Richard Dean (Dick) Branshaw was born Jan. 21, 1928, in Hoquiam, Wash., to Ulric and Sylvia N. Branshaw. Dick died peacefully at home surrounded by his loving family on Dec. 13, 2016. He was almost 89 years old.
Dick attended St. Mary’s Catholic School in Hoquiam for eight years. He held fond memories of the Sisters who taught him, especially after his parents divorced when he was nine years old. Other special childhood memories were attending YMCA and Boy Scout summer camp at Lake Quinault and hiking up Mt. Colonel Bob. He rode his bicycle to Tokeland to stay with his grandparents and each morning walked with his grandfather to the Nelson Cannery to start the boiler. He participated in all types of sports but liked basketball best. His father was in the Naval Reserve and took Dick and his brother to use the rifle range at their headquarters. Both boys became qualified marksman.
Dick’s mother remarried and the family moved to Tokeland in 1940. Dick stayed behind in Hoquiam with his fraternal grandmother, Marguerite LeVille, in order to graduate from St. Mary’s School. For spending money, he set pins at the bowling alley many nights.
He started high school at Ocosta and played basketball on the school team. Later, his family moved back to Hoquiam. Dick remained at the beach, living at several different places, including the Tokeland Hotel. Working in Nelson’s Cannery and peeling cascara bark provided income. After graduation in 1946, Dick joined the Navy and sailed aboard the USS Purdy.
In 1949, Dick married Lavon Ekman of Grayland at St. Mary’s Church in Hoquiam. The couple lived in Tokeland where he was employed as a commercial fisherman. With partner, Clarence Bushnell, they also built the Windward Café and Charter Service near the Tokeland dock. He took a job in Ketchikan, Alaska, thus began an annual trek north.
The couple soon purchased a small boat at an estate sale. With the help of his father-in-law, Emil Ekman, and brother-in-law, Chet Ekman, they rebuilt the vessel to use as a combination salmon and crab fishing boat. Dick was active in the Washington Crab Association and lobbied in Olympia to increase the tariff on imported crabmeat. The family grew to five children as he continued to fish seasonally in Alaska and upgrade the fishing vessels.
The family moved to Westport in 1962 and eventually purchased the old Anderson hunting lodge by the bay. Under the guidance of George Caldwell, he helped to build the Westport Little League field in the 1970’s and also coached baseball. For many years, he took along one of his three sons to fish in Alaska each summer. He gillnetted in Cooks Inlet, tendered for salmon and caught tanner and Dungeness crab in Prince William Sound. During most winters, he fished for crab off Grays Harbor or Oregon shores.
Fishing technology was constantly changing so in 1970, the couple decided to build a new boat at South Bend Boat Shop. It took nearly two years to construct the 58’ wooden “John David”. The launching was a memorable day for Dick.
When the children had all finished school, they moved to Cordova, Alaska. By then, they had constructed a new boat, “Shorty” and sold the “John David” to their oldest son, Tom. Dick was elected to the Cordova District Shellfish Board and held that position for several years. His last boat was built in Toledo, Ore. and named “Alaskan Swede”, honoring the family heritage and that great state.
The Exxon Valdez oil spill helped alter their plans, as oil and water do not mix. So in 1992, they moved back into the Westport home. He continued to fish part time until 2010, making his commercial fishing career span sixty-one years.
Dick and Lavon traveled to Mexico and other warmer climates for vacation. Dick took up bicycle riding and explored the Oregon coast to California, made several trips around the Olympic Peninsula loop and as far east as Missoula, Mont. The couple enjoyed camping in their small van and belonged to R-Troop Camping Club.
Dick was one of the founders of Fisherman and Friends, a group dedicated to helping families of fisherman in distress. A scholarship is given by the organization each year to a senior graduating from Ocosta High School. He was a member of Pioneers of Alaska Igloos #5 and joined the Elks and Moose Lodges and American Legion Post in Cordova.
Private graveside services will be concluded at the cemetery. A gathering of family and friends will be held at the Ocosta Recreation Hall on Jan. 15, 2017. Remembrances may be made to the Ocosta Foundation, Box 1851, Westport, WA 98595 or charity of your choice.
The family would like to extend a special thank you to Harbor Home Health and Hospice.
Survivors include his wife, Lavon of Westport and children Beth Branshaw (Steven Clark) of Elma, Jon Branshaw of Westport, Tom Branshaw (Denise) of Cordova, Alaska, and David Branshaw, Cordova, Alaska. A daughter, Randi Johnson, died in 2012.