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