Richard "Dick" Eliason (1925 - 2011)

Obituary
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Former Senator Richard "Dick" Eliason died quietly of natural causes April 3, 2011 at Sitka Community Hospital surrounded by his loving wife and family. He will be forever missed for his wonderful positive outlook on life, his quiet strength and great sense of humor.

Dick was born Oct 14, 1925 in Seattle, WA to Elsie and George Eliason of Poulsbo, WA. An only child, he spent his childhood between Poulsbo, WA and Port Alexander, AK where his Dad fished salmon. He attended schools in both towns, and particularly enjoyed PA, which back in the 30's was a booming community. His stories of being a kid in PA were very entertaining.

In 1939 George, Elsie and Dick moved to Sitka where he attended Sitka High School, graduating in 1943. The graduation ceremony had 3 chairs with sailor hats symbolizing the 3 young men who joined the Navy to help fight WWII; one of the empty chairs was Dick's. He spent three years aboard a sub chaser; most of the time patrolling the Hawaiian Islands.

After the war, he fished, tried a little logging, and eventually signed on as an apprentice in the Pipe Fitters union and helped build Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital.

In 1950 he met Betty Gemmell from Montana as she arrived in Sitka to work as a nurse at Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital. Dick married his cute nurse in 1950. They had 5 children, Greta (Tim) Ryan, George (Tammy) Eliason, Ida Eliason, Richard Jr "Botso" (Eva) Eliason and Stanley Eliason.

The early years were tough, trying to feed a growing family, he was very busy owning a succession of fishing boats, after giving up the Channel Club which he and John VanHorn had built in the late 1950's. Dick also supplemented his family by hunting, working as a bartender at the American Legion and did pipefitting. He spent one winter plumbing all the Mill houses on Lakeview Drive by himself. Coincidently, a friend of the family who was remodeling his home on Lakeview Drive in the late 1980's found Dick's signature and date on the back of a piece of sheetrock.

Dick entered the political arena in the early 1960's here in Sitka where he was elected to the Assembly, and eventually became Mayor. At the state level, he served as a member of the Alaska House of Representatives from 1968-1970 and 1972-1980 and as a member of the Alaska State Senate from 1980-1992. During his years in the legislature, Eliason served terms as Senate President, Chair of the Senate Rules Committee, Chair of the Legislative Council, Chair of the Senate Special Committee on Fisheries, and Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Department of Fish and Game Budget. He also served on the Senate Finance Committee the House and Senate Resources Committees. He was a long time member of the Pacific Halibut Commission.

In 1981 he lost his beloved wife, Betty. On New Year's Day 1983 he married Patricia McConnell, Juneau, and added two more young adults, Bobby and Jennifer, to the family. Dick and Pat were married 28 adventure filled years, jumping between the Legislative Session, fishing, vacationing and spending time at home in Sitka with the ever growing family.

Dick was a member of Mt Vertovia Lodge #18, Al Aska Shriners, Juneau Valley Scottish Rite, Past member of ANB, member of American Legion, Sitka Elks Lodge, Sitka Moose Club and the Table of Knowledge

Dick was preceded in death by his best friend Stanley Westover, his first wife Betty and his folks, George and Elsie Eliason and his good friends Bob Bell, Tiger Inman, Ray Perkins, Fred VanHorn, Art Gossan, Rick Urion, and Dick's step son, Bob McConnell.

Dick leaves his wife, Pat, his 6 children, Greta, George, Ida, Botso, Stan and Jennifer Petra of L.A., 14 grandchildren Jenny Alexandropoulos, Jamey (Brandon) Marx, Jackie (Schuyler) Fischer, Jorgen, Nick (Megan) and Lindy Eliason, Cory (John) Phillips, Kelley (Brady) Fink, Shannon (Jay) Nelson, Kaley and Laurel Eliason, Garrett Eliason, and Colin and Tristan Postley, 18 great grandchildren Derek Jones, Selena, Sophia, Kostaki Alexandropoulos, Dylan and Addie Marx, Lilyann Phillips, Asher Fink, Kariel Young, Wyatt, Westin and Kohl Nelson, Julie Eliason, Elise and Gavin Dunning, Keira, Aahanah and Tyla Fischer.

Dick also leaves his legislative staff/family, his widowed step-daughter-in-law Heidi Porth of WA, his sister-in-law Judie Knilans of RI and his pinochle playing buddies from the Elks.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations made to Sitka Fine Arts Camp/SJ or the Elks new roof fund.

A memorial service and reception for Dick was held April 8th at Harrigan Centennial Hall in Sitka, AK.


Published in The Juneau Empire from May 3 to May 10, 2011
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