Dorothy and Si Dennis during their 50th anniversary in 1996. Jeff Brady
Dorothy Blanche Dennis — Tuwaaxhsée
July 17, 1929 – October 21, 2012
The matriarch of the Skagway Native community has walked into the forest after a short battle with cancer. Gran was a beloved mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, and was surrounded by loving family in the home of her son when she made the journey to join her husband Si and sons Allen and Bert. She was Double-Eagle Kaigani Haida and a member of the Lukaaxh.ádi (Sockeye-Raven) clan of the Jilkhóot Tlingit, whose traditional territory spans from Chilkoot Lake to the Chilkoot Trail, including the areas we call Shghagwéi (Roughed Up Water) and Deiyáa (Pack Trail).
Dorothy was born in Waterfall, Alaska to Ruth Cogo of Hydaburg. She attended Sheldon Jackson High School, and came to Skagway in 1946 with three other Haida women to work in the Tuberculosis Sanatarium on the north end of town. While working here, she met her husband’s family. She broke through racial barriers when she first moved to Skagway by refusing to move to the "Native" section at the back of a theatre when asked. Two Tlingit elders walked by, and she insisted they join her in the good section; they turned out to be the parents of her future husband.
She was a Deacon at the Presbyterian Church, where she sang in the choir, and served as a Tribal Council Member of the Skagway Traditional Council. She worked in the Days of 98 show when it was a local volunteer production, was a bowler, and was also a housekeeper at the Golden North Hotel for many years.
Those who knew her called her Gran, because she transcended her family and clan connections and became a mother and grandmother to countless members of the Skagway community. Her kindness and generosity led to many children calling her little house on Fourth and Alaska “home.” Her children have continued this legacy, showing unbounded kindness and shelter, especially to young people in need of love, time, and dedication.
She was preceded in death by her husband Gooshdehéen Silas Ronald Dennis, sons Allen Wayne Dennis & Bertram Charles Dennis, mother Ruth Cogo, brothers Harlan Jorgenson (Jelly Boy), and cousins Donald Anniskett (Gidáahls) & Clara Peratrovich. She is survived by her children Si, Marion, Patty, Debbie, Leslie, and Sharon, as well as 21 grandchildren and 28 great grandchildren. Her surviving siblings are Pauline Krantz, Kathleen Jorgenson, Marlene Young, and Arlene Gaspard.
Gran began her final journey with Haida and Tlingit songs. Locals who were endeared by her showed their love in recent visits to the family by saying, “weʼre all orphans now” and “she was a gift to the world.”
The family is immensely appreciative of the support shown by the Skagway community, her Haida and Tlingit families, and by those who were touched by her life who are seemingly in all parts of the world.
She rarely left town, except to travel to Whitehorse, which ended when strict international laws required a birth certificate—which she never had—to enter Canada. Still, she was known in places far and wide because of her kindness and generosity. One of her relatives said, “she knew more people than the census taker.” Our days are ever brighter because we had her, and even though we have fallen apart at her departure, we have tremendous strength and resilience that we inherited from her.
Services for Dorothy Dennis will be on Saturday, October 27 at 2 p.m. at the Skagway Presbyterian Church, followed by a graveside service, and then a reception at the Fellowship Hall. – Submitted by the family
Eugene W. Richards
February 1920 - September 2012
Former Skagway resident Eugene W. Richards, 92, passed peacefully at his home with family by his side on September 26, 2012.
Gene was born February 23, 1920 to John and Mattie Richards in Seattle. He graduated from Roosevelt High School in Seattle, where he played football as a "Roughrider." He was active in Boy Scouts, and earned the rank of Eagle Scout.
Following high school he attended and graduated from the University of Washington in Engineering, where he was a member of the rowing crew.
During World War II he served as a Naval Officer in the Pacific. Gene had a 27-year career as an officer with the Coast and Geodetic Survey. Following retirement he served as a marine pilot in Southeast Alaska for several years.
While in Alaska he established and operated a non-profit fish hatchery, Burro Creek Farms, across the bay from Skagway, until his final retirement in 2005.
Gene was married to his devoted wife, Leona (Gustafson) for 68 years until her death in 2010.
He is survived by his children; David (Judy) Woodinville, Sharon Kran, Bothell; Stephen (Gloria) Pasco, and Tom (Elizabeth) LaConner. Gene had eleven grandchildren, many great-grandchildren, and several nieces and nephews.
