Their dads pointed the way by example. That’s how several local men say they followed in the footsteps of their prominent fathers.
A farmer and a judge, owners of an Everett real estate firm, and the head of a coffee business, they could hardly be more different. They have in common deep admiration for their fathers.
At 76, Arthur Skotdal is no longer part of the day-to-day work at Skodal Real Estate. Retired, he visited the company’s 12th floor headquarters Thursday.
With a sweeping view of downtown, the son of Norwegian immigrants could see results of a career focused on his hometown: Library Place and the Aero Apartments are just two of many Skotdal developments.
“He sold the business to us,” said 48-year-old Andy Skotdal, who with his brother Craig Skotdal,45, owns the company. They run the business, which includes KRKO and KXA radio, from the Skotdal-owned Key Bank Tower on Colby Avenue.
“There weren’t a lot of properties when we were little kids,” said Andy Skotdal, who joined the business in 1994. “Dad would take us to the places where there were problems that needed to be fixed. On Saturdays, he’d say ‘Hey, we need to go pull weeds.’”
Andy Skotdal recalled one of his dad’s sayings, “Play it close to the belly,” and interpreted that to mean: “Whatever it is that you say you’re going to do, absolutely get that done. You don’t over-promise and under-deliver.”
He’s proud of how his father takes care of his health. “One of his unique super powers is his level of discipline,” Andy Skotdal said.
Craig Skotdal admires his father’s courage. “He started investing in downtown Everett at a time when many people thought it was dying,” he said. “I give him a ton of credit for taking risks, and applying massive effort to realize his vision.”
In business, “Dad has always been a tough negotiator,” Craig Skotdal said. “But once he makes a deal, he honors it. It doesn’t matter if it’s written on a napkin or on a 50-page contract.”
“I can’t ask for a better dad,” said Don Bailey, whose 92-year-old father, Cliff Bailey, has been a longtime Snohomish Valley farmer, state lawmaker and County Council member.
Don Bailey, 64, now oversees farm operations and runs a compost business. His older brother Dan still lives on the farm. Another brother, Dave, died several years ago. Don’s two daughters are the next generation of farmers, running Bailey Vegetables and an orchard.
“He was always very encouraging,” Don Bailey said of his father. When Cliff Bailey got into politics, he began “turning the reins over on the farm, so we could make our own mistakes.”
“Now I’m the old curmudgeon,” Don Bailey quipped. “You have to learn to listen to people, and he’s always done that.”
Much of the century-old Bailey Family Farm has been purchased by the nonprofit PCC Farmland Trust in an agreement to preserve agricultural land. Cliff Bailey and his wife, Rosemary, still live in their farmhouse.
A Republican, Cliff Bailey was elected to the first Snohomish County Council in 1980, represented the 39th District in the state Senate, and ran for county executive. “Bob Drewel beat him for county executive, but they were friends,” said Don Bailey, who has also been involved in civic life. He served on the Snohomish School Board and is chairman of the Marshland Flood Control District.
“He was a great role model, always positive,” Don Bailey said. “He always said, you have to do what’s right for the people of Snohomish County.”
Judge John Wilson
It wasn’t Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Joe Wilson’s lifelong goal to serve on the bench, like his father had.
“I had no idea what I was going to do with my life,” said Wilson. “I went to law school at the age of 30.”
His father, John Francis Wilson, died in 2002 at age 75. He was appointed to be a Snohomish County Superior Court judge in 1978 by then-Gov. Dixy Lee Ray. Joe Wilson, 58, was elected to the bench in 2009.
One of 10 siblings, Joe Wilson said he worked in a steel mill in Ballard, making crab pots, and did other work before attending law school at Gonzaga University, where his father had studied.
“It was always an opportunity because of his example,” he said.
His father, he said, “came from a very hard place.”
“He grew up in Hell’s Kitchen in New York. He didn’t graduate from high school,” he said. John Wilson was kicked out of the military, his son said, because he’d lied about his age to join. “He ended up in the Merchant Marines, that’s how he got to the West Coast,” Wilson said.
His father’s best advice? “Just try,” Wilson said. “Do the best you can with what you have. That’s a lot of the way he lived his life.”
Wilson and his late father are one of “four father-son duos” to have served as Snohomish County Superior Court judges.
Gregarious, a talker, “he enjoyed life,” Wilson said of his dad. “He had a lot of hardships,” among them the deaths of two sons. Despite that, his father was a man of faith. He approached life with the attitude that “there’s another day, just keep moving forward.”
In the courthouse, Wilson said, “I walk by his picture every morning, and when I go home. It’s a path I take.”
Howard S. Bargreen
Howie Bargreen, who heads Bargreen’s Coffee Company, claims his father “was a super salesman — and I’m not.”
Whether or not that’s so, the business has thrived in Everett for 120 years. The family also founded Crown Distributing Co., a beverage distributor, in the 1930s.
Howard S. Bargreen, a Democrat who served in the state House and state Senate, was 81 when he died in 1987. Howie Bargreen said his father’s father, Sam Bargreen, died in 1929. When “Grandpa Sam” died, Howie’s dad was a senior at the University of Washington. He made the Depression-era decision to come home, take over the business and help his mother.
The 1962 Seattle World’s Fair was a family highlight. Howard S. Bargreen had been on the 15-member commission that organized the Century 21 Exhibition. During the fair’s six-month run, he and his wife, Grace, moved their family to a Seattle apartment. They ran a concessions business at the fair, and Howie, then 17, had a job there.
His parents took their business on the road to the 1964 New York World’s Fair and in 1968 to HemisFair in San Antonio, Texas.
“His biggest talent was attracting good employees,” Bargreen said. One of them was Howie. Although he worked early on for defense companies in Los Angeles, he came home to Everett — like his father had done. “I tied in with my dad years ago,” he said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.