Our beloved 86-year-old father, grandfather, uncle and friend, Silas Wiley, died at home Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. He passed peacefully, with family by his side.
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Silas was born May 29, 1927, in Chicago and grew up in Cave Creek, Ariz. As a youngster growing up in the desert, he and several of his friends formed an "outlaw" group called the "Black Bandits." Each member selected a nickname, and he became known as "Tombstone," a name that stuck with him throughout the rest of his life.
He joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1944 and served his country during World War II. He was one of the first on and last off Iwo Jima and was just a stone's throw away from both famous flag raisings.
After the war, he declared the desert life too hot and moved to Anchorage, arriving April 7, 1948. "One of the best days of my life," he said. Shortly after, while working at Old Providence Hospital, he met the beautiful woman that would soon be his wife of 59 years, Elizabeth "Bessie" Woods. They married Aug. 12, 1950.
Silas began working in the construction industry from the day he arrived in Anchorage, first as a Teamster, and was notable for teaching the former head of the Teamster Union, Jess Carr, how to drive truck. He later joined the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 302 and remains an honorary member. He has been a member for 63 years.
He worked for Morrison-Knudsen for many years, as well as A & G Construction, May Contracting and others, as a heavy equipment service oiler, mechanic and operator, helping to build many of Alaska's highways as well as the trans-Alaska oil pipeline. He retired from his "dream job" with Kodiak Oilfield Haulers at Prudhoe Bay.
In the early 1980s, Silas claimed some of his beloved Alaska as part of the State of Alaska Land Lottery sale program. He and his family spent many years "proving" up on the land and built a cozy cabin overlooking Sunny Lake, 15 miles north of Trapper Creek. Silas loved spending time at the cabin and made sure every amenity was available. So much so, if his family found an item missing from their home in Anchorage, the much often "It must be at the cabin!" phrase was used, frequently with a few other choice words thrown in. "Puttering" at the cabin was his favorite pastime.
Silas was a very kind soul who never met a stranger in his life. He was always a gracious host and was always the first to offer help to friends and family. He was often described as someone who would "give you the shirt off of his back." His home was always open to visitors, and he enjoyed spending hours chatting and telling stories about his and his families' lives. He was loved by everyone who knew him.
Silas is preceded in death by his wife, Elizabeth Wiley, and sister, Nancy Pullen.
He is survived by his daughter, Michele Wiley; granddaughter, Megan Garzel and her husband, Andrew; his great-grandchildren, Nathan Cross, Gabriel Cross, and Ariana Garzel; step-great-grandson. John Cross; sister-in-law, Judy Woods; god-daughter, Mary Boots; and many nieces and nephews.
A memorial service, officiated by Father Dan Hebert, will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 8, at Alaska Heritage Memorial Chapel, 440 East Klatt Road, Anchorage, Alaska 99515. Additional parking is available behind the building.
A celebration of life with appetizers and refreshments will be held directly after the service at the Bradley House restaurant, 11321 Old Seward Hwy., in Anchorage.
Published in Daily News-Miner from Feb. 5 to Feb. 6, 2014