Mauri Jaakko Pelto

April 12, 1924 - March 20, 2020

Mauri Jaakko Pelto died March 20, 2020 of congestive heart failure, less than a month before his 96th birthday. A first-generation US citizen of Finnish descent, he was born April 12, 1924, in Portland, Oregon, the eldest son of Jenny and Jaakko Pelto, who had immigrated from the Vaasa area of western Finland earlier in the century. He graduated from Winlock (WA) High School in 1942 and attended the University of Washington for one semester before enlisting in the Army Air Corps. A member of the “greatest generation,” he served as second lieutenant and B-24 navigator, flying thirty-five bombing missions with the 15th Air Force over Italy, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Germany between 1944 and 1945. Following the war, he entered Washington State College in Pullman, where he graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering. He married Joan McAlmond in 1951, and they lived in the south Seattle area through that decade, while Mauri worked at Boeing. Their sons David John Frederik Pelto and William Lyle Pelto were born in 1955 and 1958. In 1961, the family returned to Pullman, where Mauri earned a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering, and then moved to Corvallis, Oregon, where he pursued doctoral studies in Oceanography at Oregon State University. In 1966, the family moved to the Starr Hill neighborhood of Juneau, Alaska, where Mauri worked as an oceanographer for the federal government—first the Federal Water Pollution Control Administration and later the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In the early years of that career, he conducted research on vessels in the Bering Sea and throughout Southeast Alaska, working out of the Auke Bay Biological Laboratory and the Juneau Federal Building. He retired in 1986, and he and Joan were divorced the following year. In the late 1970s, Mauri, fulfilling a lifelong dream, completed the rigging and interior of the 38-foot ketch Elsa, and the next decade included many adventures with family and friends sailing the waters of Southeast Alaska, including several Admiralty and Baranof Island circumnavigations and extended trips to Glacier Bay. After retirement, he sailed Elsa south with college friend Bill Kuhlman, to begin a decade of live-aboard years in Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island. In 1996, he met and married Marjorie Anderson of NE Seattle, with whom he lived in Winslow (Bainbridge Island) and, most recently, at Crista Shores in Silverdale, Washington. During their years together, Mauri also revisited his boyhood enthusiasm for aviation, developing significant expertise as a builder and operator of radio-controlled airplanes and user of flight simulation software. In his seventies and eighties, he explored the world of quantum physics and replicated nineteenth-century physics experiments. He is survived by his brother Pertti Pelto of Storrs, Connecticut; sons David (Judith Anderegg) of Olympia, Washington, and Bill (Linda Larson) of Boone, North Carolina; stepsons Bill Anderson (Andrea) and Jim Anderson (Kim); grandchildren Eric and Carl (sons of Bill and Andrea), and Raina and Zoe (daughters of Jim and Kim); nieces and nephews Ari, Beth, Dunja, Gina, Jonathan, Josh, and Lynn; godchildren John, Nina, and Will Kuhlman; friend Sydney Cotton (Silverdale, WA); and many sailing buddies and longtime friends from Juneau and Eagle Harbor. He was preceded in death by his wife Marjorie Anderson, his nephew Bill Priest, and his brother Kalevi Pelto (Bellingham, WA).

A celebration of Mauri’s life will be announced at a later date.

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