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June 13, 2017
Gene J. Colin died June 6 doing what his family said was one of his favorite things: working at Ferguson Construction.
Colin was 76, and died of natural causes.
He worked at the Seattle construction company for about 50 years, and was chairman emeritus when he passed away.
“Gene was the recipient of many awards and an active supporter of a great number of charitable organizations,” wrote David D'Hondt, executive vice president of the Associated General Contractors of Washington, in a news release. “Most importantly, Gene will be remembered as a great man with a huge heart who affected the lives of countless individuals.”
In a 2010 interview with the DJC, Colin said he grew up in the New York/New Jersey area, and worked summers with his father, who was a stone mason and opened a construction company in the late 1940s.
Colin graduated from Rutgers University with a civil engineering degree, and was drafted by the Army and stationed in Japan for about three years during the Vietnam War.
After his service in 1965, he met an Army buddy in Seattle and they hatched a plan to travel to California to seek their fortunes. But they didn't have enough money, so they ended up taking jobs at Boeing.
At Boeing, Colin worked in the construction facilities division, and represented the company on its new space center in Kent. He also supervised some work Ferguson Construction was doing at the space center.
In 1967, Colin was one of many Boeing workers who began to worry about their jobs. “I had a strong feeling that I was last in and first out at Boeing,” Colin said in 2010 about his two-year stint there.
Colin left Boeing to join Ferguson, starting as a gofer and working his way up to president by 1980.
When company founder Hugh Ferguson retired in 1982, Colin and three others bought the company. Two years later, he became sole owner when the others left.
Colin was responsible for many projects at Ferguson Construction, including a 25,000-square-foot distribution center built in 1973 for Bernie Brotman. About a decade later, Colin got a call from Bernie's son, Jeff Brotman, who wanted him to renovate a building on Fourth Avenue for a new venture called Costco Wholesale.
That job led to many more at Costco, and helped transform Ferguson Construction into an industry leader.
But Colin wasn't all business. He also gave back to the community, especially in education. He served a term as board chair of the state's Higher Education Coordinating Board, and was on the boards of South Seattle College Foundation, Eastside Catholic High School, Seattle Nativity School and AGC of Washington Education Foundation.
Colin also chaired the boards of the AGC Government Affairs Council, Washington State Building Code Council and Pacific Medical Centers.
In 1995, Colin accepted a challenge from Roland Dewhurst, who headed up the AGC Southern District office at the time and later became CEO of AGC of Washington. The challenge? Walk together from the AGC offices in Tacoma to the AGC offices in Seattle — nearly 40 miles — to raise money for the association's Education Foundation.
In the 2010 interview, Colin said they left at 4 a.m. and arrived in Seattle at 4 p.m. Colin said he hit the wall when he reached downtown Seattle, but Dewhurst egged him on and both reached their destination — and together raised $60,000.
In 1998, Colin came up with a plan to celebrate Ferguson Construction's 50th anniversary by having a team of employees scale Mount Rainier. He thought it would be good to combine the climb with the American Lung Association's Climb for Clean Air event. Ten of the 11 climbers made the summit and raised $33,000 for the cause.
Diane Kocer, executive director of AGC Education Foundation, said Colin's death will be a big hit for many nonprofits in Seattle: “His heart was big.”
Colin is survived by his wife, Susan Janus, and his children Ryan Hazlett (Jessica), Crista Haugen and Carla Colin.
Funeral mass will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at St. James Cathedral, 804 Ninth Ave. in Seattle. Visitation will begin an hour prior to the service. A private interment will be held at a later date.
Remembrances can be made to the AGC Education Foundation, Seattle Nativity School and South Seattle College through the 13th Year Promise Scholarship and the Gene Colin Two-Year College Scholarship.
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Benjamin Minnick can be reached by email or by phone at (206) 622-8272.