Lifelong Juneau resident, Dean Kenneth Williams, age 95, passed away peacefully on December 18, 2012, following complications from a medical procedure. Dean was born November 9, 1917 in Sumas, Washington, to Jason ("Jay") and Mae (Robinson) Williams, and came to Juneau with his parents when he was 3 months old. He graduated from Juneau High School in 1936. After attending radio operator school in Seattle, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Signal Corp, and returned to Juneau to serve as a radio operator until 1942. During WWII he served with the Signal Corps in Nome, Adak, and Attu.
Dean married Edna Almquist in 1943 in Juneau. Afer the war, he worked for a sporting goods store and ran a charter boat. From 1947 to 1965, he worked for Pan American World Airways in Juneau. Afer Pan Am pulled out of Alaska, Dean worked for other airlines, including Pacific Northern, Western, and Cordova Airlines. From 1968 to 1977, he and two partners owned and operated Southeast Skyways, a scheduled and charter airline serving Southeast Alaska.
Throughout his life Dean was an enthusiastic sportsman, with skiing, tennis, hunting, fshing, and hiking as his main interests. He shared these activities with his family and instilled in them a love of Alaska and the outdoors. He was a big game guide for ten years, guiding hunters, wildlife viewers, and photographers. As a skier, he competed in many races and served on the ski patrol. He operated the frst ski school in Juneau, teaching many Alaskans how to ski, and had a ski shop in the basement of the family home. One of Dean's greatest adventures on skis was being a member of the group of three cross-country skiers that made the first-ever east-west crossing of the Juneau ice field in the 1940's.
In 1954, Dean was struck with polio and told he would likely not walk again. He defend that prognosis by not only walking again, but returning to hunting, hiking and other outdoor activities and becoming a highly competitive tennis player. In his later years he earned national ranking in each of the age groups between 60 and 90 and, in 2003, was inducted into the U.S. Tennis Association's Pacifc Northwest Tennis Hall of Fame.
Another key focus of Dean's life was involvement in and promotion of Southeast Alaska's visitor industry. In addition to his years in the aviation industry, during which he facilitated visitors' access to Southeast and pioneered air tours of the Juneau ice field, he and Edna were very involved with the volunteer program of the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau for many years. Besides greeting visitors and providing information here in Juneau, they gave talks and slide shows around the U.S. and onboard cruise ships around the world to promote Southeast Alaska as a travel destination.
Over the years, Dean contributed to many civic organizations including service on the Juneau Parks and Recreation Commitee, Harbor Commitee, and Chamber of Commerce Aviation Commitee. He was honored as Rotary's Man of the Year in 1968, and, in 2008, the University of Alaska-Southeast honored Dean and Edna with a Meritorious Service award for their years of service to the community of Juneau. Te couple was also honored to serve as Grand Marshalls of the Juneau Fourth of July celebration in 2006.
Dean was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Edna, and his only sibling, Don. He is survived by his daughter Janice ( John) Burgman of Gardnerville, Nevada; son Gordy Williams (Mary McDowell) of Juneau; and his grandson David Goodwin ( Jill Packman) and great-grandson Cooper Goodwin of Minden, Nevada.
The family suggests that those wishing to honor the memory of Dean do so by getting out to enjoy time in Southeast's great outdoors that he loved so much. For those wishing to make a charitable donation in his memory, the family suggests donations to Southeast Alaska Independent Living (S.A.I.L., 3225 Hospital Dr., Juneau, AK 99801 or online at SailInc.org)
A gathering in celebration of the life of Dean Williams will be held at a later date.
Published in The Juneau Empire from Dec. 24, 2012 to Jan. 23, 2013