Jim Travis was born in 1932, the oldest of three children. Growing up in the Mt. Baker neighborhood, he attended John Muir Elementary School. It became evident early on that Jim was a very independent guy. He got his first job at age 12 delivering the Seattle Times – a job he retained through his senior year at Franklin High School. During those years, he was active with the Boy Scouts, became an Eagle Scout, and was an excellent downhill skier, participating in local ski races.
Jim went on to attend the University of Washington, where he freely admits to having lots of fun – especially after joining the Delta Upsilon fraternity – while pursuing a major in electrical engineering. In his first summer after the UW, Jim occupied the enviable post of bus boy and night desk clerk at Paradise on Mt. Rainier. During his free time, he was able to explore the mountain and eventually made it to the summit. Proving that “apples don’t fall too far from the tree,” Jim’s granddaughter Brianna did almost exactly the same job this past summer at Sunrise on Mt. Rainier!
Prior to graduation Jim worked at his Dad’s company doing apprentice work in electrical engineering. He felt like he had found his calling, but in 1953 he was drafted, entered the Army, and was stationed in Germany. That posting enabled him to travel throughout Europe and experience a larger slice of the world.
When Jim got out of the service and returned to Seattle, he met his wife-to-be on a blind date. In a twist of fate, the original date got sick at the last minute, so a sorority friend of Jim’s sister, Dee McDonald, stepped into the breach. The rest, as they say, was history. Dee was an accomplished sailor, a great skier, and full of life. Jim was hooked.
Jim and Dee married in 1958, bought a house on Mercer Island, and raised three children, Jayne, Mark, and Peter. The family loved outdoor activities, including hiking, downhill skiing, and gardening. Serious gardening! Jim and Dee regularly entered and one year won the Sunset garden contest and had their home and garden featured in the magazine. The Travises also enjoyed traveling as a family, climbing Mt. Fuji in Japan, hiking around the Matterhorn in Switzerland, and traipsing through Alaska. As their kids were growing up, the Travises bought a condo at Alpental and skied almost every weekend during the winter; the boys were very involved in the downhill racing program there, while Jayne taught skiing. Eventually, they also purchased property on Lummi Island (and became neighbors with former Horizon House CEO Bob Anderson and his wife Julie) – a move that enabled them to plant a beautiful and beloved rhododenron garden, one of their special interests since the early years of their marriage.
Jim pursued a career as an electrical engineer, going into business with his dad. Their company, B. A. Travis and Associates, worked with a number of schools and churches throughout Puget Sound, including all the of the community colleges. Interestingly, the Travis company performed the electrical and HVAC work in Horizon House’s Central Tower. Jim remains proud of his work with the Seattle World’s Fair, Sea-Tac Airport, and the Port of Seattle. After an almost 40-year career, which also included testifying as a forensic electrical expert in Washington and Alaska trials, Jim retired in 1995. He and Dee loved their retirement years and the many adventures sea kayaking and sailing around Vancouver Island and environs.
Jim has been active with Seattle 4 Rotary (the largest Rotary Club in the world) since his Dad sponsored him as a new member when he was in his 20s. A member for over 60 years, Jim is one of 15 of the longest serving Rotarians with his Club. Jim has also served on various community Boards, including Providence Hospice, Puget Sound Blood Bank, and the Arboretum.
Jim and Dee were married for 50 years, and he is grateful for every year they had together until her death in 2008. Jim has been a Horizon House resident since then and has been active on several committees, including the Philanthropy Committee. He has also been a gracious supporter of our Partners in Caring annual campaign, as well as making a commitment from his refundable contract and a major gift to our Endowment. When asked about this generosity, Jim replied, “I feel like I owe it to our community.”
Thank you, Jim Travis, for all you have done for Horizon House and the City of Seattle!