The newest addition to Arcadia Publishing’s popular Images of America series “Gig Harbor” was the brainchild of Longbranch resident Donald R. Tjossem.
Tjossem grew up in eastern Washington and moved to the Puget Sound area with his parents in 1963 after graduating from Washington State University.
He spent 35 years working in the retail banking industry that took him to many branches throughout the region. In 1986 he went to work for Gig Harbor National Bank and moved to Longbranch on the Key Peninsula where he took a keen interest in the local community and its history.
Retirement from banking provided a turning point in his career. He returned to school to earn a Master of Science Degree from Capella University School of Human Services. He retired for the second time after spending five years as a chemical dependency counselor in schools and prison environments.
With more free time on his hands, he enrolled in history and writing courses at the Tacoma Campus of the University of Washington and spent much time at Harbor History Museum.
He noticed Gig Harbor wasn’t covered by the regional Images of America series.
“I decided to send in a proposal to Arcadia Publishing and they accepted it,” Tjossem said. He said it took a year to write the book and another five months to finish the publishing process.
Tjossem said the Tacoma Public Library was the best source of information and images. Harbor History Museum and friends in the area provided family portraits and more background material. Washington State Historical Society in Tacoma and Museum of History and Industry in Seattle were also useful, he said.
Tjossem enjoyed learning about the area. “Learning is a constant process. The hardest thing is overcoming writer’s block.”
More than 200 vintage images and memories of Gig Harbor’s past provide a window through time as the area developed with a rich logging and fishing culture. The lumber mills that once fueled the economy are closed, but fishing continues to flourish in this maritime community, he said.
Tjossem has followed up with another project, working with the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum to write the history of the island. That book also took a year to complete.
The book about Gig Harbor is available from Mostly books in Gig Harbor and other area bookstores and retailers, online or through Arcadia Publishing at arcadiapublishing.com.