BLYN — Nearly a year after Kurt Grinnell’s unexpected death, Jaiden Grinnell Bosick reflects on the impact her father’s life and legacy had on the aquaculture community and the Olympic Peninsula as a whole.
“We, as his family, knew he was an incredible human being — one of those genuine people who can touch a crowd,” said Jaiden, from her home in Kenai, Alaska, in early April.
“It has been a huge part of our grief process to know that other people recognized that.”
Jaiden will lead the scholarship selection committee on behalf of the Grinnell family for the Kurt Grinnell Aquaculture Scholarship Foundation, a nonprofit that recently earned its 501(c)(3) status.
The organization can now accept tax-deductible donations to help pay for two scholarships annually to either tribal (U.S.) or First Nation (Canada) members seeking education for careers in aquaculture or a closely related field at either a technical school, community college or university.
“Kurt’s vision — which the foundation intends to keep alive — was to help bring more indigenous people into aquaculture as a way to assure tribal and First Nation food security and food sovereignty now and for future generations,” said Jim Parsons, a longtime friend and business partner of Kurt Grinnell’s and a key player in the creation of the foundation.
Parsons is the CEO of Jamestown Seafood, a company Kurt and his wife, Terri, started.
Kurt Grinnell, a longtime Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Council member, a fisheries and aquaculture expert with deep family roots on the North Olympic Peninsula, died in a single-vehicle crash on April 20, 2021.
Since then, friends, family and colleagues have rallied to honor him.
Soon after his death, the foundation was formed.
“Everyone who worked with Kurt … had incredibly high regard for him,” said John Dentler, a retired aquaculture industry executive who now serves as the foundation’s president and treasurer.
He was also a close friend of Kurt and Terri Grinnell.
“We were of course were grief-stricken [about his passing],” Dentler said. “We needed some place to put that grief. It really felt like a foundation was a good way to do that.”
The IRS-recognized nonprofit status also allows the foundation to get the proverbial foot in the door for certain grants, Dentler noted.
The scholarships would be $5,000 per year, Dentler said, and if enough funds come in, the foundation would like to do more.
“We hope to have enough funds that, if we see a situation, that a good applicant seems to have promise, maybe we have three [scholarships],” he said.
Dentler said this scholarship could be a key financial piece for youths in smaller communities.
“You look at where the jobs have grown in Washington — it’s Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond, it’s the large cities,” he said. “Those jobs through aquaculture are in the rural environment, where they are desperately needed.
Jaiden said her father was a strong advocate for providing for family for future generations, to at least the seventh generation.
She noted she is the seventh generation from S’Klallam chief Chetzemoka, the influential tribal leader who earned great respect for his decision to not pursue more violence during the 1855-56 Indian Wars.
“The decisions he made when to peace over war led to me,” Jaiden said. “That’s what my dad firmly believed in, especially food stability.
“We all grew up hearing stories about how you could walk [across rivers] on the backs of fish; it’s just a different world today. We want to keep as much of that [food stability] as possible alive, through that seventh generation,” she continued.
“This, I think, is going to be very important for our future.”
Applicants may not be interested in specific aspects of aquaculture, but it could be a young man or woman who likes to be outside and is searching for a career.
“Aquaculture is a great way to do that,” Jaiden said.
Jaiden, who works in Kenai as a commercial fisher in Alaska, will lead the foundation’s scholarship selection committee.
Dentler said applicants would have to show how they have been involved with their tribe (or First Nation) and how they see aquaculture benefiting their community.
“My dad was a hard worker — he appreciated hard work,” Jaiden said. “Most of people who apply will embody the values he appreciated.
“Personally [I’m looking for] people who are looking ahead, looking beyond themselves.”
Foundation representatives announced inaugural officers and directors in early April.
Along with Dentler, the vice president is Levana Mastrangelo, First Nations Relations Coordinator for CERMAQ Canada, who also serves as a director on the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ (Ucluelet First Nation) Holdings for Economic Development, as well as secretary Jeanne McKnight, executive director of the Northwest Aquaculture Alliance — where she worked closely with Kurt Grinnell in his role as vice president and aquaculture spokesperson.
Other board members include Parsons, who also serves as NWAA board president; Wally Pereyra, an Alaska seafood industry executive, principal of Paraiso Springs Tilapia (Guatemala) and NWAA board member, Wally Pereyra, Ph.D., chairman of the Arctic Storm Management Group and ProFish International and NWAA board member; Dick Jones, CEO of Blue Ocean Mariculture in Kona, Hawaii, and NWAA treasurer; Rick Goetz, Ph.D., former Marine Fish and Shellfish Biology Program manager at NOAA Fisheries (now retired); and Paul Zajicek, executive director of the National Aquaculture Association, where Kurt served as a member.
One of the foundation’s first major donation of sorts came through another longtime S’Klallam colleague, artist Bud Turner, who donated his talents to create the foundation logo.
“It was very apparent how much heart Bud had put into the design, right down to the colors,” Jaiden said.
“He knew that our family animal was a wolf.
“[And] normally orca do not have a visible tongue. He added a tongue because my dad was such a terrific orator.
“It was very apparent this project really moved him; it’s so appreciated [by] my family.”
Jaiden said her father would be awestruck by the outpouring of effort and care his friends and colleagues are taking to continue his legacy of community.
“Humbled and proud; he was just such a humble, humble man,” Jaiden said. “He [worked hard] for the sake of it being completed, and was really truly was a person who wanted to better the world around him.”
For more information or to donate to the Kurt Grinnell Aquaculture Scholarship Foundation, visit kurtgrinnellscholarship.org.
Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.