“I was born in Croatia in 1960. My parents, older brother and I left for New York, then went to Seattle following my aunt and uncle.”
He joined Foss in the mid-1980s, but said the Tarabochia family has a long history of working on the water.
“My parents worked our island farm and my dad was in the Navy. I went straight into the work,” he said. “The family has been involved in the marine fishing industry for 100 years. We’ve fished the Columbia River, in Astoria, on Bainbridge Island, San Juan Island, in Alaska. My dad has been in the shipyards since the 1960s when he worked for Puget Sound Bridge and Dredge and then Lockheed. I went straight into the rigging field and worked Lockheed with him and then came here. So did my dad for a little while before he retired. He worked in the Carpenter Shop.”
John lives in West Seattle. His son, Jesse, lives in nearby Arbor Heights and recently joined his father at Foss.
“I had part-time jobs after high school,” Jesse said. “I worked at a catering company – that was my first job. In high school, I was trying to think of what I wanted to do. I went to South Seattle Community College for a bit for firefighting. But I couldn’t juggle a job and school. So I stopped school and got a different job. I tried to get on here right after high school.”
The Crane Crew, John said, is a challenging assignment.
“Our crew is a small crew of three, with two retirees. The reason for bringing him on is that the crew is starting to get up there in age and we deal with very, very, heavy, dangerous equipment. You need young blood to learn the ropes and carry on the safe working habits. We’re all licensed, schooled and trained. He’s had to go through many programs, written testing and practical testing on his way to becoming a journeyman.”
“I started studying with my dad,” Jesse said.
“He’s an apprentice right now,” John explained. “The apprenticeship program to become an operator is very intense. You’re required to have about 10 different licenses: CDL, hazmat, OSHA 10, rigging and signaling, various crane certifications, large and small hydro, boom truck. All the training is done professionally through the NCCCO 302 union training center. The trainers are all retired operators from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.”
When John and Jesse aren’t on the job, they enjoy watching ice hockey, football, and especially soccer with Jesse’s mother and two older sisters.
“Soccer is part of the Croatian way of life,” John said. “I played Division 1 back in the early 80s. My teammates are now ex-Sounders.”
Jesse is glad to be carrying on the tradition of working on the water and said his father is an excellent teacher.
“Not everyone gets a chance to work with their father,” Jesse said. “Sure, there’s some times when I’m moving too slow and I get an earful, but I know he’s just training my to do everything right, everything the safe way, the best way.”
“I just want him to be safe, efficient and professional, and to operate everything very smoothly and efficiently. That’s what the goal is, because, our crew, we kind of work on pride because of the history of the crane. So we go above and beyond that call of duty, and we retain great customer loyalty that way. It’s good for the customer, company and employees. It takes all three.”