Boyd C. Worley, Jr.: Sept. 1940 - Sept. 2013
Boyd C. Worley, Jr. the Skagway community’s “Large-in-Charge” died on September 27, 2013. Worley had been home recovering from a collapsed artery in his quadruple by-pass in August. In the words of one of his care-givers, “His heart of gold just wore out.” What follows are Boyd’s obituary by Mike Sica and the Worley family and a selection of tributes and memories spoken at his Celebration of Life that was attended by more than 400 people at the Skagway School gym on Saturday, October 5, 2013.
Great things do happen on 9/11
Boyd Conrad Worley, Jr. was born on September 11, 1940 in Buchanan, Virginia and was raised in Richmond. He had one younger brother, Thomas, and four sisters, Peggy, Cookie, Doris and Kitty.
Boyd graduated from Thomas Dale High School in June 1968. He joined the U.S. Air Force in January 1959 and was Honorably Discharged on June 6, 1966.
In 1963, Boyd attended the Yale University Institute of Far Eastern Languages studying Mandarin Chinese. He went on to complete the four-year course in nine months.
While in New Haven, Connecticut, he met a beautiful young woman named Jean Nakamura. Jean was in Connecticut studying to be a teacher.
The day Boyd approached Jean was July 10, 1963, which happened to be her birthday. That night Boyd and Jean went to a movie. After leaving the theater and passing a row of jewelry stores, Boyd asked Jean: “What ring would you buy?” Jean told him: “I don’t wear jewelry.”
Boyd persisted: “But, if you did wear jewelry, what ring would you buy?” So Jean pointed out one that contained her birth stone ruby.
Boyd then asked her: “What watch would you buy?”
Jean told him: “I don’t wear watches.”
Again Boyd persisted: “If you did wear a watch, which one would you buy?” Jean then pointed to one just to “make him be quiet,”
The next day, after Jean was leaving work at a restaurant, Boyd was there with the ring and the watch. Seven months later, Boyd and Jean were married on January 1, 1964.
This January would have been their 50th anniversary.
Jean always wondered why Boyd worked so fast, and just last month she asked him, “Why would you get me a ring and a watch a day after you met me?” Boyd said: “I knew you were the one and I didn’t want to lose you.”
They eventually had four children: Kevin, Scott, Stephanie and JoAnne and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Jean would joke with Boyd each Father’s Day: “One of these four is actually yours.” The family had a lot of fun guessing each year.
Boyd came to Alaska in 1972 after transferring from his job at Japan Airlines in Hawaii. While in Anchorage, he changed careers and went to work with U.S. Customs in 1974.
Meanwhile, Jean was having a hard time with the winters. She was homesick for Hawaii and realized later that she was suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder. Jean told Boyd she couldn’t take another winter in Anchorage. She asked Boyd, “Who would move from paradise in Hawaii to Alaska?”
Then, in 1976, Boyd came to Skagway on temporary assignment for U.S. Customs. He met locals such as Bea Lingle, Kurt Kosters, Charlotte Jewell, Lainey Papageorge
and Debbie Mahle. Boyd told Jean how nice and friendly everyone was.
“I found paradise for you, we’re moving to Skagway!” he said.
They moved here permanently in September 1976 and Skagway has never been the same, thank God!
Boyd was preceded in death by his parents, Boyd C. Worley, Sr. and Pearl Hunt Worley, his older sister, Peggy Worley, his younger brother, Thomas Owen Worley, and younger sister, Esther Cookie Steinmetz. He is survived by younger sisters: Doris (and Dan Bailey) Worley, Kitty (and Charles Mills) Worley, Tommy’s wife, Mary Worley, Cookie’s husband, John Steinmetz, and numerous nieces and nephews; four children: Kevin (and Kim Murphy Sanders) Worley, Scott (and Roseanne Perotto) Worley, Stephanie (and Scott Halama) Worley and JoAnne Worley; twelve grandchildren: Jarid (and Savannah Price) Worley, Marissa (and Jamaal Bailey) Worley: Michael (and Gretchen Schott) Sanders, Kristin Sanders, Kaylin “K.K.” Sanders, Melissa Halama Hall, Sarah Halama, Bryce Jones and Jayne Grace Eddy; five great-grandchildren: Jared Worley, Brailyn Marie Worley (our little Beemer), A’Rhiyana Maake Worley, Noah Halama and Kael Conrad Leighton Eddy. – Contributed by Mike Sica for the Worley family.
