Islander Profile: Joost Businger

On a calm clear March day, above Square Harbor, on Guemes Island, a soft spoken, silver haired 80 year old man observes the cloud distribution and relishes the reflection of the mountains in Puget Sound. He finds it reminiscent of the rare summer like days in Holland where he was born. In his homeland, at the age of 11, he asked himself why these rare summer-like March days occurred. A lifetime later he is still looking for answers to questions about global weather, and what causes it to change.

He received his Ph.D. in atmospheric science in his homeland, the Netherlands. He knew he wanted to do research on this subject and realized there were no programs for this in his native country. He sent out letters of inquiry to six universities in the USA. In 1956 he was hired at University of Wisconsin. His job there had a two year duration.

While at a meeting in Toronto, Canada Joost spoke with a colleague from University of Washington, who invited him to visit. His first introduction to Washington, in January of 1958, was pleasurable. It was a mild, rainy, winter day and it reminded him of both Holland and Switzerland. He started teaching at University of Washington that same year.

Joost took an early retirement from University of Washington in 1983. He then spent the next 6 years at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, finally retiring in 1989. Today he consults with his son Steven on hurricanes and still maintains contacts in the field. Another current project is studying coastal fogs in California.

Joost Businger was presented with the 2003 Vilhelm Bjerkness Medal by the European Geophysical Society in Nice, France. In 2001 he was elected to the National Academy of engineers. Two honors, of many, that recognize his 50 year career in research, teaching, and publication. He credits “luck” and says that awards like these are equivalent to “a hole in one” in golf. Rare for even the most avid golfer. He says “The pieces of work that I was most proud of never received an award.”

A favorite adventure occurs shortly before he comes to the US in February 1956. He has the opportunity to participated in The Great Dutch Ice Skating Marathon, This national event is held on a patchwork of frozen canals, lakes and rivers that thread through the province's 11 ancient port cities. The competition has occurred only 15 times since its inception in 1909, as the entire region must transform into a giant ice cube, a long shot even in this northern locale. The 124 mile course winds through breath -taking scenery and requires tremendous endurance. The last time this event took place was January 1997 and its anyone’s guess when the next one will be held.

His son Ferdi, at 23 years old, was the first in the family to discover Guemes Island, in the early 70’s. Ferdi found property for sale on Homestead Lane. He bought this land and along with his father made plans to develop it. Joost enjoyed his weekends on Guemes. During these weekends he helped Ferdi clear the land and build the log cabin that still sits there today. This set a precedent for future small, environmentally friendly, dwellings on acreage for both father and son.

Joost spends part of his days studying, reading, and researching. He loves to be outdoors grooming walking trails and maintaining his road. There is always firewood to put up. He enjoys the game of tennis, plays often, and would welcome new comers He travels extensively and still skis cross-country. {Most recently at Winthrop} He spends his days with Marianne watching the eagles soar and waiting for the falcons to fledge the nest.

Joost, along with Marianne, inspired many of us to model our small piece of paradise after their Square Harbor home. They teach us, by their example, their love for Guemes. Like the rare amber agate found on our beaches they are truly treasured gems of Guemes.

by MJ Andrak

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