Eight Bells: Roy Gunsolus

Published on October 7th, 2021

Roy Gunsolus

Dr. Roy Mathew Gunsolus III died on September 14, 2021, after a heroic fight with Parkinson’s at the age of 76 in Edmonds, WA.

Roy was born in Bakersfield, California. Roy’s father’s military service took the family to various military facilities. The most memorable for Roy was the Kodiak Naval Air Station where Roy earned him the Eagle Scout and became a member of the Order of the Arrow. He spent many hours in the outdoors fishing and hiking with his dad.

Roy received both his undergraduate degree in biology and his dental degree from the University of Washington, completing his DDS in 1969. He then spent three years in military service in Germany and returned for Graduate training in Orthodontics at the University of California at San Francisco, completing a post graduate degree in Orthodontics in 1973. He was in a private orthodontic practice from 1973 to 2012.

Roy loved his family, sailing, biking, car racing his beloved Porsche, gardening, collecting trains, and perfecting anything he touched.

Roy was the quintessential Pacific Northwest sailor: a man with strong family ties, steadfast friendships, a solid career, diverse interests, and exemplary leaderships skills. He was a man loved by family and friends, highly respected by his peers, venerated, admired, and emulated by his dedicated crew.

Roy was a man with a track record of successes to prove it all, on and off the water. During his lifetime, Roy owned a series of sailboats bearing the name “Delicate Balance” (the name derived from the song “A Delicate Balance” by Tom Dundee).

All of Roy’s “DB’s” were meticulously prepared, extraordinarily well-sailed, and perennial top-finishers in Pacific Northwest regattas. Additionally, he corralled Fritz Lanzinger and Scott Smith to placing 4th Overall and Top Amateur in the 2000 Etchells World Championship in San Diego, CA.

Roy shared anything he owned: boats, houses, and food. He felt he had been blessed, so he wanted to share with others. He encouraged his family students and friends to work hard, take risks, and trust in yourself.

Roy leaves behind a wonderful, grateful family including his wife: Barbara; three children: Roy Gunsolus IV (daughter-in-law, Jill), Turi Lucas, Kari Ketner (son-in-law, Mitch); sister: Skye Sugar (brother-in-law, David); grandchildren: Mitchell, Simone, Malia, Oliver, Roman, and Addison; great-grandchild: Carter; as well as many relatives and friends. Last, but not least, his caregivers: Sam Mutiso, Dennis Munguti, and Lilian Kilangi – 3 outstanding human beings.

A celebration of Roy’s Life shall be held on October 16th at 1:00pm at the Acacia Memorial Park & Funeral Home 14951 Bothell Way NE Seattle, WA 98155.

Remembrances may be made to APDA (American Parkinson’s Disease Association), Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation (Pediatric Brain Tumor Research), or a charity of your choice.


I had the pleasure of coordinating crew organization and logistics for Roy’s last two big boats — the Santa Cruz 50′ and the Andrews 56′. It was easy to recruit a talented and competitive crew of 12-15 because Roy ran a top-rate program, the foundation of which was a well prepared and competitive boat, coupled with an onboard atmosphere of respect, friendship, and participation. Nobody was just along for the ride, or their weight on the rail. Roy insisted on a crew that included juniors and women (and usually an Olympic medalist, or two!); he insured that everyone had a participatory and challenging role, and provided an opportunity for learning and growth. Roy mentored many of Seattle’s finest sailors on how to build a great team, and how to be humble about accomplishments on and off the water. Roy was a true gentleman, and a yachtsman whose legacy continues with those of us lucky enough to have sailed with him, or against him, and among we who called him our friend.
~ Joe Bersch

