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NAC’s Trisha Reyes’s familial discovery led her on a hunt for Agnes Foss treasure.

By Hilary Reeves

Trisha Reyes’s father Richard “Dick” Banks peppered her childhood with stories of the months he spent aboard a tugboat bound for Vietnam in 1966.

“My dad was in the Army,” said Reyes, Director of Crew Services for Northern Air Cargo (NAC), “and he always said working on that boat as a Marine Engineer Mechanic and taking it around the world was his dream job.”

After returning home to Arizona from a June meeting at Saltchuk’s Seattle headquarters, Reyes was excited to tell her father about the family of companies – specifically Foss Maritime.

“As soon as I mentioned ‘Foss,’ he got so sentimental and told me Foss owned the tug he was on more than 50 years ago, the Agnes Foss,” she explained. “It was just such a great reminder of how the smallest, seemingly insignificant detail can lead to something incredible.”

Making a difference at NAC

Reyes grew up in Tacoma, Washington, a port city with a firmly entrenched maritime history due at least in part to being the birthplace of the Foss tug. Reyes, meanwhile, set her sights on the sky.

“I wanted to be an astronaut,” she said. “I had the brilliant – but not-so well-thought-out – plan to be a flight attendant and travel around the world while I saved up enough money to be able to pursue my dream. I did go to Space Camp in Orlando, but I guess I fell in love with the smell of jet fuel and stale coffee and realized where my heart truly was.”

She began her aviation career with Mesa Airlines, starting as a Flight Attendant and ultimately becoming Chief Flight Instructor. After eight years, she moved across the country to start a training program for crew schedulers and travel coordinators with Southern Air. When the airline indicated that her job would be moving to Cincinnati, she instead stayed and became a Senior Crew Planner for Atlas Air. A subsequent opportunity to manage the Crew Resources department for Western Global Airlines meant moving her family to Florida, where they lived for several years.

“When a position opened at Northern Air Cargo for a Director of Crew Resources, I was intrigued, and thought long and hard on it,” she said. “It ultimately came down to the fact that NAC is in such a great position right now to do so many incredible things, and I was excited about where they were going and felt like I could help make a difference.”

The Agnes Foss for Father’s Day

Reyes’s position at NAC allowed her to return to Arizona and her family. Her trip to Seattle introduced her to many other Saltchuk companies, and her father’s excitement over the Agnes Foss sent her on a treasure hunt.

“My dad lost almost all of his hearing due during the war and was heartbroken when he was medically retired from the Army, but he later started his own business, a shoe repair shop in Tacoma,” she said. “Several members of the Foss family became regular customers of his, and after they heard about his service, they shared a book with him that detailed the tug’s history. So I thought I’d try to find the book and give it to him for Father’s Day – even though I had no clue what it was titled, and he couldn’t remember either.”

Reyes searched the Internet and – entirely by accident – discovered an external bell clock from the Agnes Foss for sale in an online nautical antique shop.

“I started a conversation with the owner, and he gave quite a bit of information on it, and we confirmed that timeframe-wise, it was the same clock my dad heard 48 times a day, every day at sea.”

Reyes bought the clock, but couldn’t wait until Father’s Day.

“He opened it up and thought it was a pretty cool old clock, but when I told him where it came from, his jaw dropped,” she said. “He got goosebumps and instantly teared up. It was priceless.”

Young Richard Banks leans on a barrier overlooking a harbor in Hong Kong
Richard Banks on an Agnes Foss layover in Hong Kong in 1966.

Ninety years of towboating

When Reyes purchased the clock, the seller included several pages about the Agnes Foss from a book his friend wrote, “Foss: 90 Years of Towboating.”

“It turned out to be the same book lent to my dad years ago,” she said.

The story of the Agnes outlined the journey she took through Panama, the Marshall Islands, Vietnam, Guam, and Hong Kong. Reyes said her father told her the “stories behind the stories” in the book, including the real reason the crew had to go to Hong Kong for repairs (a juicy story about a drunken Engine Chief who, long story short, fell on one of the engines and caused the tug to bang into the nearby Margaret Foss); how before the crew left port, they got all of their vaccinations except the Black Plague, so when they reached Guam, they were quarantined for a week; and how her father had polished the clock now in his hands more than 50 years ago.

“It was wonderful to hear the excitement in his voice as he reminisced, and I heard stories I never had before,” she said.

In love with NAC

Reyes’s husband unexpectedly passed away last year, leaving her to mother her son and daughter – both toddlers – alone.

“I’m most proud of the fact that I never stop surprising myself,” she said. “Sometimes I may be terrified to do something, but I’ll do it anyway. I want my kids to understand that no matter what happens in their lives, they can always turn it into something good. I’m proud of the fact that I’m trying my best to show them to take those chances.”

While she’s hoping for a bit better work-life balance in the future – and more vacations – she’s been blown away by NAC.

Richard holds an antique clock outside his home.
Richard Banks, holding an External Bell Clock of the Agnes Foss.

“You can instantly tell that people are truly in love with the company,” she said. “It’s one thing to love your job and love your coworkers, but to truly be in love with a company, and what your company stands for, is incomparable. Even working most of the time remotely, the welcome is still warm, and the connection is still as strong.”

It’s a love not unlike the love her father had for his time on the Agnes Foss.

“It was wonderful to hear the excitement in his voice as he reminisced and to hear stories I never had before – stories I may never have heard if I hadn’t mentioned Saltchuk. It’s pretty incredible.”

Hilary Reeves

Hilary Reeves spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining the Saltchuk family of companies as a consultant. Since People of Saltchuk launched in 2014, Reeves has interviewed more than 200 Saltchuk employees from operating companies all over the world. Born in Tacoma, Washington, Reeves is a former president of both the collegiate and local professional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists, a graduate of the Society’s Ted Scripps Leadership Institute, and a Toastmaster. When she’s not writing, she loves to read, ski, and practice the piano. She lives in West Seattle with her husband and two young daughters.