Peder Nornes

image of Peder Nornes

Peder Nornes

A pioneer of the fishing industry, Peder Gunleiv Nornes, 74, passed away from complications of his 16-year journey with Alzheimer’s on January 6, 2020.  In his final days, his family came together to share stories, to laugh, to cry and to laugh some more as they reflected on a life lived so well.  Pete’s positive impact on the lives of those he encountered is felt deeply in the immutable way he approached life—full of action, courage, integrity, perseverance, curiosity, intelligence, kindness, humor and love. He measured success not by the size of bank accounts but by more important standards—how you engaged in your life, how you treated others, did you work hard, did you find humor in all things, and did you help others. He was the walking and talking definition of someone who embodied a generosity of spirit.

Pete left his hometown of Skudeneshavn on the island of Karmøy, Norway during his teenage years to embark on a journey that would take him on adventures around the world before settling in Seattle in the 1960’s. He found peace and solitude during periods of deep sleep while sitting upright in a church pew attending his children’s Christmas and Easter pageants. A sharp elbow in his side administered by his wife to quiet the snores were met with thanks from the church parishioners sitting nearby. He did not adopt a conventional definition for the existence of God, so the manner in which he lived his life became his definition. Pete embraced life and the people in it with fervor and enthusiasm. He delighted in regaling family and friends (and anyone in earshot) with stories that would probably make any good lawyer cringe. Never shy for an adventure, he tested his physical limits through harrowing experiences conjuring up images of characters like James Bond, MacGyver and Indiana Jones all rolled into one. And he survived time and time again to tell another story. Pete made friends with everyone, made the very best of any situation—good or bad, so it’s no surprise he made friends with Alzheimer’s, too. His love for life and everyone in it shone through even in his final moments of life.

Anyone who knew Pete would acknowledge his undeniable love for the sea. This place was sacred to him. He made his living from it, respected the awesome power of it, felt most alive being near it and survived its many attempts to be extinguished by it. Yet he persisted as he worked in the crab fisheries in Dutch Harbor and the salmon fisheries in Kodiak, Alaska.  An enterprising vessel owner and operator, Pete loved all his babies—we mean, his vessels equally, including the F/V Seahawk, Wichmann Command, F/V Paramount and the F/V Pacific Breeze, among many more.

Although life as a fisherman defined him, at his core and more important to him was his family. Pete developed his children into strong and independent thinkers and doers, who now animate the best parts of him. He welcomed his children on board his fishing vessels teaching them his craft, and loved to share his bounty of fish with family and friends after each season. As a fisherman, Pete didn’t believe in paying for seafood, so there were moments when his wife had to be—should we say—inventive to hide the price tag of any store-bought fish that landed on the dinner table. In the depth of his disease when words became foreign to him, Pete communicated with his cornflower blue eyes and bright smile. That warm smile was often on display the moment he set eyes on his bride of 53 years. Bjørg was relentless with his care, and epitomized what it means to sacrifice oneself for another. She ensured her husband lived his final years with dignity and in comfort surrounded by his family who loved him dearly.

Peder is survived by his immediate family in Seattle: his spouse Bjørg Nornes, his children Ann Christine Nornes, Arlene Nornes, Marilyn (Nornes) Roberts, Peter Nornes and Bernice (Nornes) Twigg, and grandchildren Peder Nornes, Josephine Roberts, Eva Nornes and Grayson Roberts. His family and friends in Norway share in the grief of his passing. He is preceded in death by parents Karl Andreas Nornes  and Nelly Nornes, and brother Njål Nornes.

A Celebration of Life ceremony is being planned.


4 Responses to “Peder Nornes”

  • Eric Sand says:

    If I could ever be half the man he was, or half the fisherman, my life would be complete. Can’t say enough so I will stop here.

  • Evelyn Varne says:

    I remember Pete, from when I first moved to Seattle, when I worked in Ballard. He always had a smile on his face. I am sorry for your family’s loss, and will keep you in my prayers as your grieve during this hard time.

  • Bret Ames says:

    My condolences to the Nornes family. So sorry for your loss. I’ve heard a lot of stories, but never had the honor to meet him. I really pray, that he is NOT, boiling Humpies in Heaven!

  • Lise Hamack Pettigrew says:

    What a lovely tribute! I only knew Peder from the three years he and my father spent as roommates in the last years of their lives. I feel like we won the roommate lottery. Thank you Bjorge for your care not only for your husband but for my father. I will never forget your kindnesses, and the important part you played in my fathers journey at the end. I wish you so much joy!

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