By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist
Gary Casperson loved life on the water. He loved boats and people. For a man with those interests, he had the perfect job.
The Everett native was captain of the Guemes Island ferry for 14 years. A 1964 Everett High School graduate, he had also been harbormaster for the Port of Anacortes. Casperson died of cancer in 2006. He was 60.
“Everybody loved Gary,” said Nancy Agerup, Casperson’s sister. “He was very, very outgoing.”
Now, in an everlasting tribute, a rocky point on Guemes Island has been renamed in Casperson’s honor.
In the 1970s, Casperson and his wife settled on Guemes Island property overlooking Southeast Point. Anne Casperson still lives in their home overlooking Padilla Bay and Saddlebag and Hat islands.
On July 2, the state’s Board of Geographic Names acted on a proposal backed by 600 signatures, and changed Southeast Point to Casperson Point.
“It’s a wonderful tribute to him, a great honor,” said Anne Casperson, who had known her husband since childhood in Everett.
From her home, she sees Guemes Channel, where Gary Casperson piloted the 120-foot MV Guemes from Anacortes to the island. Anne Casperson said if someone missed the last ferry, her husband sometimes offered a ride in his small boat. “He just loved people, and people loved him,” she said.
The ferry, which can carry 21 cars and 99 passengers on its short run, is operated by Skagit County Public Works. Guemes Island has about 800 year-round residents, a number that doubles in summer, said Rachel Beck, Skagit County’s ferry operations division manager.
Casperson Point is now part of official data for all Washington state maps and publications, said Caleb Maki, executive secretary of the state’s committee on geographic names, which sends such requests to the state Board of Geographic Names.
Maki said Tuesday that the state board has forwarded the Casperson Point change to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. He expects it to be on a federal docket within a few months.
If it clears that hurdle, Casperson Point will be in a database used for commercial maps including Google Earth, Maki said.
The hundreds of signatures gathered in favor of Casperson Point were “definitely a record for positive support,” Maki said. The only other times he has seen so many signatures were in opposition to name changes.
Casperson Point supporters followed state and federal rules requiring five years to pass after a person’s death for a geographic site to be named after them, Maki said.
Howard Pellett, of the Guemes Island Property Owners Association, was instrumental in bringing the Casperson Point proposal to the state. Supporters acted on an idea originated by Win Anderson, a Guemes Island historian and former editor and publisher of The Evening Star newspaper. Today, the island’s paper, with Edith Walden as editor-in-chief, is called The Guemes Tide.
Casperson was “a real gentleman, a genuinely nice person,” said Pellett, who was once invited by the ferry captain to have a peek at the wheelhouse. At island events and in the ferry line, it wasn’t hard to gather all those signatures, Pellett said. His wife Carol Pellett, Walden and others brought the request to Olympia.
Gary and Anne Casperson were Everett High School sweethearts, pictured in the 1964 Nesika yearbook as a “Cupid’s Couple.” They were married in Europe in 1976, and worked for the United Nations before moving to Guemes Island in 1978.
Anne Casperson said her husband’s father and brother were longshoremen on the Everett waterfront. Life on the water “was a dream of his,” she said.
Agerup, who lives in Everett, remembers a moving tribute just before her brother died. “The ferry came to the point, with some of the guys on it, and tooted the horn. I’ll never forget it,” she said.
Now it’s Casperson Point, a place honoring a man’s life and his dream.
“It’s really something special,” Agerup said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.