Virgene (“Gene”) Bornholdt

Virgene (“Gene”) Bornholdt passed away peacefully in the early hours of Jan. 11, 2019, from pancreatic cancer. Born in 1941 in McPherson, Kansas, Gene grew up on a nearby wheat and livestock ranch his forebears had homesteaded. In high school he moved to Buffalo, Wyoming, where he lived with his sister’s family. He attended the University of Kansas and transferred to the University of Washington in mechanical engineering. He was hired by the Boeing Company and worked there 38 years in various engineering capacities, first in a “black box” security area, later as manager of the jet propulsion research laboratory until his retirement in 2000. For a year before he retired, Gene searched properties north of Seattle on weekends before choosing to build his house on San Juan Island. Gene was a practical problem solver and a leader who accepted and relished challenges and adventures. In the early 1970s, Gene sailed his 24-foot sloop, The Vagabond, around Vancouver Island with his son Colin. Gene flew single engine aircraft, gliders, hang gliders and towed banners. He earned his commercial pilot’s license in 1967 and his flight instructor’s license in 1968. He was a flight instructor for 10 years and was partners in an aircraft rental business in Seattle. He logged 3,500 hours of flight time over 47 years of flying. Gene volunteered at the San Juan Community Theatre more than 14 years, serving as a stage manager for much of the time. He also played roles in The Laramie Project, The Crucible, Radio KWIT, 9 to 5, and Chicago. He especially enjoyed playing Mephistopheles in Cats. He served as a trustee on the Theatre Board. Gene was an “Angel Pilot” and San Juan Sea Eagle who flew cancer patients off island and back for treatments. He was a past member of the San Juan Pilot’s Association. He was also a longtime sailor and boater who served as a trustee at the San Juan Island Yacht Club. Gene served on the emergency team of his water district and was a former board member of his local homeowner’s association. He volunteered as a projectionist for the Friday Harbor Film Festival. Gene enjoyed riding motorcycles with his buddies at “The Bench.” He played bridge at the Mullis Center and poker with old friends at the Village at the Harbour. He also played on a trivia team at the former Ale House. Gene is survived by his wife Susan, his son Colin of Grapeview, Washington, his sister Janet Lawrence of Buffalo, Wyoming, niece Vicki, nephews Rick, Ed and Eric Lawrence, and nephew Scott Ewing of Southport, North Carolina. Gene will be greatly missed. His family owes profound gratitude to Hospice San Juan and Hospice of the Northwest. A brief memorial will be held for family and friends at 2 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 9, at the Friday Harbor Presbyterian Church, 425 Spring St., followed by a reception. Arrangements are in the care of Evans Funeral Chapel and Crematory Inc., Anacortes and the San Juan Islands. To share memories of Gene, please sign the online guest register at