John Edward Borbridge of Juneau and Craig, Alaska passed away at his home in Craig on February 18, 2013, surrounded by family and friends. John was born in Sitka May 26, 1955, the third of four children born to John and Emma Borbridge. He was raised in Sitka, Juneau, and Anchorage, graduating from Juneau-Douglas High School in 1973.
Following high school, John moved to Anchorage where he was hired to work on the construction of the trans-Alaska pipeline. Later he moved back to Juneau, working for the State of Alaska Correspondence Studies Program, and for the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Corporation. In the 1990's John and his family relocated to Spokane, WA. It was during his time in Spokane that John discovered a new passion in his life. Having fought hard and with the help of others to overcome his own alcohol addiction, he made a decision to devote his life to helping those in recovery. In 2001 he started work at NATIVE Project in Spokane as a Chemical Dependency Trainee (intern). After graduating from Spokane Falls Community College and passing the State of Washington licensing test, John became a certified Chemical Dependency Professional, working in the adolescent substance abuse treatment program where he eventually became the lead counselor. He helped many young people during his time at NATIVE Project, assisting with the Indian Youth Leadership Camps and serving as a powerful role model for young Native Americans. When in Spokane, John met Karen Popoff who he later married. John and Karen moved back to Juneau and later to Craig where they resided for several years.
"Johnny Bear" showed leadership skills early in life, recruiting and leading his crew of young relatives and friends in building forts in his back yard. The family home in Juneau usually had a pile of scrap lumber on hand for John's construction projects. He also enjoyed fishing with his father and brother, organizing expeditions to good fishing streams in Southeast Alaska.
At the age of 6, John experienced his first year fishing in Naknek for Bristol Bay sockeye at his grandmother's set net site. This later developed into a 32-year partnership with his brother Charles where they continued to commercial and subsistence fish through 2012. Summers in Naknek were special for this is where he spent time with his children, teaching them to fish, help process subsistence fish and drive his old beach truck. It was in Naknek where the family built priceless memories and where John was at his happiest.
John loved to cook and his creative endeavors were enjoyed by all. In the summers he cooked for the fishing crew, and for his grandma Emma Nicolet who resided in Naknek. One year he flew from the North Slope to Seattle, stopping in Juneau just to cook a birthday dinner for his mother. While working in Spokane he would often be called upon to prepare salmon for large gatherings.
In 2013 John was adopted by the Kusgaa dee, the Haida Eagle/Frog clan. He was given the name Dagwii áa (true strength; strength of mind, body, spirit). The ceremony, conducted at his bedside, gave him great strength at a time when he most needed it.
When John moved to Prince of Wales Island, it was with the intent he would be able to fish, hunt and enjoy the outdoors. During his final months in Craig, there were two wishes he expressed. First was to spend more time with his family to watch his grandchildren grow – he loved being a Grandpa. The other was to be able to continue his endeavors to help others with alcohol addiction. He felt he still had much to offer.
John is survived by his parents John and Emma Nicolet Borbridge (Juneau), spouse Karen Popoff, siblings Sandra Borbridge and Charles Borbridge of Juneau, Linda Borbridge (Anchorage), his children John (Melissa) Borbridge, Phillip (Becky) Borbridge, Jamie Borbridge, Jaron Borbridge, niece Violet Hardage, his grandchildren Audrey, Thomas, Hailey and Tyler, aunts, an uncle and cousins.
John's family is thankful he is no longer suffering and that his passing was peaceful. They appreciate the care provided by his wife Karen in his final months, and the care and compassion of Mark Schultz of SEARHC (Klawock). They also wish to express their thanks for the special care for John shown by Forest Anderson and Tamara Buoy.
A celebration of John's life will be held in Juneau at the Northern Lights United Church on Monday, March 18, 2013 at 4:00 pm. John's family may be contacted at 603 West 10th Street, Juneau, AK 99801.
Published in The Juneau Empire on Mar. 7, 2013