Martin H. "Poiken" Johnson (1921 - 2016)

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Martin Hugh "Poiken" Johnson Sr., who over his nearly 95 years was a commercial fisherman, pilot, trapper, prospector, carpenter, soldier and musher, died on Sept. 4, 2016, with family members by his side. He was born on Dec. 1, 1921, in Naknek, Alaska, the son of Charles August Johnson, a sailor from Denmark, and Sarah Jennie McGlashan of Akutan, Alaska. When he was 19 his father died, and Martin, the oldest son of 14 children, took over responsibility for raising the younger ones. He learned at an early age to work hard to help support his large family. He fished, hunted, trapped and used dog sleds to fetch water for the home. Martin learned how to set-net when he was 14, and after that fished sailboats hard work that gave him an iron grip until the day he died. He attended school in Naknek through eighth grade, the highest grade available in Naknek at that time. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on Aug. 15, 1944, and was discharged on July 9, 1946, with a World War II Victory Medal and an Asiatic Pacific Theater Ribbon. After the war, Martin returned to construction, working for a time in Anchorage, Alaska. Once a torch that a member of the crew had filled with gasoline instead of kerosene blew up in his face, and he spent a long time in the hospital. As a child, he and his brothers had seen their first float plane - a "flying boat!" - and in Anchorage, Martin decided to learn to fly, working for Jack Parr Air in exchange for lessons. His first plane was a Taylorcraft, and he flew a Gull Wing Stinson from Kansas to Anchorage in the 1940s. When he moved back to Naknek, he and family members formed the Tundra Flying Club. He fished summers and worked construction the rest of the year. It was while working on a new public health clinic in Naknek that he met the new clinic nurse, Bertha Bloomer. He was smitten, and he courted her for a year after she transferred to the Health Department in Juneau, Alaska. She finally set a wedding date: Oct. 27, 1951. After moving to Juneau, Bertha worked as a public health consultant for the state, and Martin joined Cole and Paddock construction company, fishing Bristol Bay in the summers and building docks in Southeast. It was while building Alaska Coastal Ellis dock in Juneau that the operator of a pile driver miscalculated and Martin was thrown 40 feet onto rocks, suffering an open skull fracture and broken bones - injured so severely it was thought hed die. But he again toughed it out, using knee pads until he could walk again. The Johnsons became active members of the Chapel by the Lake church, and Martin helped build the new manse, the main sanctuary and covered walkway. Although he never had formal training in construction, he'd worked in Naknek and with Bill Lockart in Juneau, and formed Auke Bay Builders. Martin loved woodworking, crafts and hooking rugs. He also enjoyed sports - bowling was one passion, and golf was another. He was also very good at cribbage: he knew the point count of very possible cribbage hand by memory. There was also his love of family: he was proud of his three children and their families. He spent many hours building model sleds, rugs and boats for them. He and Bertha moved to Sitka, Alaska, in 2013, and became residents at the Pioneers Home in 2014. It took them only a little while to find the Swan Lake Senior Center and the Sitka Lutheran Church, where they made more friends. Once in the Pioneers Home, Martin had coffee friends, staff friends and people who stopped by to visit, and he enjoyed them all. He was a member of the Auke Bay Volunteer Fire Department, Alaska Independent Fishermen's Marketing Association, and a shareholder of Sealaska and Goldbelt Native corporations. Martin was preceded in death by his sisters, Feckla Metrokin, Martha Johnson, JoHanna Anderson, Florence Lesher, Elsa Martin, Elvira Maney and Agnes Parks; and his brothers, Hugh, Charles, Robert and Howard Johnson. He is survived by his wife, Bertha Johnson of Sitka; brother, Richard (Martha) Johnson of Naknek; sister, Emma Love of Anchorage; sons, Martin H. Johnson Jr. and wife Tina of Sitka, and Eric H. Johnson and wife Sue of Anchorage; and daughter, Susan J. McFadden of Sitka. Also surviving are his granddaughter, Elizabeth (Dan) Morrow of Anchorage; and grandsons, Amon (Megan) Johnson of Portland, Ore., Jenner (Lakrisha) Johnson of Sitka, Matthew (Lauren) Johnson of Gresham, Ore., and Ben Johnson of Gresham, Ore. Many nieces, nephews and cousins live throughout Alaska and the United States. Services were held on Sept. 8, 2016, in the Pioneers Home chapel, and on Sept. 10, 2016, at the Chapel by the Lake in Juneau.
Published in Alaska Dispatch News on Oct. 23, 2016
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