Peter G. Schmidt Jr., grandson of Olympia brewery founder, dies at 94

PGS and Elva Schmidt

Peter and Elva Schmidt

Peter G. Schmidt Jr., grandson of the founder of the Olympia Brewery, died Feb. 4. He was 94.

Schmidt was born Dec. 3, 1921, in the historic Schmidt Mansion in Tumwater. He was the youngest of Peter Schmidt Sr.’s five children and the first boy.

Although he grew up with the brewery motto, “It’s the Water,” it wasn’t Tumwater’s artesian wells that attracted him as much as it was the saltwater nearby. When he was 12, he built his first sailboat on the shores of Budd Inlet, where his family had a summer camp. He remained passionately involved with maritime pursuits personally and professionally his whole life.

After graduating from Olympia High School, he went to the University of Washington to study engineering. He met his future wife, Elva Mary Ingalls, at a fraternity dance there. With the advent of World War II, he joined the Navy and was a junior officer aboard the USS Trinity, which served as an oiler in the South Pacific.

After the war, Schmidt graduated from the UW, married Ingalls, and together they left for the University of Michigan, where he earned a master’s degree in naval architecture and marine engineering.

Schmidt returned to Seattle and in 1953 opened MARCO shipyard on the Ship Canal.

“MARCO is a loose acronym for Marine Construction & Design Company,” said longtime personal assistant Bobbi Miles. “He wanted to bring steel-hulled vessels to the Alaska fisheries.”

The shipyard closed in 2007 after decades of producing boats for many kinds of fisheries. One famous boat, the Northwestern, was made popular in the cable TV show, “The Deadliest Catch.”

But it wasn’t just the boats that made a name for MARCO shipyard. Early on, Mario Puretic brought his invention of the Power Block to Schmidt, who used it to effectively mechanize fishing around the world. The Power Block allows mechanized hoisting of nets.

Schmidt and MARCO were invited to Chile, and the family moved there to open a shipyard and operate a fishing fleet and processing plants. Son Hans Schmidt remains in Chile running MARCO operations there.

The family returned to Seattle during the Alaska king crab boom and designed and built ships for the Alaska fishery.

Schmidt was instrumental in the Olympia Tumwater Foundation created by his father. The foundation maintains the family home in Tumwater, said executive director John Freedman.

“He was on our board of directors of the foundation from its beginning in 1950,” Freedman said. “He remained very active.”

In a talk, “Growing up in Tumwater: Memories of Childhood during Prohibition and the Great Depression Years of the 1930s,” Schmidt recalled the expansive lawns and gardens at the family home. With the poor economy, it was necessary to let the gardener go, so the children were responsible for mowing lawns and sweeping leaves. “I sort of enjoyed mowing the lawns, and later, in 1934, when the new brewery opened, I would go over and mow that lawn as well until, at age 15, I started working in the brewery full time during the summers.”

Schmidt also recalled the changing waterfront, with its mud flats, and camping as a Boy Scout at Millersylvania State Park.

His daughter Janet Mano recalls how passionate her father remained throughout his life about the beauty of Puget Sound — the South Sound in particular.

“He wondered why it was such a big deal cruising in the San Juans when it’s so gorgeous in the South Sound,” Mano said. “In the last decade or so when they (her parents) would cruise, they didn’t go north, they’d go south, and explore again all the coves and inlets.”

Schmidt was a charter member of the Corinthian Yacht Club and a member of the Seattle Yacht Club. He and his crew raced sailboats and twice sailed the Los Angeles-to-Hawaii TransPac.

Mano also recalled her parents’ passion for the beauty of the Northwest.

“In recent years, when we would walk in the woods, or a park, you could hardly go more than a few hundred yards because they’d just have to stop and admire the trees, the bark, the undergrowth,” she said.

Mano said her father appreciated nature from his industrial perspective, while her mother, who was an art major and a musician, looked at nature with an artistic eye.

They had been married almost 70 years when Elva Mary died in January 2015. Schmidt is survived by daughters Mimi (and Ken) Fielding, Jill (and Michael) Crowson, Janet (and Jim) Mano, and son Hans (and Neysmi) Schmidt, as well as 13 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his son Peter Leopold.

The family has not finalized service arrangements.

Jerre Redecker: 360-754-5422,  jredecker@theolympian.com

 

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