Cliff Bengston, biologist and hatchery manager with the Tulalip Tribes from 1976-2002, passed away peacefully at his home on Tulalip Bay on Aug. 9. He was born July 24, 1940, in the Green Lake neighborhood of Seattle. In 1951, his family purchased the Kamburger Farm and moved to Monroe. His father, Henry Emil Bengston, was a plumber as well as working the small farm. His mother, Myrtle Alice Leland Bengston, was a homemaker and helped with the bookkeeping.
As young boys, Cliff and his brother, Ed, shared a paper route. Cliff worked on the family farm milking cows, raising fryer chickens, and tending crops such as potatoes and raspberries. He also took jobs on other farms, tending pea vine harvesters, milking for dairies, and short stints pumping gas at the Mobil station and bucking hay in eastern Washington. He also played football, baseball and wrestled.
After high school, Cliff tried logging, both near Monroe and in the northern California redwoods. He returned to Washington to work for Boeing, becoming a lead printer. He spent weekends hiking and rock climbing and tuning motorcycles for a racing team. He took a position as industrial photographer with the Applied Physics Lab at the University of Washington, working on top secret projects until it became a conflict with his leadership work with the peace movement during the Vietnam war.
During the time he was at the Applied Physics Lab, Cliff enrolled at UW in geology. To save money, he lived at Lake Joy in a rustic cabin without running water or electricity and commuted to the university on his motorcycle. He later moved into a house in the University District with other students who became lifelong friends.
Cliff switched his major to fisheries, working with Dr. Richard Whitney doing baseline studies for the establishment of the North Cascades National Park. He conducted the first water quality and fisheries surveys in the North Cascades alpine lakes, hiking into remote areas during summers. He began a master’s program, leading the research team investigating the fisheries and environment of Grays Harbor Bay.
He began work with the Tulalip Tribes in 1976 as one of the first tribal biologists in the Boldt case area. He was manager of the Tulalip Tribes’ Bernie Kai-Kai Gobin Hatchery from its founding in 1982 until his retirement in 2002. He was made an honorary tribal member by the Tulalip Tribes in 2001. After his retirement he continued to work part time for the tribe as an adviser.
Cliff is survived by his wife, Kit Paulsen, sister Sandy Bloor, and brothers Ed and Don Bengston, as well as many nieces and nephews.
A graveside service will be held at 10 a,m. Thursday, Aug. 18, at the Mission Beach Cemetery, Tulalip Bay.
Cards for Cliff’s wife and other family members may be sent to Tulalip Tribes, Natural Resources, c/o Helene Contraro, 6406 Marine Drive, Tulalip, WA 98271 or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Cliff’s name to Hope Heart Institute.