By: Katelyn Kinn

We, the Puget Soundkeeper family, are saddened to share that our longtime intrepid Boat Skipper, Paul Fredrickson, has passed on.

Paul died peacefully, surrounded by family in Seattle WA on January 13, 2020. Read his obituary here.

We miss Paul so much. While words will never do the man justice, we hope to honor his memory by sharing with you just a sliver about why he was so special to our team.

Paul found Puget Soundkeeper in 1999. He quickly became a mainstay volunteer and before long, he joined the staff. In true nonprofit style, he did a little bit of everything over the years, Paul’s key roles with Puget Soundkeeper included skippering the patrol boat for weekly pollution patrols on Elliott Bay and the Duwamish River, co-leading weekly kayak patrols on Lake Union, and supporting a wide range of clean water education and outreach efforts. Paul was always wholeheartedly supported in this work by his wife of 50 years, Adine, whose passed on in 2010, and his adult children Jan, Kirk and Krisa.

Anyone who has volunteered with Puget Soundkeeper or joined us for an event over the past two decades has likely met or rubbed elbows with Paul. He did everything and he was everywhere –always with his characteristic smirk, smile or chuckle.

At first brush, Paul’s personality was unassuming, edging on reserved – but he’d flash open like a sail on a windy day as soon as you got him talking about the Duwamish River or Lake Union. He was a wealth of local knowledge. He’d lived to see a few things, and we feel fortunate that he shared so generously of his experiences.

Paul had a golden sense of humor. And he had no trouble keeping those who followed him in age and experience “on our toes” – a gift which, of course, we returned in good fun. Paul was honest, and never hid his opinions. He was also a lifelong student, and savored learning something new each day. He modelled an epic work ethic, had the integrity of tungsten, lived each day inspiring everyone he met to dare catch his contagious zest for life.

We who worked closely with Paul will always remember his quick sarcasm, his homemade bagel chips, his downright stubborn dedication to hitting the water rain or shine, his love of Ivar’s chowder, and his endless compassion for protecting our waterways. When Paul wasn’t with the Puget Soundkeeper team, he would report that he was either paddling his kayak, walking through the arboretum or along a local shoreline, or swimming in Lake Washington (and he sported the tan to prove it).

Slowing down was never part of Paul’s plan. And that attitude kept him forever young. Remember that he classified his hard-working 20 year career with Soundkeeper as his retirement gig. After his second retirement from the Puget Soundkeeper staff in late 2018, Paul dove right into volunteering with the National Nordic Museum in Ballard, local Food Banks, and Seattle Parks. And he was active in recreation, social engagements, and civic contributions right up until the end.

Moving forward, we will see and remember Paul in every ripple of Lake Union, and every wave that hits the Puget Sound shores. We will laugh at ourselves and with each other, and remember that each moment of this life is meant to be loved. And whenever this work feels too hard, we will channel Paul, and we will zip up our foulies and suitcoats and persist without complaint because we know the goal is so very well worth it.


“Being a Soundkeeper was the most enjoyable and educational role my father ever played. It provided him not only with camaraderie and connection but also with a strong sense of purpose, especially after my mother passed away. Working with the dynamic team of Soundkeeper staff and volunteers helped keep my father energetic and in excellent health into his 80s”

            – Krisa Fredrickson, Paul’s Daughter

“Paul was a supremely competent, cheerful, and valued member of Soundkeeper for almost as long as I can remember. His quiet service for so many years was one of the reasons Soundkeeper has been so successful, and I miss him very much.”

            – Tom Putnam, Puget Soundkeeper Board of Directors

“I have always said, that when I grow up (I am 65 years old) I want to be like Paul and his wife Adine. They taught me that long after retirement I can volunteer, work and contribute to society in many ways that will enrich my life and contribute to the waters I love. I knew Paul for 20 years. I was always his boss, likely to his regret. But,we always had fun, whether I was docking the Soundkeeper boat and nearly knocking him in the water or we were rescuing the runabout boat “Gary” when we forgot to put in the drainage plug and it started sinking. We scared ourselves in high seas and strong river currents. Paul was a flirt, quick to blush and funny. And, being in the Coast Guard was one of the highlights of his life – he loved being on the water – and spite of our nagging he never once wore sunscreen. He skippered hundreds of boat trips up the Duwamish River and paddled endless hours on Lake Union and we never once lost a volunteer with Paul at the helm!  Puget Sound is a lot cleaner because of Paul.”