At Gene's request, there will be no service. Remembrances may be made to the Chief Seattle Council, Boy Scouts of America, or your favorite charity. – Reprinted from Seattle Times
Paul J. Benner
December 1968 - September 2012
Skagway resident Paul Edward Benner, 43, passed away September 30, 2012 in High Point, North Carolina.
He was born December 8, 1968 in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, the son of Stanley David and Janet Hazledine Benner.
Paul’s love for Alaska began when he was 23 years old. A long-time friend at the University of Wisconsin-Stout recruited him to explore the bountiful beauty of Skagway. After a Skagway summer of kayaking through glaciers, camping in the temperate rainforest of Southeast Alaska, and working at a seasonal job, Paul spent the winter in Anchorage. Paul then went to Oregon where he spent the following winter with his beloved dog, Sitka.
Upon returning to Skagway, he spent countless years working for wonderful people and great businesses, and expanding his craft of woodworking and fossilized ivory art. Paul worked with diligence and professionalism while never losing sight of his true passion, love for his friends and his dogs. Paul spent many short summers and long winters in Skagway, sharing his gentle spirit with others through his humor, cooking, warm kindness, and incredible generosity.
Paul’s love for his community has left an everlasting, positive impact on Skagway’s children as the Food Service manager at the Skagway School. He always stepped forward to support school events by baking cookies or cakes to celebrate accomplishments and performances. In addition, Paul helped with many, many fundraising efforts for children and was the first recipient of Have a Heart, the student-driven foundation, which helped with his heart surgery expenses.
Originally from Minnesota, Paul graduated high school at Benilde-St. Margaret's in 1987 and spent a year at St. John’s University before transferring to UW-Stout where he worked on a degree in Accounting and Hospitality Management.
Paul felt the embrace of his father, Stanley and received kisses from his dog, Sitka on September 30th after a duel with cancer while in the presence of his family in North Carolina. A rainbow shined in Skagway during that day, and the love of his friends in Skagway and everywhere throughout this earth was with him.
Paul is survived by his mother, Janet Benner of High Point, North Carolina, his sister and brother-in-law, Sarah and Bob Williford of Virgina, his brother, Bruce Benner of Soldotna, Alaska; two nephews, Josh Williford and Levi Benner, two nieces, Kristin Williford and Lia Benner, his dogs Fuzzy and Shaggy, and his family and friends in Skagway and Minnesota.
A memorial service will be held for Paul in Skagway at St. Therese Catholic Church on Saturday, October 13 at 11 a.m. A celebration of Paul’s life will follow at the Skagway Brewing Company. Please come to meet his family and share your stories of Paul. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Have a Heart Foundation, P.O. Box 497, Skagway, Alaska, 99840. – Submitted by friends and family
Loyd D. Pike
June 1939 - October 2012
Loyd Donald Pike Sr. died on Monday, October 1, 2012 at his home in Skagway. He was 73.
Born on June 25, 1939, in Maryville, Missouri, he was the only son of Fred L. Pike Jr. and Maxine (Thompson) Pike. In 1956, at the age of 17, Loyd entered the military. In the Navy, he worked Damage Control, was a firefighter, worked with atomic biological and chemical warfare, and flew DC-2s. He was a twelve-year military veteran.
Loyd was an avid outdoorsman. He enjoyed hunting, fishing, snow-machining, four-wheeling, and backcountry hiking. He moved to Delta Junction in 1967, where he was able to do all of those things.
Loyd was a master carpenter who later owned his own construction company: Pike’s Construction. He worked on Fort Greely in Fairbanks and many other places in Alaska until he retired in 2001.
On March 3, 1982, he received his GED. A few years later, he married Mary Jo Owens on January 16, 1986.
Loyd Pike was preceded in death by his father, Fred L. Pike Jr. (1997); and three children: Robert Eugene (1963), Marvin Loyd (1963), and Vallerie Sue (1963) who are buried at Point Loma Military Cemetery in San Diego, CA.
He is survived by his wife, Mary Jo Pike of Skagway; his mother Maxine Pike of Maryville, MO; one son, Loyd Pike Jr. of Anchorage; three sisters, Janice Maxwell and Patty Pike of Maryville, and Pamela Sollars of St. Joseph. MO; one nephew, three nieces and several great nieces and nephews. – Submitted by the family