Remembering Tim Rosenhan

Tim Rosenhan passed away suddenly on Saturday, October 24, 2015. In typical fashion, he was helping friends. Tim, along with his second life mate Cheryl Willis, had gone to Twisp to help clean up the remains of a friend’s home lost to the terrible fires that swept through the Methow Valley last summer. He had been working with a chain saw and collapsed on a break for a glass of water.

In 1929, Tim Rosenhan’s great grandfather, Mount Vernon Fire Chief Joseph Schlanser, bought property on Guemes Island’s West Beach. This is where Tim spent many summers growing up. Bubbles (it was Bubbles in those days, One Bubble came later) was an early influence with her lore and sea adventures to Alaska. In later years, the Guemes cabin, every Memorial Day, hosted Tim’s creation, the Guemes Games. The Games, with a different theme each year, witnessed everything from grape eating Roman emperors to outlandish extra-terrestrials.

Tim attended Mount Vernon High School and was raised primarily by his grandmother. He had no siblings. One fateful day in his senior year, he and high school chum (and now life-long friend) Hal Brookins, loaded into his grandmother’s 1951 Buick Roadmaster to sit for the ROTC exam in Bellingham. It was snowing heavily and they went off the road at a high point on 99, (I-5 had yet to be constructed). A tow truck got them back on the road, but they arrived at the exam 15 minutes late. The test administrator was good enough to let them sit for the exam. Tim displaying unflappable concentration, a hallmark of his intellect, aced the exam and won a Scoup Jackson ROTC full scholarship choosing Dartmouth where he graduated with a degree in Engineering. He went into the Marines after Dartmouth rather than the previously planned Navy so he could learn to fly. He became a Marine flight instructor flying the Marine version of the A-4. This flight experience led to later work with the Seattle firm of Reid Middleton Inc., as an airport planner. He was responsible for revamping the Friday Harbor runway and the design of its new terminal among other projects.

Out of the Marines, Tim remained on the East Coast working for a firm that restored 18th century homes. This work sparked his interest in architecture so he applied to a number of schools and graduated with a masters in architecture from the University of Oregon. After returning to Skagit Valley, he took a position with Skagit Self-Help Housing. While there, he developed an affordable farmhouse design. Years later Mike Hardy was looking for a design for his Guemes land. Tim gave him the farm house plans. It’s the yellow house in the middle of the island set back to the west of Guemes Island Road next to the land occupied by the Guemes Island Fire Department.

In 1972, in the Silver Spoon in Duval he met Kristi Francis and they became life mates until her death from cancer in 2001. He cared for Kristi’s daughters Kari and Rosalyn “Tweety” as his own including their subsequent offspring. Tim’s interests and endeavors were encyclopedic as was his boundless intellect. He graduated to sailing from the world of small home built hydro-planes which often rooster tailed along West Beach in his earlier years.

In 1979, graduating up from a Ranger 26, he purchased Glory, a 41 ft. Choey Lee built sloop. With Kristi and family he spent many summers cruising the San Juans and further north maybe with the echoes of Bubble’s adventures resonating from his early years.

Some twenty years ago, Tim started Innova Kayaks, the sole North American distributor for inflatable kayaks manufactured in the Czech Republic. Through creative advertising placed in a wide range of publications including the New Yorker, he created a significant brand for these inflatables.

In 1990 Tim was heavily involved in the seawater intrusion problems which beset the northern part of Guemes Island. (He also weighed in against the proposed Nori Farm off North Beach and with authority against the noise when the Navy changed their jet fighter flight training patterns to directly over Guemes.) His work, along with that of John Oldow and Steve Orsini, through a study comparing current day isotope of oxygen in water with that of ice age water, proved that the island’s sole source of water came from rainwater and not from theorized trapped ice age water in its aquifers. He was a member of the Guemes Island Environmental Trust which, through the diligent work of Marianna Kooiman, led to the USGS Hyrdrogeologic Study of Guemes published in 1994. He was also an original member of GIPAC, the Guemes Island Planning and Advisory Committee, formed as a result of the passage of the Growth Management Act. He wrote many letters and appeals to Skagit County Health and the Skagit County Board of County Commissioners in the effort to adopt a seawater intrusion policy for Guemes which would protect senior water rights holders from the loss of their potable water.

