In memory of my father-in-law:

Byron Morris Fish

Free At Last

His Mark


Born 12 August 1908 at home in Glendora,
California, to Walter Edwin Fish and
Sara Ina (Morris) Fish.

Died 7 March 1996 at his home in
Normandy park, Wahington.

He is survived by his wife of twenty-nine years,
Katherine "Kay" Fish, three daughters
Cathy Johnson, Susan Sheldon and Margaret Tompkins
and three sons, Brett, Troy and Corey,

as well as eight grandchildren
and four great grandchildren.

By Fish

"When your family gets bigger, instead of dividing
your love you multiply it."


Byron Morris Fish was born 12 August 1908 to Walter Edwin Fish and Sara Ina Morris in Glendora, California. In 1910, the family moved to Seattle and settled in the Bitter Lake area, where Walter's brothers operated the Fish Brothers Queen City Poultry Farms. He had one brother, Glenn, 1912-1977.

Byron attended Ballard High School where he won the American Boy Journalism Contest in 1926. He said, "I turned pro at age 16." After completeing high scholl he enrolled at the University of Washington. He worked his way through college, delivering ice while studying journalism. This job took him to many back doors in Prohibition era Seattle, giving him a more "street-wise" view of the city.

He graduated in 1933 with his degree in journalism, having worked at the U of W Daily staff. At the Daily, his sense of humor and tendency to enjoy skewering "sacred cows" earned him considerable irritation from University authorities but hearty approval from the Dean of Journalism. He loved footrball but wasn't big enough for the first string. He remained an ardent Husky football fan throughout his life.

During the 1930's, he worked a variety of jobs including scripting rof radio stations KJR and KOMO. In 1938, he bought the woodland property in Normandy park which would be his home for the rest of his life. At this time he also took a job at Boeing, in publications. Many of his lifelong friends were artists and writers who worked with him there. He always spoke fondly of the "gang of nuts" in his department, which produced the Boeing News.

The Boeing job allowed him to obtain a bank loan to build his house. He served as his own contractor and also did a great deal of the carpentry himself, having learned from his father.



He married Betty Bloom in 1939. They moved from Ballard to his new place in the woods. Betty died of cancer five years later, as WWII was approaching its end.

About this time he began to paint. Byron had been an active cartoonist through his college days, doing his own artwork for many articles. His paintings followed his cartoon style and were satirical, whimsical or deliberately bizarre. One, titled Blue Plate Special, was a send-up of the Surrealists. It depicted a hot water bottle on a platter, prepared as a Thanksgiving turkey. Others were of outlandish creatures reported by "reliable witnesses" among loggers. His best known painting, Free At Last, was done in 1946.

After Betty's death in 1946, he ran into a friend who was in charge of signing on seamen for the Merchant Marine. Owing to his recent tragedy, Byron wanted a change of scene. His friend quickly obtained seaman's papers for him. He resigned at Boeing and shipped out as a purser. Byron's 18-month Merchant Marine tour took him to Singapore, Shanghai, the coast of Africa and postwar Italy.

In 1947, he married Laurie Wyman, who had worked on the Boeing staff. They were married for 18 years and had three sons, Brett, Troy and Corey. He made a commitment to remaining a freelancer, a decision which was to shape the rest of his life. He wrote for the Seattle Times and national publications. As his success grew, he became a monthly contributor to The Family Circle. His work appeared in Look, Life, Esquire and Reader's Digest. He was a charter member of the Society of American Travel Writers. World travel and travel articles were a major part of his life.

His books include Elephant Tramp and a series of "This is..." books done in collaboration with photographers Bob & Ira Spring. This Is Washington was the best known of these.



In 1966 he married Katherine Byars, Bob and Ira Spring's sister, with whom he would spend the rest of his life. They traveled extensively together around the globe and took many trips to Alaska in the course of doing public relations work for Alaska Airlines. Eskimo Boy Today was one result of their involvement with Alaska.

Byron's success was unusual for his time, because very few writers were able to remain self-employed. While he had an irreverent sense of humor about many things, he took deadlines and commitments extremely seriously. He was often retained by national publications specifically because of his freelance status, which made him unbiased.

He was never really "retired," but continued to work well into his eighties, still doing a monthly column for the Homeowners' Club and editing books for Alaska Northwest publishing. He taught journalism at Seatle University for a while. He was always willing to help younger writers along their path. He once expressed that the satisfaction of being a teacher came when the student didn't need you any more. Only failing eyesight finally stopped him from writing.

He loved the outdoors and was instrumental in several conservation efforts. His sense of humor pervaded almost everything he did. Even in his bouts of ill heralth, doctors and nurses were likely to find they were being "kidded" as aften as not. He always enjoyed playing with word sounds and meanings. Those who knew him were regularly subjected to puns with innocent sounding lead-ins. In idle moments, he was likely to be composing humerous limericks.


Publication highlights
Boeing News
Seattle Times
Family Circle
Homeowners' Club
Reader's Digest
Look
Life
Esquire
Saturday Evening Post
New York Herald Tribune
Ford Times
Shoreline Memories
Rand McNally

Radio
KOMO, KJR

Books
Elephant Tramp
I Loved Rogues
Washington, Oregon, Alaska
Eskimo Boy Today
60 Unbeaten Paths
Guidebook to Puget Sound
Adventures on Puget Sound
Lookouts
Columbia River
and many others

Byron's "many hats"
Journalist
Columnist
Editor
Travel Writer
Travel Editor
Editor In Chief
Author
Professor
Artist
Councilman
Mayor
War Correspondent
Cartoonist
Humorist
World Traveler
Freelance Writer
Conservationist


To Family:
"A.K.A."

Son, Brother, Husband,
Brother-In-Law, Cousin,
Dad, Uncle, Great-Uncle,
Father-In-Law,
Son-In-Law, Grandpa,
Great Grandpa


Text prepared by his three sons


More information about By and his works
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