Chapters, if not books, could be written about sailing aboard “Delicate Balance”, the X-One Ton, the Santa Cruz 50, and the Andrews 56. I knew I had found a home in 1991, the first time I raced with Roy and his crew in Bellingham Bay, on board the X-One Ton. I met Roy as I boarded the morning of the race; his calm and easy going manner, combined with authority, sure stood out. While powering out to our first start, I realized what a capable and fun crew I was with, and I thought to myself “I better not screw up doing foredeck, or I won’t be asked back!” Ha! At the first weather mark, I did a perfect clew hoist / spinnaker set. Oooops! It was the amber sunglasses — that’s my story — my first sail with Roy, Jonathan and Charlie McKee, Zig Burzycki, and the entire DB crew laughing it all off… creating a classic beginning to longstanding friendships. And, I was asked back, however, I’m certain it wasn’t my good looks! I frequently reflect on Roy entrusting me to deliver the 50, and later the 56, from Vancouver, BC to Seattle after numerous Southern Straits (Straits of Georgia) races: No matter what time of day we finished, or the weather conditions, Roy and our crew made sure “Delicate Balance” was reconfigured into perfect cruise mode for the delivery, and Roy always encouraged me to take the time I wanted to deliver back. A few times it was 8-9 days in the Canadian Gulf Islands and the San Juan Islands. Or, worst case scenario, an ice-cold snowy push to return to DB’s home port. Roy was always totally okay with it. One race memory stands out: I was rather severely injured during a spinnaker start on board the Andrews 56: I went below after the incident to take a little time to figure things out. While standing at the nav station, Roy came below and focused on my condition, talking to me, asking questions in a very calming manner. A somewhat humorous chat followed, wherein I asked whether there might be a full bottle of rum aboard (for medicinal purposes); Roy’s response was “You shouldn’t go into medicine!” We had many good times sailing, and because of Roy, the friendships I made, that still keep me smiling thirty years later. I know that I never properly thanked Roy for being pivotal, changing the course of my life, after I moved to the Pacific Northwest, but I’ll always be grateful for the sea stories, the memories, and lifetime friendships — with profound gratitude to Roy and Barbara. Sail on Roy, and Delicate Balance!
~ Kurt Gurtunca

I was struck by the fact that Roy was not usually on the helm, instead exhibiting the ultimate in skippership by turning the helm over to the team. He was the dream owner, wanting to do his part for the team by bringing his impeccable program and boat to the race, but even more significantly by dedicating his positive spirit and positive leadership style to the team. Others should drive, implement strategy, call tactics, trim, and whatnot. Roy himself was an excellent driver of course, and the style of teamwork he fostered was such that we all, as a group, did tactics, trim, and strategy. But the selfless attitude that Roy fostered was unique in my experience, and set an outstanding standard that is now carried forward by us all. Then, look at who he trusted his boat and race program to – a bunch of kids and young people! Honestly, you hope for that level of trust from your parents and friends, but it is rare and unexpected “in the wild”, in the world of big boat racing. We learned our lessons about appropriate risk and reward many times (involving such things as rigs and groundings…), always under the watchful mentorship and approval of Roy. He and Barb allowed and even encouraged us, a ragtag bunch of dinghy sailors inexperienced in the ways of big boats and big bodies of water, to learn “on the job” about solo deliveries and family cruising, without supervision! Roy was a supreme enabler, and his magnanimous program spread from enabling his teammates with a lifelong model of a proper big boat racing program, to enabling our families with the irreplaceable gift of independent cruising, to enabling the Seattle community at large with his memorable legacy. The platform was sailing, but the model was about life and how to live. Thank you for giving the example and setting the standard Roy, we will never forget.
~ Bates McKee

Roy was in many ways the perfect leader of a sailboat team. He invited a group of young sailors to race with him, then fostered an incredibly positive environment onboard, wherein every person felt that their voice was listened to, and mattered equally. It worked because of who Roy was as a person: true leadership through mutual respect, without any ego. Hugely impactful for all of us who were fortunate enough to sail with him.
~ Charlie McKee

During a formative time in my life, Roy was a quasi-father to me; he was kind, generous and trusting. Roy taught me about boat ownership, proper yacht maintenance, and how to prepare a boat to be strong, safe, clean, and race ready. He entrusted our younger generation of sailors with key positions on board his boats, and always provided support and opportunity for youth interested in sailing.
~ Jonathan McKee

When Roy and I first met, our friendship was instantaneous; shortly thereafter, I began making sails for a succession of his boats, which lasted for a 14 year period. Roy’s warm personality drew people in, as evidenced by the caliber of his crew members: Joe Bersch, Zig Burzycki, Derek Campbell, Kurt Gurtunca, Fritz Lanzinger, the brothers McKee, Scott Smith, and Doug Wardrop, to name a few of Seattle’s finest sailors who were core crew members on board Roy’s boats. It was great fun, and every “DB” was a fine boat to sail on. Beyond that, our wives hit it off, and our kids were around the same age, so we spent tons of family time together cruising in the Pacific Northwest, and swimming in Lake Washington and Lake Union. Roy and Barbara are my son’s godparents; they are among the finest people I have known. Roy will be missed by all of the lives he touched. Sail on, Amigo!
~ Keith Lorence

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