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September 17, 2020

Construction leader John Abbott dies at 80

Journal Construction Editor


John Abbott, founder of Seattle-based Abbott Construction, died on Aug. 7 after battling cancer. He was 80.

The company announced Abbott's passing Tuesday in a news release.

“John Abbott taught me what it means to be a true professional in our industry,” said Troy Stedman, Abbott Construction's current president and CEO, in the release. “He knew the power of trusting relationships, operating with integrity and the value of giving back. John touched countless lives and will be greatly missed.”

Abbott was born in 1940 in a farmhouse in Minnesota. His family later moved to Washington and Abbott graduated in 1958 from Highline High School in Burien. His career began as an expediter at Boeing, followed by a change in 1959 to work for his father's construction company.

In 1967, Strand Inc. hired him as an estimator/project manager, and he eventually worked his way up to executive vice president/general manager. In 1981, he joined R.C. Hedreen Co.

The news release said Abbott believed there was a better way to build and that led to him founding Abbott Construction in 1983 with his wife, Dawn.

Abbott led his company for two decades following these principles: quality of service, partnering relationships, talented craftspeople and open-shop construction. He retired in 2007.

“He lived out the principles he instilled in our company — and it's because of those principles that we've continued to thrive over our 37-year history,” Stedman said.

Abbott Construction now has 260 employees and additional offices in Tacoma and Los Angeles. Its projects are in the health care, hospitality, public works, education, nonprofit, retail, tenant and seismic improvement categories.

A company spokeswoman said Abbott was proud of all the projects his company built, but hospital jobs in Washington and California were at the top of his list.

Outside of his contracting business, Abbott and others were instrumental in starting the Construction Industry Training Council of Washington, a state-licensed vocational school that provides apprenticeship and craft training in carpentry, electrical, HVAC, plumbing and several other trades. He also was active in the Associated General Contractors of Washington, where he served as president and helped establish an education endowment for students in construction.

In a 1996 DJC article covering a CITC-sponsored symposium on construction workforce training, Abbott discussed his Top Gun program that pairs CITC apprentices with a skilled craftsworker who mentors the employee. The results were a trained workforce with loyalty to an employer who has invested in them.

“We currently have a workforce by default,” he said back then. “We need to begin to identify and train quality workers we need to take ownership of this problem both as individual contractors and as an industry.”

Abbott also was a real estate developer, with properties in numerous states.

Abbott is survived by Dawn; children Debi (Joe) Froembling, Kelley (Derek) Alves, Chere (Armando) Garcia and Steve Abbott; five grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. A private family service was held last month. A larger event may be held later, depending on the pandemic.


Benjamin Minnick can be reached by email or by phone at (206) 622-8272.

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