Contributed photo Members of Hunziker’s family toss a biodegradable box containing Hunziker’s ashes off a ferry on the Mukilteo-to-Clinton route.

Saying goodbye the South Whidbey way

From the stern of a ferry on the Mukilteo-to-Clinton route Friday afternoon, a group of people prepared to toss a weighted, biodegradable box into the sound. Inside were the ashes of longtime South Whidbey resident Bill Hunziker.

When the moment came and the box was released, the ferry captain sounded the boat’s horn three times in memory of Hunziker. It was a very South Whidbey ceremony, which is exactly what Hunziker wanted.

“He always wanted his ashes scattered from the ferry,” South Whidbey Historical Society President Bill Haroldson said. “For a man who worked as a deckhand on the Mukilteo-to-Clinton ferries when he was young, whose father was a captain and who loved the history of the ferries, it was fitting.”

Hunziker died on Aug. 23 at the age of 94. Known around South Whidbey for what historical society members call his incredible memory as well as his wealth of knowledge on Washington State Ferries and Whidbey Island history, Hunziker was a “historical resource,” according to past historical society president Bob Waterman.

And even after his death, Hunziker’s contributions to South Whidbey history are still being appreciated.

“One of the most remarkable things about Bill is he developed a love of photography,” Waterman said. “He was given a 16mm movie camera when he was young, and during the 1930s he went around Whidbey and shot movies in Technicolor.”

Hunziker went on a road trip down the entirety of Whidbey Island with family members and his 16mm camera in the ’30s and documented the entire trip. The rare footage he captured illustrates life on Whidbey in the pre-World War II era, and shows film from the summer festival parade in Oak Harbor, old downtown areas and a festival hosted in conjunction with the Tulalip Reservation.

The footage has since been in the grasp of the South Whidbey Historical Society, who have been showing the film at the South Whidbey Historical Museum in Langley. Hunziker also shot “several hours” of other footage that is currently on display at the museum.

According to Haroldson, it was some of the first footage shot in Technicolor, and is one of the most popular pieces of history at the museum.

“We recently put the footage on the museum’s Facebook page and it got 56,000 hits,” Haroldson said.

It also currently has more than 600 likes. There will be more to come from the footage as well, as Haroldson said WhidbeyTV is currently in the process of putting together a six episode series of historical programming, and will heavily use the footage Hunziker left behind.

“This is an extremely valuable resource, and Bill wanted to share that history with others,” Waterman said. “That was Bill. If you asked him a question about the ferries of Whidbey’s history, he could go on and on and on.”

To watch footage from Hunziker’s trip down Whidbey, visit https://www.facebook.com/SouthWhidbeyHistory/videos/731294460358103/.

Contributed photo Hunziker

Contributed photo A young Bill Hunziker stands next to Langley’s first female mayor, Helen Coe, in 1927.

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