wheel on a vacation while they help her laugh, ponder and renew. I am forever grateful. 

Submitted by Chuk Willy on

I met Roger twenty some years ago, and we've been good friends ever since. He's a great friend, and I learned a lot from him about a lot of things-including life! He always lived his life his own way....deciding to move to another part of the country and just doing it. Or deciding he wanted to go sailing-so he bought a boat and did it....Roger and Kath are the couple who made it look so easy to have a great pardner thru life...they lived it. When I was living in California and needed some expert help with a steam project I was building, Roger flew from South Florida to Northern California-helped me for a week, and wouldn't even let me help with the cost of his plane ticket. So many times he did the same thing...helping me with my various projects, contributing parts and expertise that I didn't have. Godspeed to you Roger-you are a great man and you leave us with great memories of good times spent with you and Kath!

Submitted by Kathleen on

Thank YOU Sommer for all your kindness and thoughtfulness to me during a very difficult time and in leading the efforts of our very giving community.

Submitted by Kathleen on

Dear Anne, I am feeling the love from family and dear friends like you. Thank you. 

Submitted by Kathleen on

Hi MaryAnn, we miss "tooting" up neighbors like you and your husband from our steam boat on High Falls Road. Keep walkin'!


Submitted by Kathleen on

Robin, thank you for your comforting words and beautiful imagery. We loved the drumbeat and the dance!


Submitted by Kathleen on

Marcia, when I heard Roger was the drawing instructor's pet I smiled and thought, oh, guess I'm not the only one who gazes with adoring eyes at Roger!

Thanks for sharing that memory.


Submitted by Kathleen on

Dear Kathleen G., I know you know the agony of loss and your journey back to joy inspires me.

Kathleen W.

Submitted by Kathleen on

Toni, the beautiful memories just hurt now but one day, one day, they will be a blessing.


Submitted by Kathleen on

Dear Laura, thank you for your comforting and beautiful words.


This Bahamian girl and my Ballard boy were very, very lucky to have met.

Submitted by Kathleen on

Dear Laura, thank you for your comforting and beautiful words.


This Bahamian girl and my Ballard boy were very, very lucky to have met.

Submitted by Kathleen on

Dear Inger,

Thank you for this memory. Roger was always fascinated by the celestial and now he is undoubtedly marching to his own drum again on his celestial journey.


Submitted by Kathleen on

Hi Sally,

I loved Roger's quick mind and wit too!

Glad that we inspired your wanderlust. 



Submitted by Kathleen on

Hi Sparkman,

I'm not a gambling gal, but I hit the jackpot when I ran that small personals ad in the Seattle Weekly in 1989 and got 30+ happy years.


Submitted by Kathleen on

Thanks for sharing that memory. I love the vision of you signing Roger's words. He was very articulate as I'm sure you are.


Submitted by Kathleen on

Hi Geoff,

Glad we've maintained our friendship after we "swapped lives" in 1994-1995. We think we got the best bargain!


Submitted by Kathleen on

Hi Kathie,

I have very fond memories of our girlhood friendship in the Bahamas and our renewal of our friendship when Roger and I were in NYC on our boat on "The Great Loop."


Submitted by Kathleen on


Thank you for that memory and our long friendship since college and journalism school.


Submitted by Kathleen on


Thank you for joining us on many of our international adventures and for that particular memory. Roger was quite proud of keeping his finger on the map and navigating those watery roads in Venice.


Submitted by Kathleen on


I am very grateful for the love and support of family in Florida.


Submitted by Kathleen on


As you say, he was one of a kind. My kind. Cheers, Roger!



Submitted by Kathleen on


Thank you for that tender memory. I always loved the "incredible lightness of being."

During all our moves, wanderings and journeys, I always said to Roger "wherever you are, I'm home."


Submitted by Kathleen on

Yes, Diane, I agree, it takes two very special people to love and support me now as a third wheel.


Submitted by Kathleen on


Thank you and Robin for calling me immediately when you found out. I heard the love and loss in your voices.

Thank you for these memories here too. You were good steam buddies!


Submitted by Cate & Al on

Kathleen:  We are so so sorry to hear of Roger's passing.  You and he had such a great love and adventurous life together.  You will miss him more than we can imagine but hang on to those memories.  You two were extremely blessed to have each other.  What an extraordinary life you shared.  You have been very strong for Roger these last years and we pray that you can stay strong for your self.  We certainly enjoyed being part of your life for a short time while you lived in High Falls, watching you two steaming around the lake.  Love and prayers to you Kathleen I am sorry that I didn't hear sooner.

Submitted by Lois Wilcox on

My heart goes out to you, Kathleen. I am so sorry for your loss. I met Roger only once when we gathered at my sister's home in Englewood. Roger charmed us all with stories of how you met and of your travel adventures and misadventures. I was further impressed after reading the obituary; Roger was an exceptional man and and I'm sure you have many treasured memories of your life together. 

Please be kind to yourself in the days ahead. 

Submitted by Steven and Paul... on

Before he entered Kathleen's life, Paula helped her craft the personal ad that led to their meeting, creating a forever connection to them as a couple. Visiting their home along the canal in Florida, Paula took morning coffee with them in the hot tub, as was their custom. Memorable enough, but made more so by the gator who dropped by for a visit! We often talk about the ride Roger gave us in his steamboat on the lake by their beautiful bungalow in Georgia. Over all the years we have followed Kath and Roger's cross-country and worldwide travels through photos and correspondence -- long before the advent of Facebook made sharing commonplace. Farewell, friend Roger. You sail on in our hearts.

Submitted by Beverly Kincaid on

I'll always remember Roger's sweet smile, the joyful gleam in his eyes, and his wonderful dry sense of humor.  Kath and I became good friends when we worked together in our 20s (first jobs); and though we lived in different places over most of our adult lives, we always kept in touch.  I knew when she met and married Roger that she'd found her soul mate.  Over the years, my husband and I enjoyed many short visits with Roger and Kath -- mostly in transit during their travels and ours.  But it was a wonderful coincidence to learn they were going to move to Venice about the same time we did in retirement, giving us a couple more years to visit more often prior to their move back to WA state.  It was always a joy to witness the love they had for each other.  One special day stands out -- when they took us out on the intercoastal in their boat...a brilliant sunny day on the sparkling water with Roger, a confident man of the sea at the wheel, his love by his side.  

Submitted by wcfadmin1964 on

Contributed on behalf of Norm Johnson:

Roger had such joy in life that his death hits hard. Lin and I feel the loss of this exceptional man and send healing thoughts and sympathy to Kathleen.

Roger found his perfect life partner in Kathleen. She and Roger traveled light and often. They collected great stories along the way which Roger could recount with great wit.

I admired Roger for many things - especially the engineering skills he applied to his many handbuilt projects; and I liked the way Roger enjoyed possessions, but never let them control him. Over the years he had sport cars, boats and properties, but he was always ready to leave them behind and move on to his next adventure.

Roger taught us to get the most out of this life with his own example. He used his time on this earth better than anyone I have known. I'll long remember him.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Finding out about Roger this way was difficult but I want to say I'm sorry for your loss and wish you all the peace and comfort possible at this time.

Submitted by Dan Gullickson on

A true renaissence man, who cast a giant shadow on all those who knew him.  Who would have thought at graduation from Ballard High School in "61" that he would achieve all that he did.  Roger lived a life that we all should aspire to.  He will be misssed. Rest well my friend.

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