Sue Joerger, Puget Soundkeeper Staff Alumni

“Kathy and I have provided the Soundkeepers with a boat for patrols for 20 some years. Paul was the stalwart captain of the Soundkeeper boat for many of those years. He always cared for my boat and when he was done using it I always knew it was clean, full of fuel and safely put away. He became so trusted that he used the boat for pleasure on many occasions with my blessing, taking friends and family out for a boat ride on our great Puget Sound, which he so dearly loved to be on. I miss seeing him at the marina. I miss our talks about all sorts of things. And I miss my friend.”

Neal & Kathy Booth, Boat Insurance Agency, Inc.

“Paul was a stalwart ambassador for Puget Soundkeeper and a great Water Hero, doing so much of the of the day-to-day work with constituents and volunteers. He was always eager, whether it was tabling at a “marathon” boat show event, spreading the “clean boating gospel”,  kayaking in adverse weather (it was never too cold for Paul!), or making sure that each and every cleanup event was ready to go with enough grabbers, bags, gloves and volunteer sign-in forms. Paul was always, kind, gentle and humorous. He loved to tease people in his own most humble way, and his love of the water was contagious. Wherever he is, I am sure there is water everywhere and I am sure he is on it every day.  He has definitely earned that.”

          – Chris Wilke, former Puget Soundkeeper Executive Director

“Years ago, the Puget Soundkeeper office was on the 2nd floor of a building without an elevator, and Paul was handling all of Soundkeeper’s events. He would carry event supplies up and down those stairs like it wasn’t a big deal, and without complaint. You would never have known that he was doing this during the same time period he had his hip replaced! He’s always been there for every event, always helping. It’s going to be so hard not to see him at future events. He is greatly missed.”

Margy Wallace, Puget Soundkeeper Staff Alumni and Policy & Technical Committee Member

“Paul was the first person that I met at Puget Soundkeeper. I wanted to volunteer. It was January of 2004, and not many volunteers were clamoring/ wanting to go out on patrol so I got a call from Paul most Thursdays to see if I was willing to go out on Friday. We bonded immediately because we were both from Wisconsin. Paul taught me so much about the Duwamish River and we collected many bags of garbage in those days. But the biggest thing I learned from Paul was how to grow older. He had the most energy and physical stamina of any “retired” person I had ever met. Even in my 30’s it was hard to keep up with him. Paul didn’t know how to or want to ever slow down, and for this I respected and admired him. He defied the examples and definitions of aging that I knew, and he did so with an irreverence that made me respect him even more.

He was always giving his Puget Soundkeeper pals a “hard time” about something. With me, he teased me relentlessly about my stubbornness and opinionated personality. I loved every jab, and usually had one to give back to him. Paul was a big part of my Seattle family, and an anchor in my Seattle story. 

I can’t think of Soundkeeper without seeing Paul steering the boat in my mind’s eye. His love for the water, his passion for the mission, and his willingness to be a team player without ever wanting recognition made him a valuable and key employee for many years. We will miss him always.”

            – Erica Underwood, Puget Soundkeeper Staff Alumni

“I cherish the many hours I spent with Paul kayaking Puget Sound waterways, shine or especially rain. I still have a note from Paul pinned to my refrigerator admonishing me for cancelling a kayak event due to freezing conditions and high winds. While I’m not sure I’ll ever be as tough as Paul, he taught me many lessons about perseverance, not complaining, and enjoying every day. He is deeply missed.”

            – Kathryn Davis, Puget Soundkeeper Staff Alumni

“Paul had a youthful enthusiasm that he brought to work every day. From the smallest tasks (like building countless spill kits!) to long hours on patrol, Paul always showed up with a smile. He was almost always the first one at the office in the morning and motivated us to put on our rain coats and go patrol on even the rainiest days. His love for Puget Sound and the SoundKeeper community were unparalleled.

As someone who grew up on the water and spent my life working and playing on boats, I saw in Paul that same boyhood wonder and excitement I felt as a teenager every time we cast off the lines and got under way. Paul reminded me, in his own steadfast way, to keep that spark alive, that age is a state of mind and not a number.”

Andy Gregory, Puget Soundkeeper Staff Alumni