The Worley family laughs at a comment by son Scott, at podium, during Saturday’s ceremony. Andrew Cremata
Celebrating a great life, grinding in the trough
Boyd’s Celebration of Life at the school was set up per his wishes. He sometimes joked to Jean that he wanted it to be like an old school awards banquet, where the Moran brothers brought the prime rib, Connie Conard baked 200 rolls, and ladies from all over town contributed desserts. The school and community responded to the call, and it was a proper “grind at the trough.” As everyone dived in and ate, about 40 people came up to the mike and spoke about Boyd. As per Boyd’s popular Facebook page, a true friend is someone “who will say nice things about you behind your back.”
Here are the game highlights:
In his “thank-you card” back to Boyd, Mike Sica thanked him for being a “great public servant,” his “pedantic attention to detail,” his sometimes ribald sense of humor (there were examples), and great sayings over food like: “Let’s grind,” “It’s so good it makes me pee down both legs,” and “Mother Goose!” And finally the many thank-you cards he received from Boyd, including the one that arrived the day after he died. “Thank you, Boyd, for letting me know you’re OK.”
Former Juneau CBP port director Ken Koelsch said Boyd was already a legend in Customs by the time he met him in 1980. During meetings with fellow port directors, Boyd would “keep us laughing,” as he was able to get away with bringing up the “elephant in the room” and make people blush. “He will always be the Large In Charge.” Other co-workers spoke about Boyd’s generosity. One remembered that after the Alaska Air crash off the California coast several years ago, Boyd sent down food for the flight crews that came into Juneau that day.
Carl Mulvihill, who worked in both INS and Customs, said Boyd supported his co-workers in every way and was the “master of the never-ending government paperwork.” He also admired Boyd’s pig collection of all sizes and will never forget Boyd’s “Protectors of the Universe” parties for all law enforcement, fire and emergency personnel in Skagway.
Jaime Bricker, standing with her son Austin, recalled first meeting Boyd in a beauty shop as a young girl who was too scared to sit in the chair. Boyd offered her a 50-cent piece if she were brave enough to get in the chair and get her hair cut. After she grew up, he would call her the “Angelina Jolie of Skagway.” He was an “amazing man.”
Tim Alderson, who flew down from Anchorage to be at the service, recalled holiday meals shared with the Worleys, and his intramural days with Boyd at the scorer’s table. Nicknames of players were coined by Boyd in his weekly intramural newsletter, “The Wheedle.” Names like George “The Animal” Thiel, and his own, “The Businessman,” stayed with them through high school and beyond. Tim’s license plate is “BIZMAN” to this day.
Mark Jennings, a former high school basketball coach, said he had heard from a lot of his players who were having a tough time after Boyd’s passing. “Out in the real world, they have discovered there are not a lot like him. He really meant a lot to those kids.”
Boyd would greet kids on his porch at Halloween wearing a pig head mask. In one instance, Billi Clem recalled, her young son Dawson was too scared to go up to the big man with the pig head. When the creature took off the mask, Dawson said, “It’s just Boyd.” He accepted a special gift of a stuffed lion that he still has.
Mayor Stan Selmer gave a rundown of Boyd’s political career. He was first elected to the city council in 1981 and served until 1985. When Selmer was first elected mayor in 1990, he appointed Worley to serve in the seat vacated by Selmer’s jump from councilman to the mayor’s chair. Worley had to resign his seat when new federal rules prohibited his service in local government. Recently, the mayor instituted a Wall of Fame at City Hall (see digest) and recommended that Worley’s name be added next year for his service to the community.
Jack Inhofe spoke about his “joke-downs” with Worley over the years, most of which were too colorful to repeat, and he said he knew Boyd’s spirit was in the rafters enjoying the event.
Cindy Godbey, whose stage and tour name is Dawson Dolly, recalled how Boyd and Jean put on a “Bye Bye Boobies” party for her before she went south for breast-reduction surgery. Jean, who sewed all of Dolly’s outfits, sent Boyd to the party in a Dawson Dolly dress.
