Leaving a Legacy - Richard C. Hocking 1951-2021
December 6, 2021

It is with a heavy heart that we announce the death of Richard C. Hocking, the Alaska SeaLife Center’s esteemed Aquarium Curator of 24 years. Richard passed away November 21 at his home in Seward at the age of 70.

Richard was born in Seattle, Washington on April 16, 1951. His curiosity about the natural world was evident from a young age when he declared his intentions to become a forest ranger. He loved camping and exploring at a little forested lot near the Skykomish River as well as during many family trips throughout his home state of Washington and to various national parks. Richard enjoyed numerous hobbies including reading on a variety of subjects, backpacking, skiing, kayaking, photography, movies, traveling, and scuba diving. Diving in particular became a prominent interest in his life as evidenced by his PADI divemaster certification in 1983.

While Richard’s job with the Washington Department of Fish and Game paralleled his childhood dreams of being a forest ranger, his passion for the ocean truly defined his life's work. For over four decades, Richard grew his career in the zoo and aquarium industry. He began his legacy in 1976 with the Seattle Aquarium as an Aquarium Biologist. He worked there up until 1989 when he became employed with the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium as an Animal Care Technician and additionally assisted with diving and collecting operations. His time at Point Defiance ended when he left for Alaska in 1997. 

Richard began his career at the Alaska SeaLife Center as the Aquarium Supervisor in 1997, before the building was even finished. He quickly was promoted to Aquarium Curator in 1998, a role he upheld until his passing. While he significantly shaped the aquarium exhibits and led the division at the Center, his management role never stopped him from doing any task; from checking water quality to leading a tour, Richard took part. “Richard was truly an ASLC treasure. Both a teacher and a student, he had a gift for sharing his endless knowledge of marine species and a passion for marine conservation. His contributions to ASLC for the past 24 years can be seen and felt through all of the exhibits,” explains Husbandry Director, Lisa Hartman.

Richard was known as one of the most hands-on curators in the building. While his main role was managing a group of aquarists to maintain and display the species in the Center, he immersed himself in many other aspects of ASLC. Richard managed and secured permits that allow the Center to collect and display fish and invertebrates. He was very involved in the long term monitoring of invasive species in Alaskan waters and would often set and check green crab traps and tunicate plates. He not only was in charge of food procurement and inventory management for fish and invertebrates, but for every single species in the facility.


Always looking towards the future, Richard hoped to educate and motivate the next generation of ocean stewards. He found joy in working with youth and became involved in the Center’s after-school program, Ocean Science Club, leading dissections and classes. Richard was also active as a judge and mentor for the Alaska Ocean Science Bowl, an academic competition for teens involved in ocean science. “Richard knew more about the ocean and the creatures in it than anyone I have or more likely ever will meet.  The only thing that he enjoyed more than learning about the world's oceans was teaching others about it.  He got particular joy out of teaching the next generation about the wonders of the sea. I remember fondly how much he loved the time he got to spend as a judge for the Alaska Ocean Sciences Bowl and as a mentor for the Seward Team. Can you think of a better job for Richard than being a judge in an Alaska Ocean Science competition? I can't,” expresses Aquarist, Chuck DiMarzio. 

Richard will be remembered for his kindness, infinite knowledge, selfless work, and inspiring conversation. In 2017, his coworkers fittingly designated him as the “Unsung Hero” for making a consistently important contribution to the day to day operations of the Alaska SeaLife Center. “If you know the ASLC, you know the impact and resource of Richard Hocking. He was a purveyor and connoisseur of biology and natural history, just as eager and willing to share with or learn from a first year college intern as he was a professor emeritus. If you knew Richard, you knew he valued people, what each individual may uniquely be able to offer, and great conversation,” recounts Aquarium Manager and Dive Safety Officer, Jared Guthridge. 

A public memorial exhibit to celebrate the life of Richard C. Hocking will be open December 8, 2021 at the Alaska SeaLife Center from 3:30 PM to 6:30 PM. The life, work, and stories of Richard will be displayed throughout the Center and the public can tour at their own pace. A more formal outdoor memorial service is being planned for Spring 2022.

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