The dedication to planning was an outcrop of Tim’s relentlessly rational approach to problems. Tim was opposed to the expansion of hours on the Guemes Island Ferry in 2006 as the County had never completed a Seawater Intrusion Policy for Guemes.

Tim Rosenhan displays his subtle characterization of Commissioner Don Munks' decision making.

Photo: Win Anderson

The development of the Seawater Intrusion Policy had ceased with the Interim Seawater Intrusion Policy adopted in 1994, which maintained well drilling on the island as a mandate to issuance of a building permit. Expanding the hours of the ferry operation on Monday through Thursday to 10:00 pm was championed by then County Commissioner Don Munks. He supported the concept of “… opening up the Island to all residents of Skagit County” that was promoted in the real estate frenzy of that time. Tim was against the increased operating hours not only from the standpoint that it fit no overall plan for the island’s development but that it would increase the costs of operating the ferry without a concomitant increase in revenue, a prediction that holds true today. After getting nowhere with Commissioner Don Munks, Tim came up with the famous slogan of “Stop Donzilla” showing a fire breathing monster the size of Godzilla blasting the hapless island.

His involvement in land issues for the greater good of Skagit County led to his tireless participation in Envision Skagit 2060, a broad 50 year plan for the County. He was also a member of Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland, the Washington State Boundary Review Board for Skagit County, the Anacortes Community Tesoro Advisory Group, a board member of the Skagit Airport Support Organization and a co-founder of the Samish Island Acres Community Garden.

Yet Rosenhan never lost contact with his home on Guemes or its issues, especially with the Ferry. He calculated that the proposed creation of a Ferry District for Guemes based on the proposed tax rate would cost him an extra $20.00 for each trip he averaged over a year.

In the spirit of Guemes, Rosenhan was comfortable chain sawing firewood in the day and reading the New York Times book reviews at night. His interests in addition to sailing, flight, land use, ferries and planning included the best in literature, motorcycle adventures with long time friends, and the ability to maintain an array of broken machinery- which describes his automobiles. The VW Quatro, three at last count, has lost a great aficionado.

He quite loved the iPad that Cheryl gave him and was distraught when its screen was inadvertently broken. Tim, ever the parsimonious fix-it man, rather than take the slightly more expensive route of replacing the entire unit, somehow found and ordered a replacement screen. The repair turned into a battle to remove the old screen. At one point, he attacked the case with a heat gun working on the theory of differential expansion to pop out the broken screen, not an approach ever envisioned by Apple. He did get the broken screen out but admitted, in a rare moment in his handy-man career, that purchase of a new unit would have been more efficacious.

It was not only broken machinery, but the mangled machinations of government, that Tim, with masterful rationality, could diagnose. We will miss his Renaissance-man array of talents most severely.

A Celebration of Tim’s Life will be Saturday, November 7 at 1 pm at the Heritage Flight Museum, 15053 Crosswinds Drive, Burlington, WA. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be given to the Heritage Flight Museum, Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland or the Samish Island Community Garden, PO 334, Bow, WA 98232.

Tim Rosenhan was a vital part of from the beginning. We are having great difficulty summing up in a few words just how valued that participation was. Tim could find the heart of an issue quickly, although he might go on at length about it. He helped us work out policies and practices, find our focus on complex issues, sometimes talking us down off the ledge onto a much more productive path, always with a subtle good humor. He was our researcher, commentator, advisor, co-conspirator and, above all, our friend. We miss him already.

A sample of Tim's postings:

Water, Water Everywhere 

Donzilla Retreats! 

Paraguay Has Better Government

The Terminal Tab

The Ghost Ship

Don’t Kill FGI!

Dead Ferries Walking

Weighting For The Ferry

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