Sheryl Dennis said she first worked as a waitress at the Sweet Tooth, and Boyd would pay with a check. It was always more, but she was new and did not know what to do. Finally, she asked him what to do with the extra from the checks, and he said, “That’s for you.” She also said she hoped for a “Best of the Wheedle” some day, recalling her one of her favorites. Her co-worker, Alan See, was a cowboy from Montana, and in one of the Wheedles, Boyd wrote that See “was so bow-legged he could not stop a pig in a hallway.”
John “OD” O’Daniel said he was close to the family, from prom dates to helping out family members in tough times. He recalled the sage advice of leaving a place better than the way you found it, and said he knew of two people in his life who have lived up to that, his father and Boyd Worley. “He lived life for others.”
Jeff Brady spoke about how their lives paralleled: two southern boys who found a new home in Skagway. He recalled the early days hanging out at Customs HQ in the rail depot with Boyd, Ernie Kelm, Mulvihill, Jean, Bill Dusel, and others. There was always something to snack on. Boyd was a “news junkie” who gave him tips and would circle the typos in the “Skag Rag,” which led to him becoming the Copy Checker, LIC. His last issue was Sept. 27, which was delivered to him at home in his recliner. Brady showed the crowd how Boyd took his work seriously, even in his last paper, calling sources to get names right, making notes in the margins for the writers, and then letting them know when a page was “OK.” His death was sudden and it hurts, but Brady said he thinks we will be OK.
Carl Rose, another big man like Worley, told a story about when they were on the school board together and boarded a plane together, last. When they sat in the two rear seats of the Cessna Navajo, the plane went “whump” backwards. An attendant asked them to separate, and Boyd, with a straight face, asked, “Are you trying to tell us something? Are you saying we are fat?” Later, when Rose and George Orth got the intramural program going, they asked for Boyd’s help and “The Wheedle” was born. Rose said his sons were reinforced by “Uncle Boyd” in the newsletter and later in life. “He was a huge part of my family’s life.”
Gary Knickle of Canada Customs and Dyea Dave of Skagway spoke about how Boyd made them feel welcome, with reminders that he could never forget a nose. He would play jokes on people, telling Eve Griffin that he met Jean in Vietnam in a rice paddy and was drawn to her hairy legs (he later apologized on Facebook).
More recent CBP co-workers Maggie Osborne and Chuck Hoehn spoke about how Boyd looked after them, gave them nicknames like “Ground Chuck,” and helped out even after retirement. They loved working for “El Jefe.” One day Boyd was in town driving his truck with the license plate that said, “The Boss” in Spanish, and some cruise ship crew members flagged him down, thinking Boyd was a taxi. “El Jefe” took them where they wanted to go.
Bob Cameron of Whitehorse said his wife and he were two of many Yukon pleasure boat owners who were greeted at the border by Boyd and Jean, and felt welcome by them and others under their watch over the years. This past spring, he recalled, things were different with a new port boss who made things difficult for Canadian boat owners, and was heard to say, “the Boyd Worley days are over.” Things eventually got settled, thanks in part to Boyd’s work behind the scenes, and “common sense prevailed…. The Boyd Worley days are over? I don’t think so (applause). His spirit is very much alive.”
Ellie Sica said the Worleys became the grandparents she never really had, hardly ever seeing her real grandparents on the East coast. She learned a lot of things hanging out at the Worleys, from how to get rid of bats in the house to putting down a beloved dog. “I learned how life transforms into something beautiful after we leave.”
Alice Cyr said, “There are people we never wanted to lose…and we have to let them go.”
And harking back to what O’D said earlier, Mike Sica closed by pointing to an off-color shirt with a little hidden meaning in Latin, Finif Coronat Opus, which translates into, “The end crowns his work.”
“He is talking about us,” Sica said. “We are his crowning achievement!”
The Worley children and Jean then thanked everyone again for coming and sharing their stories. Scott Worley perhaps said it best, how his dad was nice to everybody, and recalling his mom’s words: “This is paradise. Here you are somebody.” – compiled by Jeff Brady for the L.I.C.
LEFT: Mike Sica, with his wife Laurie as "backup," tells a story about Boyd. Andrew Cremata
RIGHT: A Skagway youth "grinds" with some of Boyd's favorite KFC. Katie Emmets