TULALIP — Saturday, April 6, marked the end of an era as Don Hatch Jr. stepped down from the Tulalip Tribal Board of Directors.
When Hatch was drafted onto the Board in 1965, by the parents of Little League baseball players whom he’d coached, he was the Board’s youngest-ever member, at the age of 26.
At the age of 73, Hatch was the Board’s oldest member when he left, but in the intervening decades his priorities have remained largely the same.
“I came onto the Tribal Board the same way I came onto the Marysville School Board,” Hatch said. “People asked why I wasn’t making any motions when I started on those Boards, and I told them that I wanted to learn how they worked first.”
The community’s children have remained a major motivator for Hatch, whether through his coaching, refereeing and umpiring of various youth sports, his record-long 16-year term of service on the Marysville School District Board of Directors that ended when he stepped down in 2009, or his efforts on behalf of the Tulalip Boys & Girls Club, from his planning committee trips to Washington, D.C., to lobby for grants to open the club in the first place, to the five years that he devoted to running the club immediately after its opening.
“I struggled with school when I was in,” said Hatch, who was raised with his six siblings by his mother, Molly Fryberg Hatch, after his father died when Don was only 6 years old. “We have to take care of all 11,000 students in the Marysville School District, Tribal and non-Tribal alike. I see them all as my children, and just one lost is one too many.”
Hatch’s son, Don Hatch III, agreed with Paula Hatch Satiacum, the daughter of Don Jr., that their dad always managed to be there for them, in spite of his demanding schedule.
“He’s not my father,” Don Hatch III said of Don Hatch Jr. “He’s my dad. Anybody can father a child, but a dad is someone who’s there for his kids, and he was there 110 percent. No matter how bad things have gotten in life, he’s never given up.”
“My dad helped me raise two of my children like they were his own,” said Satiacum, who travels up from Tacoma every other weekend to see him. “I remember taking off his shoes and socks after he would spend days on end on shift at the PUD, because people’s power was out. He’s done so much for all of us that he needs to sit back and let us do for him.”
In addition to the 20 years that Don Hatch Jr. worked as an equipment operator for PUD, starting in 1972, he’s also used his carpentry skills to help build 13 houses on the Tulalip Reservation, including his own, and has overseen Tribal funerals for more than 20 years.
“In the worst times in people’s lives, he’s the first one there, and he’ll see them through until the funeral is completed,” said Marlin Fryberg Jr., who’s served on the Tribal Board with Hatch. “He taught me that you don’t have to be a Tribal leader to be a leader.”
Just as Hatch inspired Fryberg to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps by running for a seat on the Board a decade ago, so too was Tulalip Tribal Board Secretary Glen Gobin inspired by Hatch when Gobin himself was still a kid involved in the youth sports that Hatch coached.
“He encouraged me to run for office, and shoved me out in front of the public to speak,” Gobin said. “He also taught us not to take these seats for granted, because as he said, you get a report card from the voters every three years,” he laughed
Gobin and Tulalip Tribal Vice Chair Deborah Parker agreed that Hatch became an ambassador between the Tulalip Tribes and other Native American tribes, as well as with the non-Native communities, which Parker credited as a partial inspiration for her own work to expand protections for all tribal women in the Violence Against Women Act.
“He taught me to speak out on issues that matter, to stand up and share my words,” said Parker, who echoed Fryberg in praising Hatch not only as an invaluable historic resource, but also as someone who had made many personal sacrifices to benefit future generations of his people. “The sacrifices he and our other elders made are why we’re here today. He taught me we should look after smaller tribes who are less fortunate.”
Tulalip Tribal Chair Mel Sheldon Jr. deemed the dedication of the recently completed gym as the Don “Penoke” Hatch Jr. Youth Center to be an appropriate tribute.
“When it comes to working with children, he’s second to none,” Sheldon said. “He’s always gone the extra mile for those in need, and he’s left behind an example that I can only try to emulate.”
“I remember Tribal Board meetings that would start at 7 p.m. on Tuesday and not finish until 1 or 2 a.m. on Wednesday,” Hatch said. “All I want is a few more years to work with kids and take care of them. It’s my medicine.”