Cover photo for Carl E. Crome's Obituary
Carl E. Crome Profile Photo
1940 Carl 2023

Carl E. Crome

August 26, 1940 — September 8, 2023

Carl Edward Crome passed away on September 8, 2023 at United General Medical Center in Sedro-Woolley, Washington. Officially, he died of complications from Alzheimer’s-related dementia and heart disease. But really, he died of a broken heart because he couldn’t fish anymore.

Carl is survived by his wife, Judy, his brother Donnie, his children Carl Hensen, James Hensen, Julie Bartholoma, Linda Jackson, Lara Stark, and Daniel Crome, as well as many, many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Carl was born in Los Angeles, California on August 26, 1940 to Carl Anton and Adeline “Pat” Huber Crome. They lived in Alhambra, a suburb of Los Angeles. The family was soon joined by Carl’s younger brothers, Donnie and Kenny. The three boys grew up together in a Los Angeles that you wouldn't recognize today. They hunted in the hills, rode their bikes everywhere, helped their dad with the family business, Crome Organ Company, which was eventually taken over by his younger brother Kenny. Carl loved to play baseball. He was drafted out of high school to play on a AAA team for the Dodgers and actually attended spring training with the Dodgers. Carl attended and graduated from Mark Keppel High School in Alhambra.

Carl met his first wife, Charlene Comment at Mark Keppel. They got married and lived in Montana before returning to the Los Angeles area. They had four children together, Carl, James, Julie, and Linda. They divorced in 1970.

Carl tried many things after he stopped playing baseball, he worked on ranches in Montana for a time, but while he was working construction as a cement finisher, he met someone who had been a commercial fisherman and he talked to him about it during the long work days there and Carl thought that sounded like the life for him.

He fished for tuna on the Santa Anita, the Kittihawk, and the Mary Carmen out of San Diego. These were bait boats and they fished tuna with poles. Eventually, he got jobs in the San Pedro fleet. One of the boats he worked on was the American Eagle. They fished tuna off the Galápagos Islands and all the way down to South America. Carl crossed the equator numerous times and got his head shaved the first time, as sailors do.

In 1970, after working on the tuna boats, Carl started working as a seine crewman in Southeast Alaska. He fished on the Miss Linda, the St. Janet, and the Blue Pacific. He fell in love with Southeast Alaska the minute he saw it and knew that he had to find a way to make a home there on his own boat. While fishing on the Blue Pacific, Carl and Gerry Holmstrom became close and remained friends through the years. In 1971, during the off-season, Carl met his wife, Judy Vaughn in Bellingham, Washington. She was a student at Western Washington State College. They got married in 1972 and bought their first boat together, a small plywood boat that they named the Patricia Kay after his mother and Judy. They fished Dungeness crab and gillnetted in Puget Sound before setting off for Southeast Alaska.

Carl and Judy gillnetted, trolled and crabbed on the Patricia Kay but she was just too small and Carl wanted to expand his operation. They bought the 36-foot Cindy Jane. They trolled, gillnetted and crabbed off the Cindy Jane for 5 years. During this time, they had two children together, Lara and Daniel. They bought a trailer house in Petersburg, Alaska when Lara was about to be born. Carl and Judy made a home in Petersburg where they lived and raised their family while Carl continued to fish and raise his kids on the boat as well as at home.

In 1979 Carl and Judy bought the Harmony which was a 50-foot wooden seiner. They renamed it the Lara Lee and Carl began his dream job: skipper of a Southeast Alaska seine boat. He also crabbed and longlined for halibut and bottom fish from the Lara Lee. Carl also gillnetted for herring from the Bering Sea to San Francisco and saw that fishery from its beginnings until the modern fishery that it became. The University of Alaska actually hired him to teach the Alaska natives to fish for herring.

As the kids grew older, Carl stopped hiring crew from outside the family and ran a “family operation.” Daniel piled leads, Lara piled corks and cooked, and Judy was the skiffman. These were Carl’s favorite times. He loved being away from town with his family. When they weren’t seining, the family continued gillnetting from Carl’s aluminum herring skiff. Through the years the family fished crab, halibut, bottom fish, and salmon in all kinds of weather together.

When the kids were ready to be on their own, Carl continued gillnetting and seining, but eventually, he and Judy “retired” by turning the Lara Lee into a troller and spent their days slowly catching king and coho salmon wherever they could be found all over SE Alaska.

During his long commercial fishing career Carl suffered numerous broken ribs and other broken bones. He had surgery to repair damage to his neck, both shoulders, his right elbow, and eventually had four different knee replacements. When he traveled, he could never make it through a metal detector due to all the metal pins and rods the doctors inserted to keep him fishing. None of these ever slowed him down and he missed very little fishing because of them.

At age 77, Carl’s body finally couldn’t do the hard work of fishing anymore and he left fishing against his will. He moved to Everett, Washington with Judy to be close to her family and Lara and Daniel who were also living most of the time in Washington. Carl and Judy spent their retirement years visiting family and taking road trips to Idaho, California, Nevada, Wyoming and other places all over the West. Carl always wished he could go back to Alaska to fish, but he was willing to do a bit of traveling. Carl also started writing a book about his life in the fishing business with help from his daughter, Lara.

In 2021 Carl suffered a heart attack and had to have two surgeries. He was already showing some signs of dementia. The anesthesia from the surgeries exacerbated the dementia and Carl was never the same again. He suffered from aphasia and this man who had always been a talker and a storyteller could no longer keep the stories straight. It angered and frustrated him because he still had so much more to say and a book to write. Judy and Carl moved into assisted living in Everett and later Bellingham. He hated the way he was forced to stay in one place and be around people who didn’t know anything about Alaska and commercial fishing. In June of 2023 the family was forced to move Carl into memory care in Burlington, Washington. They continued to visit him but this was his last home. Thankfully, he is no longer suffering from the limitations his body placed on his superhuman strength, self-reliance, determination, and love for and desire to provide for his family.

In his book, Carl wrote: “Everything I ever really needed to know I learned on a fishing boat. Love what you do and you will never work a day in your life. There will be high times. There will be low times. Family, always.”

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Thursday, September 21 at 10:30am at the Church of the Assumption followed by a graveside committal at Bayview Cemetery in Bellingham.
To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Carl E. Crome, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

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Mass of Christian Burial

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Starts at 10:30 am (Pacific time)

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Graveside Committal

Thursday, September 21, 2023

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