Obituaries » Alexander M Fisken

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Alexander M Fisken

February 22, 1948 - March 28, 2023

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Alec Fisken died at home in Seattle on March 28, surrounded by his family. The former Seattle Port
Commissioner was a fifth-generation Seattleite, born on February 22, 1948 to Elizabeth Fisken and Alec Fisken, Sr. in Longview, Washington.

Alec enjoyed a quintessential Pacific Northwest childhood. He grew up on Gravelly Lake near Tacoma,
skiing at Longmire on Mt. Rainier, playing on the beaches of Hood Canal, and taking epic sailing
adventures around Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands. He graduated from Charles Wright Academy and then studied history at Yale (BA 1971) and public finance at Harvard (MPA 1980).
A life of privilege was balanced by early jobs processing fish in Alaska, laboring at a sawmill in Enumclaw, driving trucks on the Seattle waterfront, and working in Sub-Saharan Africa for Operation Crossroads Africa, a forerunner of the Peace Corps.

Alec helped launch the Seattle Sun in 1974. Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Larry Roberts captures what it was like to work with Alec at the paper: “talk about miracles – the brainy group you assembled and inspired somehow willed a new publication into existence with meager human and material resources…We all contributed, but it was really your vision and calm self-deprecating leadership that made it happen. The Seattle Sun stood out from other city weeklies due to your insistence that it contain genuine community journalism instead of the polemical screeds that filled much of the alternative press. The Sun was really a public service. Seattle benefited, and so did all of us who were lucky enough to start out there, and lucky enough to work with you.”

Alec later worked in public finance as a banker and consultant before publishing The Marine Digest &
Transportation News for a decade beginning in 1989. He got involved in Seattle politics, running for City Council before being elected to the Seattle Port Commission from 2004-2008. Alec also worked for the City of Seattle: he directed the World Trade Organization Accountability Review Commission following the protests against the WTO in 1999 and served for seven years as a Strategic Policy Advisor regarding Seattle City Light’s finance, debt, and rate structure. He served on boards of local nonprofit organizations such as the Country Doctor Clinic, Evergreen Community Development Association, Environmental Works, Town Hall, and Sanctuary Arts Center.

On a blind date in 1988, Alec met his wife, Kathy McGinnis; they were smitten and married within
months. With their two children, Mac and Charlotte, they traveled, skied, hiked, sailed, and enjoyed
heated political debates.

Retirement allowed Alec to shift to scholarly pursuits. He traveled widely, learned new languages, and
published two books—one on how the perceived East-West divide negatively influenced U.S. foreign
policy and attitudes, the other a traveler’s guide to overlooked historic sites in Spain.
When cancer interrupted life, Alec met the challenge with grace. As one of his nurses remarked, “He
was the definition of humble, kind, and courteous. He always asked how I was doing and always checked in on me, which is not something I expect when my patients are going through treatment. Simply put, Alec is the reason I wanted to become a nurse and reminds me how beautiful life can be, in every aspect.”

Alec was preceded in death by his parents and two of his sisters, Marian and Elizabeth. He is survived by his wife and children, their partners, and a sister, Sarah Fisken.

Friends and family celebrated Alec’s life at a memorial in his beloved Washington Park Arboretum. In
lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be made to End of Life Washington or the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center, whose medical team led Alec through years of clinical trials and provided exceptional and humane care.