February 1, 2013
Seattle structural engineer Robert J. Fossatti died Jan. 22 at his vacation home in Ronald. He was 76.
He had a long career in the Seattle area, most recently at Fossatti Pawlak Structural Engineers, where he was a consultant and on the board of directors.
Mark LaCasse, a partner in the firm, said a number of structural engineers contacted him after Fossatti's death to talk about his kindness when they were “trying to learn the ropes.”
“There were probably 20 employees that Bob mentored over the years that ended up starting their own firms,” said LaCasse. “It's a pretty amazing legacy of people.”
Arun Bhagat is one of those people.
Bhagat founded AKB Engineers in 1984 after working with Fossatti and Dean Ratti at Ratti/Fossatti.
“The best thing I learned from Bob and Dean both was they always made a complicated problem into an easy problem,” Bhagat said.
The men also impressed him with their work ethic, he said.
“They were really particular,” he said, checking the work of other engineers and coming into the office on Saturdays.
Their dedication “gave me the basics of what it takes to have your own company,” he said.
Fossatti, or “Babbo” as his friends and family called him, was a lifelong Seattle resident.
He attended Cleveland High School and graduated from the University of Washington's School of Engineering in 1958. He was an officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and later joined the firm of Olsen/Ratti.
He rose to partner, and in 1977 the firm became Olsen, Ratti & Fossatti, later Ratti Fossatti.
In 1986, he formed Robert Fossatti Associates. In 2005, he and LaCasse formed RFA Structural Engineers.
In 2011, Fossatti retired from full-time work but became a consultant to the newly formed Fossatti Pawlak Structural Engineers, whose other partner is Pete Pawlak.
Fossatti's firms won design awards and he was a member of the Structural Engineers Association of Washington Hall of Fame.
Fossatti was the engineer on about 4,000 buildings in 30 states and two U.S. territories. LaCasse said his notable Seattle projects include the renovation of Pier 70 and the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
He also worked on buildings at Edmonds Community College, and more than 50 elementary, middle and high schools in the Northwest, including Inglemoor, Mountlake Terrace and Squalicum high schools.
LaCasse said Fossatti was licensed in 25 states, which helped the firm get national clients.
Fossatti was proud of his work on the University of Washington Medical Center expansion, LaCasse said. “He said he liked it because it had an unusual shape and complicated foundation. He liked complex structures.”
LaCasse said Fossatti's family has strong roots in the Northwest. Fossatti, he said, was known for his kindness, generosity and gregarious personality and was an accomplished accordion player who recorded three albums.
His annual Columbus Day parties were legendary in the design community, as was his band, The Physt River Troubadours.
“He loved his music, I'll tell you that,” said Fossatti's friend, Richard Schwaegler, a retired Seattle University professor of civil engineering.
Schwaegler recalled a time at the family home on Vashon Island when Fossatti was playing the accordion and Schwaegler's mother, then almost 90, got up and “did a little dance.”
“Bob got everybody moving,” he said. “I'll remember that until the day I die. He brought merriment where ever he went, and he brought a smile to everybody's face.”
Schwaegler was a consultant to Fossatti's firm from the late 1970s to the early 1990s.
Schwaegler said his friend was an intense person who loved his work and was a good marketer.
“He was always good to me,” he said.
Fossatti is survived by Jane, his wife of 53 years; children David, Dan and Madalena; and his sister Diane Lustyk of Bellevue.
Funeral services were held Jan. 26. A celebration of his life is being planned. Details will be announced at www.fossatti.com.
Lynn Porter can be reached by email or by phone at (206) 622-8272.