Ivan Lorraine Fox passed away peacefully surrounded by his family on March 10 in Seattle. Born in Prosser, Wash. on Nov. 14, 1918, Ivan was the second-oldest of eight children born of William and Dolly Fox.
He labored in the 3 C’s after high school and rode a steamship to Kodiak in 1941 to find work. In 1943, he returned to Seattle and volunteered for the Navy because the war was on. He served his country with distinction in the Merchant Marines delivering fuel to the troops in the South Pacific. He signed up for tanker duty on a floating bomb because they were paying an extra $10 a month, and it allowed him to send more home to his mother and siblings.
In 1944, he returned to Kodiak and found work on a fishing boat rowing a seine skiff before they had motors. In the summers of 1945-46 he skippered a wooden cannery tender, the San Antonio. In fall 1946 he took the job of cannery bookkeeper at San Juan Fishing and Packing Co., beginning his illustrious career in the salmon processing industry.
Ivan met Lillian “Jody” Joten in Ballard. They were married in October 1951 and were constant companions until the end. Over his 50 year career in the seafood industry with San Juan, NEFCO, Sea-Alaska, Ocean Beauty, Nelbro Packing, and Alaska General Seafoods he was responsible for salmon price negotiations and fleet management across the state of Alaska.
It is commonly said in Kodiak that Ivan Fox invented salmon. He was fondly known as Ivan Fish of The New England Fox Company (NEFCO) where he was the vice president of operations and superintendent of six processing plants in Alaska. He loved his work in the fishing industry so much he retired three times from various fish processing firms in Alaska before it finally stuck.
From his home base in Uganik Bay he witnessed the rise and fall of salmon traps. He was there when Alaska became the 49th state in the union and helped build the first salmon seine fleet and set gillnet fleets on the island before statehood. He and Jody founded MER Equipment in Seattle in 1964 to support the fishing fleet in Alaska.
Ivan was known as a tough negotiator but always respected for his fair bargaining practice. He mentored many of the top seafood plant managers in the state today and was instrumental in lending a helping hand to some of the top fishermen in the state getting them started in the business. He will be sorely missed by the processing community and the salmon fishing fleet alike.
Ivan had a great love of family, cooking, gardening, travel and beagles. He was successful in business, never compromising his integrity for advantage. His word was his bond, his handshake sealed many a million-dollar contract over a bar napkin. He was generous to a fault, more comfortable with the joy of giving than receiving. Ivan was always game for a friendly wager, one of his many ways of showing affection. He was a compassionate man with a quick wit and uncanny memory for all the people and events that made up his long and illustrious career. He was truly a legend in his time.
He is survived by his wife and love of 61 years, Jody Fox, his three children Christy (Robert) Allen, Mike (fiancé Judy Simon) & Steve Fox, grandchildren Tyler (Rachel) Allen, Ashley Allen, Chelsea, Savannah, Sean Fox, great grandchildren Ivan & Evelyn Allen, his youngest brother Mel Fox, many “adopted” sons and daughters, and Beagle Molly. He will be missed by all who knew and loved him. At Ivan’s request, in lieu of flowers, please make a donation to your local Salvation Army or the Seattle Fisherman’s Memorial in his name.