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May 9, 2022

Tullus Gordon remembered for contributions to fishing and construction industries

Journal Construction Editor


Tullus Gordon, a longtime Seattle-area general contractor, died Dec. 29 at the age of 95. A celebration of his life will be held next month in Ballard.

Gordon operated Tullus Gordon Construction for 40 years. The company was known for numerous public works and school construction projects. One of the firm's notable projects was the $20 million King County Metro Central Operating Base that was built in 1988. His son, Todd Gordon, said the firm beat out several of the “big boys” in construction to get this project.

Todd said his father also remodeled every restaurant in the Seattle Center Food Circus Court in the early 1970s, built the Children's Zoo at Woodland Park Zoo in the early 1970s, and constructed the now defunct King theater in Seattle.

The DJC reported in April 1996 that Tullus Gordon Construction performed a $660,000 update to the city of Mountlake Terrace's Recreation Pavilion that included new locker rooms, ADA improvements, and renovations to the lobby, reception counter and administrative offices.

“He did a lot of public works (projects) for the cities and utilities,” Todd said, adding that his father started with small home remodels and worked his way up to commercial construction projects.

“My dad ... had several peers such as Peter Wick (Wick Construction), Arne Vemo (Vemo Construction), Chris Clark (W.G. Clark Construction) and Gene Colin (Ferguson Construction) to name a few that he respected, and they respected him as friendly competitors and friends,” Todd said.

In 1980, Tullus joined with other prominent industry heavy weights — Don Bocek, Louis Rowley, Terry Denny, Dann Sheffield and Larry Johnson — in forming what is now the AGC Education Foundation. The legacy of that gathering resulted in ongoing education and training for thousands of those in the local construction industry.

The sea had an enormous influence on Tullus Gordon's life. According to an obituary in The Seattle Times, Tullus joined the Army Transport Service in 1944 and the Merchant Marine later that year. He served in both of WWII's theaters of war, with most of his time in the Pacific, as a junior engineer.

After WWII, he joined his brother in the commercial fishing industry. During this time, from 1947 to 1956, he fished up and down the West Coast, from Alaska to California. He later developed the power warping crab block, which helped revolutionize the fishing industry, according to his son.

Todd said his dad transitioned from fishing to construction after Tullus was swept overboard while fishing in a storm off the Oregon coast and nearly died. That's when Tullus' first wife, Millie Vermillion, gave him the ultimatum “It's either fishing or family,” according to Todd.

Construction was an attractive field because Tullus was good with his hands. He built a 14-foot sailboat as a kid, according to Todd.

Tullus started his construction company in 1958 and ran it until his retirement in 1997. In retirement, he sailed a 63-foot custom sailboat he helped design around the San Juans.

Tullus was preceded in death by his daughter Tracee, first wife Millie, second wife Mary Ann, and siblings Virgil and Theodosius. He is survived by sons Tullus A. and Todd (Leah) along with grandchildren Zachary, Rachael, Ashley and several nieces and nephews.

A public celebration of his life will be held noon-4 p.m. June 4 at Ballard Elks Lodge, 6411 Seaview Ave. N.W. in Seattle.

Speaking of Ballard Elks Lodge, Tullus built that too, in the mid-1970s.


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

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