William "Bill" Van Ness Jr. (1938 - 2017)

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Bill Van Ness Jr., architect of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, died on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017, at Jefferson Healthcare in Port Townsend, Wash., of natural causes. He was 79 years old.
Bill was a beloved friend, colleague, brother, father and mentor. He was a visionary, always finding the possibilities in every circumstance, keeping those around him focused on achieving the best outcome. His accomplishments as a legislative craftsman and lawyer are legendary and impacted countless individuals throughout his lifetime and beyond. He seamlessly married effective representation of clients and a lifelong dedication to public service, always stressing the importance of honest advocacy and the need to listen to, address and balance all sides of important policy issues.
He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Pat (O'Meara) Van Ness; his brothers, Doug and Craig; his daughter, Tamera; his three sons, Keith, Doug and Justin; his nine grandchildren; and his many other family members, friends and colleagues.
The son of William and Armyda Van Ness, he was born on Jan. 20, 1938, in Wolf Point, Mont. His family eventually settled in Chimacum, Wash. After graduating from Chimacum High School, one of a class of 11, he married Pat and started a family. They moved to Bellingham, Wash., where he attended Western Washington University to become an English teacher. After graduating, he went on to the University of Washington Law School, where he served as articles editor on the UW law review. He moved the family to Maryland after taking a job with Senator "Scoop" Jackson. Working for Senator Jackson, he was his chief aid and the chief council of the U.S. Senate Interior and Insular Affairs committee. He was an integral part of the writing and passage of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971.
Deciding to enter into the private sector, he opened the doors to Van Ness, Feldman Curtis & Sutcliffe in 1977. During his career he established a professional and personal connection with Alaska and Alaska Native people that lasted all his life. After 25 years practicing law in Washington, D.C., he returned to Seattle, Wash., and opened the second office of Van Ness Feldman. He founded and had the pleasure to serve as the first president of the Jackson Foundation, following Senator Jackson's death. Additionally, he served on the Board of Directors of the University of Washington Medical Center.
In the following years he retired to his favorite place, the beach cabin that he built on Marrow Stone Island. Bill enjoyed spending time with his wife, brothers, grandchildren, nephews and friends, and spent the remainder of his life pursuing his many hobbies including clam digging, wood carving and fishing in Alaska, as well as maintaining his yard - his pride and joy.
Bill will be remembered as a man of immense integrity by all who had the pleasure of knowing him. He accomplished more in his life than ever could be mentioned here. He will be greatly missed by his friends and family. He left the world surrounded by his loving family overlooking Port Townsend Bay.
In lieu of flowers, the Van Ness family would appreciate donations be made in Bill's name to: The East Jefferson Firefighter's Association, 24 Seton Road, Port Townsend, WA 98368.
For additional information about the life and accomplishments of Mr. Van Ness, please visit http://www.vnf.com/the-passing-of-william-van-ness-jr.
Published in Anchorage Daily News from Dec. 1 to Dec. 2, 2017