For many people on the island, John Fossett is a familiar face and a familiar voice. I was first (informally) introduced to John via Bainbridge Community Broadcasting (BCB) podcasts that he hosted each month for the Bainbridge Library’s First Friday Art Walk—as many of my readers know, I write an article each month about the Library’s featured artist, and although I interview them myself, listening to John’s podcasts has always given me added perspective into my subjects—his interviewing style is warm and welcoming, allowing the interviewee to open up and express themselves. As my wanderings about the island continued, John’s name came up over and over again—I made a note to get in touch with him, but John’s a very busy man, and we just couldn’t get a date sorted out. When I interviewed Patrick Gulke regarding his spectacular “Art is Happening” show for the September BPL First Friday Art Walk, he mentioned that he’d shared my name with John, and that of course reminded us both that we’d let our interview plans slide…a few more hit-and-miss attempts ensued and the stars finally aligned.
When we met, I couldn’t help but laugh a bit when I saw him, because I immediately recognized him—I’m a volunteer at the Chamber of Commerce, and a few days before, John had whooshed into the office to drop off posters for Arts & Humanities Bainbridge (AH&B) events…I had witnessed his whirlwind drop-offs before, never knowing who the mysterious poster man was, had I known, I would have slowed him down long enough to introduce myself. None-the-less, it was worth the wait.
John grew up in Maine, and obtained a BS in Nautical Science from the Maine Maritime Academy, which parlayed into a twenty-year career as a merchant mariner, and brought him to Ballard, WA in 1985, and eventually Alaska and back. By 1988 he’d married and moved to Suquamish, where his first wife was from. By 1996, John had met his second wife, and later that year they made the move to Bainbridge Island, renting a small house in Lynwood Center. Life on the island had him hooked, and the following year they purchased a home on the north end. He continued his merchant mariner career for another few years, his last assignment with the Civil Service running a tugboat at Bangor Naval Base.
In 1998, when John’s son started first grade at Odyssey School, he volunteered as often as his work schedule allowed; he and a handful of parents built the “treehouse” in the classroom, using wood cut from his property, he also taught Friday mini-classes, took kids on fieldtrips to the library and elsewhere, as well as recess duty, and anything else they needed. The experience allowed him to participate in his child’s education first hand, as well as introducing him to many other parents, that are still his friends today—but it also it inspired John to continue giving back to the community, volunteering for various programs around the island.
John’s volunteer work at Odyssey spurred his community service spirit and over the years he’s done volunteer work for Bainbridge Island Little League (BILL), chaperoned ski trips for BI Parks & Recreation District, worked with book groups at Eagle Harbor Book Company, and read in a production or two for Waterfront Reader’s Theatre, as well as performing road marshal duties for Bike For Pie. He’s also been heavily involved in Arts & Humanities Bainbridge (A&HB), serving on the board for a term, assisting with various programs such as Celluloid Bainbridge, and doing podcasts for their events—today, you’ll see him running around town distributing posters for upcoming A&HB events. In addition to everything else, John served as a trustee for Bainbridge Island Child Care Centers (BICCC), where his own children once attended.
In 2001, John decided to pursue a long-time dream and went back to college to study Library Science at the University of Washington, and in 2002 he began working for the Kitsap Regional Library (KRL), Sylvan Way Branch, as a media selector for their music and movie department. At this point in our interview, John couldn’t help but impart a rather funny anecdote from his childhood.
As youngsters, John and his brother use to love cranking up the tunes while watching TV. John’s father, a no-nonsense guy, that didn’t like his sons to sit around when they could be out and about doing productive things, would read them the riot-act, telling them that these sorts of activities would never get them anywhere in life…naturally John’s first call after receiving his position at KRL was to his Dad to say: “Yeah Dad, movies and videos can parlay into a career…”. My husband has a similar tale about video games and his chosen career path in the tech field…but let’s get back to John.
John worked at the Sylvan Branch until 2014, and then transferred to the Bainbridge Island Branch, where he is currently the Adult Services Librarian. In the summer of 2014, Joanna Pyle, who was the host at BCB, approached John about doing monthly interviews on events sponsored by the Library, that exposure eventually led him to hosting broadcasts of his own. Over the last two years, he’s hosted podcasts on cultural events, as well as hosting and producing Art and Artists on Bainbridge (he’s currently on hiatus from the BCB, but will return sometime in the near future).
John now focuses a great deal of his time organizing—and in many cases volunteering with— Library sponsored events, such as Island Film Group, Tuesday Career Center and WorkSource, Tuesday Book Group, quarterly poetry readings, and the quarterly BI Modern Quilt Guild gatherings. In addition, he works closely with other organizations the Library collaborates with, such as Bainbridge Prepares: monthly classes held at the Library and Three Days of Preparedness, Books on Tap: Literary Trivia held each month at the Treehouse Café, Island Film Group (now in their 11th year, held on the 2nd Wednesday at the Library), A&HB community events at the library, and Historical Museum at the Library (a program he started with BIHM in 2018).
We have a huge volunteer community on the island, and John is the epitome of that volunteer spirit. I hope, as this blog moves forward, to meet and interview many more people like him.
*Photos used with permission by John Fossett